LIFE INSIDE MUSLIM QUARTER OF JERUSALEM S06 EP.66 | MIDDLE EAST MOTORCYCLE TOUR
This is the souq of Muslim quarter. By far, this is the most vibrant souq. You can see that there are security cameras everywhere. Doesn't look nice to find these flags in the Muslim quarter in Palestine.
Sorry? Yesterday, you were here? Yes. In the mosque. Assalam Alekum and Welcome Back to the Channel from Jerusalem, Palestine. Personally, this is a really special city among all the others that I have visited. Whenever, I'm here...
For the last few days for instance... And before that, I was here in 2019... I haven't seen a more beautiful old city anywhere else. You guys loved my old vlogs from this area. This time, I'll try to make it in a different way. Last time, I focused more on history.
That we'll do this time as well. But it's gonna be more like a walk through tour. Today, I'll mainly do the recording with the GoPro. So that I'll show you the old town as I walk through it.
In this vlog, I'll try to focus more on the Muslim quarter. We'll also visit Al Aqsa compound. And if we'll still have some time left, then we'll go watch other things. As for the Jewish, Christian and Armenian quarters, those will be covered in our upcoming vlogs. There are a total of 4 quarters over here.
Right now, I'm at the Nablus road, right outside the old city. As the name implies, Nablus road goes straight to Nablus. Old city starts as soon as we cross this road. So, let's cross this road and get to the old city. I'll share more info once I'm at the gate.
Right outside the old city is a small souq. You'll find a lot of restaurants here. Since this is the Arab quarter of the old city, you'll find Arabs out here. Here you'll find fruits, vegetables and bread everywhere. For instance, this guy is selling bread.
People come here in the morning to get fresh bread. This is a special type of bread; in the form of a ring. I haven't seen this shape at other places. These look like falafel to me; quite big ones for that matter.
Is this falafel, mate? Yes. I haven't seen such big falafels before. If you look that way, it's all old city from here. We have reached the most beautiful gate of the city.
It is known as the Damascus Gate. The city has a total of 8 gates. 7 of them were built in the Ottoman times. And 1 of them is a newer one and hence it's called the New Gate. It was built in 1890.
I guess that's still the Ottoman time. However, the rest of them were built in the 15th or 16th century. The Damascus Gate is the most beautiful among all of them and is in a very good condition. And these city walls were built in the 16th century by the Ottoman ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent. So, let's get in and see the old city.
As you can see that even here there is a market before we enter the old city. People have set up their stalls. Fruits and vegetables are being sold on both sides of the passage. They bring it here from their own fields.
You can see that there are a lot of grapes here. Other than that, I can also mint. This is the souq of the Muslim quarter.
By far, this is the most vibrant souq. You can't experience this atmosphere anywhere else in the world. It's still in its original condition.
You can see people selling items on the road. Some people are selling prayer mats in the middle of the road. Some are selling clothes. Similarly, there are traditional Arabic clothes on sale. You can find almost everything here. One of the reasons why this souq is so vibrant is the sheer number of tourists.
So, there's extra advantage to keep the shop open. In many other souqs, there aren't too many tourists; just the locals. That makes the people shut their traditional shops. You won't find traditional items here as well, though. Mainly, there are clothes and fruits.
Then there are sweets as well. There are shwarma restaurants. So, this is mainly to attract tourists. For locals, it's just the fruits.
Let's go this way. You can see that there are security cameras everywhere. The whole old town can be monitored and controlled with the help of these cameras. There is a sign board here that says that this pathway goes towards the Western Wall.
Also towards the Temple Mount, the Holy Mosque and Lions' Gate. Let's keep going. These are Palestinian sweets. We'll try these later. Walking through the souq takes you 1000 years back in time. That's how the atmosphere around here is.
Honestly, I'm a big fan. Whenever I get some time, I just come here to walk. You won't get this feeling anywhere else. A very unique and amazing experience. You'll see all sorts of people here; not just the Arabs.
A lot of tourists and Jews too; a very mixed crowd. For instance, look at this first Armenian Church in this Muslim quarter. There aren't just mosques in the Muslim quarter but you'll also find churches. Similarly, you'll also find mosques in the Christian quarter.
There's a cafe here but the church is closed. Similarly, you'll see Israeli flags outside some houses in the Muslim quarter. That's where Jews are living. I don't since when they have been living here... But it doesn't look nice to find Israeli flags in the Muslim Quarter which is a Palestinian area.
This can be provocative. And that's how the situation of this city has been. Although, it's okay at the moment. But you can never know when things go wrong.
The city always remains on the edge. Going to an even busier area now. These streets are really narrow and yet you'll see some motorcyclist riding through.
We are very close to Al Aqsa mosque now. So, let's just go there, first. As you can see, the Israeli forces on duty, block the way. Muslim? Yes. Praise be to Allah. Muslim. Yes. From where? Pakistan.
I was stopped by the forces and they checked my bag. I could feel rudeness in their attitude. Could be a part of their job protocol. People do get harassed here by these forces; especially the Arabs. People from the neighboring areas are not allowed to come here. So if someone doesn't have the permission or their ID, they get stopped here.
There's gonna be another check post before we can enter. You can see the gate of Al Aqsa mosque now. And there are Israeli forces personnel here as well. Let's see if they ask us any questions. Normally, you are questioned only once. Assalam Alekum. Wa Alekum Salam.
Pakistan. Yesterday, you were here? Yes. In the mosque. Thank you. I'm actually amazed to find out that they knew that I was here yesterday. Because it was Friday yesterday and I came here for the Jumma prayer. God knows how they recognized me because there are literally thousands of tourists here.
Despite that... they know everything. So, let's go and see the compound of Al Aqsa mosque and know its history. And find some answers... Because I feel that people have a lot of misconceptions about this place.
I want to present this to all of you in a simple and easy manner. So that, we can get rid of those misconceptions. A lot of families are sitting here under the trees. People come here not only because this is a religious site for them...
But they have a much more emotional relationship with this place. Whenever people have time... and since this is a very nice place to hangout... People come here with their families, bring food and then have a good time here. They spend their time here.... as much as time as they have. Especially, the people from neighboring areas who have permission to visit.
Especially, on Fridays and Saturdays, the places are super crowded. You can see another gate here. The main bazaar is right in front of it. The mosque has a total of 8 gates, out of which 7 are open. Most of the gates are in the Muslim quarter. There may be some way by the wall at the back of the quarter. This is the very first view that you get as soon as you get out of the bazaar.
Let's go up there and I'll give you a view from there. We'll capture these views and will also share the history with you. This is called Dome of the Rock and in Arabic it is called Qubbat al-Sakhra.
Qubbat means gold, referring to the gold on the dome. That's why it's also called the Golden Dome. Sakhra might mean dome. The place is quite crowded today. Seems like people have come from far off places. Seeing so many people sitting outside, suggests that there will be more inside.
Let me show you the compound from the outside first. At this time, even non-Muslim tourists can visit. This could be the reason why it's so crowded right now.
But tourists can't go in. They just stay in the compound. You can see that there is also a pulpit out here in this compound. This suggests that there may have been sermons and prayer gatherings out here in the past. This whole area is called Al Aqsa Compound or Al Haram Al Sharif.
Jews call it Temple Mount because that's where the Jews had their first and second temples. The first temple was built by Prophet Solomon (pbuh). The second temple was built by the Israeli king Herod. That was, later on, demolished by Romans. There hasn't been a Jewish Temple here ever since.
Many people asked me why this is such a holy site for Jews. Now you know why. When Jews pray, they face the location of the temple. The outer wall of Al Aqsa compound on the left side is called Western Wall. They pray here beside this wall. We'll see more of that in our next vlog.
Let's go and see it from the inside. At this point, let me tell you that there are two buildings that are really important. One ... you can see right behind me ... and the other one is in front of me. Call it Golden Dome, or Dome of the Rock or Qubbat al-Sakhra. That other building is called by most people as Qibli mosque...
That's the name that you will find in documents. It is also known as Al Aqsa Mosque. So, when we say Al Aqsa, we mean this whole area. It's not just this mosque in front of us. But since this is a major area where a lot of people gather for prayers...
And the pictures that you see are mostly from the inside of this mosque. Let's go and first see the Dome of the Rock from the inside. I'll also share some of its history before we go to any other place.
The inside of the mosque is probably the most beautiful place that you will visit in this area. And the amazing artwork with different colors on the walls.... There's green and gold... Different other colors such as blue and red... They are masterfully used in the artwork and mosaic work on the walls. The windows are tinted and contain a variety of colors.
I haven't seen any building like this in this area before. However, the first thing that you see when you enter is a stone, right in the middle. According to Jews, this is the holiest place in the whole world.
That's where their temple was based. Jews believe that this is the place where God created the world. And Prophet Abraham (pbuh) brought his son here for sacrifice. Muslims believe a different version of that story but this is what Jews believe. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) visited this place before he went on the Night Journey. This place was the first Qibla of Muslims.
But later on, it was changed to Makkah. There's a narrow passage way going downstairs, next to the rock. You can see that people are offering prayers down there as well. This is such a holy place for Jews that they won't dare to come to this place even when the temple existed. That's because any common Jew was not allowed to visit this place.
Only the High Priest or the Rabbi had the access to this place. The Western Wall is 40-50 meters from here. They just pray by the wall and don't come any further. No matter where in the world Jews live, they pray while facing Jerusalem.
I hope I have clarified why this is such a holy site for Jews. Before Muslims, Byzantines, Romans and Crusaders ruled here. For them this area did not hold much importance.
Muslim armies came here under the command of Khalid bin Waleed (RA) during the Caliphate of Umar (RA). They conquered this land by defeating the Byzantines in the Battle of Yarmuk. This dome was built in the Umayyad times. The dome has seen a lot of changes with time. The dome was rebuilt in the 11th century after it collapsed in an earthquake.
When the Crusaders ruled here after the Muslim rule, they converted it into a church. After that the place came under Muslim rule when Saladin conquered Jerusalem. You see that the place underwent some changes under every ruler. But overall, it is very similar to how this was originally built. It's an octagonal structure with the dome at its top.
The impressive blue tile work was done by Ottomans. There's calligraphy of two chapters of Quran; Al Isra and Yasin. This dome has not always been golden. Turkey and Jordan collaborated in the renovation of the dome in 1960. Some of the bricks on the dome got out of shape with time. The dome also faced discoloration as aluminum or some similar material was previously used.
So they decided to cover the dome with liquid gold. So that its color is always bright and beautiful. That's why it's visible from a distance and it still looks amazing.
Close to the Golden Dome is the Qibli Mosque, also known as Al Aqsa Mosque. Its foundations were also laid by Caliph Umer (RA) when Muslims conquered the area. Later on, it was transformed to a much bigger mosque by the Umayyads. But unfortunately it got demolished in an earthquake. Then came the Abbasids who rebuilt the mosque.
The Crusaders changed it into an army depot. That caused some serious damage to the mosque. However, when the Muslims came back under Saladin and then the Ottomans, the mosque underwent a lot of renovation. Let's go and take a look from inside. I hope I have clarified the name Al Aqsa for you.
It's actually Qibli Mosque, also called Al Aqsa Mosque by many. The mosque is really beautiful and unique from inside. You will hardly see this architecture and construction style in any other mosque. The Umayyads who built this mosque had their power center in Damascus.
So, this mosque, in fact, resembles the Umayyad mosque in Damascus. I remember seeing similar columns there. You can say that the Byzantines used to build their churches in this style. This style may have been inspired from there. I haven't seen a more impressive artwork than the one that you can see in the dome here.
You may find that in some churches, though. Simply amazing. Even after so many years, it's still of such high quality. The place makes you forget everything. And it's not just the artwork but the windows and the ceiling...
Everything is done with so much attention to the details... That I've been taking pictures and videos for almost 30 minutes and I can't stop myself. That's how brilliantly unique this mosque is. Another unique feature of the mosque is the pulpit of Saladin.
It's still present here after almost a 1000 years. It's a really beautiful artifact and it's covered from sides to protect it. It's made of wood and ivory.
And the artwork on the pulpit is very fine and detailed. I'm sitting in the mosque and just met Mahmood. He's from Bethlehem. Bethlehem is almost half an hour away.
Hardly 15 - 20 km away. But people from there can't visit this place. There's a wall. Yes. There's a wall. So they have separated the two cities with a wall. And you can only come here if you have a visa. Mahmood works in Jerusalem.
That's why he has a visa and can come visit this place. Other people who don't work here or don't have a visa, they can't visit Al Aqsa. This is the new visa. Couldn't come here for two years. He couldn't come here for two years. I mean it's your country and you live only 30 minutes away.
And you can't visit a place like this with such high religious and emotional attachment. Similar for Ramallah? They can't come here... not without a visa. So they also need a visa to come here? Yeah. Thank you so much my friend. It was nice meeting you.
Underneath Qibli mosque, there's another mosque called Al Aqsa Qadeem. I tried to find out more about this but didn't get much success. Apparently this could be the first to be built and the upper mosque was constructed afterwards.
As we already know that the mosque had a lot of renovations under different rulers. And then it was destroyed by the earth quakes as well. May be that's why the upper mosque was constructed. The stone blocks used in the construction here are really large and are similar to the ones used in ancient buildings. This mosque is much longer than it is broad.
It's more like a tunnel. At some points, old columns are also visible. These days, this mosque serves as an institute for kids to learn Quran. Hopefully I was able to show this area in a much more detailed manner. Last time there were some confusions.
So I tried to rectify that and share as much info with you as I can. I forgot to mention one thing. This area is under the control of a Palestinian-Jordanian body. Israel captured it in 1967 but soon after that it gave its control to this body.
All the internal matters are taken care of by Muslim management. But you have already seen Israeli army personnel outside. Whenever situation gets tense... which happens a few times each year... Then the army comes here with weapons and everything. You might remember seeing videos from Ramadan when suddenly problems erupt here.
Things are pretty normal these days but you never know when this changes. Army is always alert here and there and on check posts. And they don't mind coming inside to monitor things. Lets now go to the bazaar and see how things are going there.