Jerusalem, as a holy city for Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Archaeological excavations show the history of the city began over 5,000 years ago. Among its 220 historic monuments are the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, built in the seventh century, which stand as magnificent pieces of architecture. It is also home to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which houses Christ’s tomb.
The city has been known by different names through its history: Urusalim, Jebus, Aelia Capitolina, the City, Beit Al-Maqdis, and Al-Quds. Jerusalem’s sites and long history present an exceptional testimony to vanished civilizations: the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mameluk, Ottoman periods.
The old city of Jerusalem and its walls is one of the best-preserved medieval Islamic cities in the world. It is divided into four main quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Armenian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter. The old city has been home to many diverse cultures, which are reflected in the architecture and planning of the city and its sacred buildings, streets, markets, and residential quarters. Today, Jerusalem’s living traditions continue, making the city the heart of human history.
In 1982, Jerusalem was inscribed on the list of the cities of World Heritage in Danger by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The Jerusalemites are most welcoming and your stay in the city will be enriched by meeting the various Palestinian communities of Jerusalem.
Al-Aqsa Mosque (Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa)
Also known as the al-Haram ash-Sharif (the noble sanctuary), the grand mosque includes in its compound the Dome of the Rock. This mosque is the third holiest shrine for Muslims, after the Kaaba in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. With rows of colonnades and gardens, the compound stretches over one-fifth of the Old City, occupying a vast area of 140,900 square meters. The mosque itself is silver-domed, and was built as a place of worship next to the Dome of the Rock. Originally built between 709-715 AD by Caliph Walid Ben Abdul Malik, al-Aqsa was reconstructed at least six times and very little of the original mosque remains in the present structure.
The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat As-Sakhra)
Situated in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, It marks the spot where the Prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven following the miraculous journey of one night from Mecca to Jerusalem. known as the Israa and Mirag. It is also the oldest and most exquisite Muslim shrine in the world. Built at the end of the seventh century by the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Ben Marwan, the mosque has a rectangular octagon exterior and a specular gold-covered dome.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Preserving the most holy sites of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this church is the holiest of shrines for the world’s Christians. Situated in the Old City’s Christian Quarter, the church was first built in the fourth century by Constantine’s Mother Helena, over the site of a pagan temple built during the Roman period. Also re-built over successive generations, the present structure was built by the Crusaders in the twelfth century, and contains the last five Stations of the Cross. It also contains the Chapel of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, the Sepulchre itself where Jesus was buried, and the Chapel of Mary Magdalene where the risen Christ first revealed himself.
The Garden Tomb
Located outside Jerusalem’s city walls and close to the Damascus Gate, the simplicity, beauty, and peaceful atmosphere of the Garden Tomb makes it a favourite spot for prayer and meditation.
Some Christians find worshipping near the rock-hewn tomb helpful as they seek to relive the crucifixion and resurrection experience, since it gives a clear picture of what the place of crucifixion and burial must have looked like at the time of Jesus.
Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross)
The traditional route that Jesus followed as he carried the cross from the Antonia fortress where he was condemned to death, to the Calvary, where he was crucified. The walk is commemorated in fourteen stations: two are located at Antonia, seven in the streets of Jerusalem, and the last five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is located east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley. From its heights a magnificent view of the Old City and a striking panorama as far as the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab in the East can be seen.
Beyond its striking sunsets, the Mount of Olives is associated with some of the most important events in Jesus’ life. It was here that the man Christians believe to be the Son of God ascended to Heaven (the location of which is marked by the Chapel of Ascension), where he foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster), and wept over Jerusalem on his way to the Holy City on Palm Sunday (Church of Dominus Flevit). Perhaps the most striking feature of the mount today is the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, with its striking onion-shaped spires.
Garden of Gethsemane (Church of all Nations)
Located at the foot of the Mount of Olives, the Church of All Nations was originally built by the Byzantines in 379 AD over the place made holy by Jesus’ prayer and agony. The present church is considered one of the most beautiful in Jerusalem, and was built between 1919-1924. It is called the Church of all Nations, because sixteen nations contributed to its construction.
Today, the Garden of Gethsemane appears as it did more than 2,000 years ago, and within it are some of the world’s oldest olive trees. The garden was a spot favoured by Jesus, and one that served as a site for retreat and prayer, most notably where he spent his last night.
The Kidron Valley
The Kidron Valley separates the Mount of Olives from the City of Jerusalem. Jesus crossed the valley many times, including on the evening of Holy Thursday when he went with his disciples to Gethsemane. The ancient tombs of Absalom, Jehoshaphat, and Saint Zacharias are located along the Kidron Valley. Tombs of Christians, Muslims, Jews line the valley, as it is closely associated with the Day of Judgement.
The Tomb of the Virgin Mary
According to tradition, the Virgin Mary, who died in Jerusalem, was buried in the Kidron Valley. The Crusaders built the present church over the ruins of a Byzantine basilica to mark the place of the Virgin Mary’s tomb and her assumption.
Located two miles east of Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, Bethany was the home of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, whom Jesus loved. The village has been known by the Arabic name of Lazarus since the fourth century, and it is where Jesus performed the great miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.