Jerusalem: The ancient spiritual centre of the world
The holy sanctuary of Jerusalem
Jerusalem, or Al-Quds, is a city which many of us can resonate with. Just the name itself will wash over you the feeling of peace and tranquillity. As a sacred place of the three monotheistic religions, it is a city where many beloved Prophets are buried, where you can walk in their footsteps in the spiritual and holy tales, and visit their places of burial as a token of honour. The old city of Jerusalem will teleport you back in time through the old and antique city walls, the authentic cobbled streets and the sacred atmosphere that will surround you.
Anyone who has visited the iconic city of Istanbul and the beautiful Suleymaniye Mosque will notice the resemblance between the mosque and the walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem as both were built by the Sultan Suleyman Al Qanooni as part of the Ottoman Empire. For many Muslims, the Dome of The Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque in the distance under the blue skies is just one of the soul-stirring images that come to mind. Many of us may find our heart yearning to go, missing this place we’ve never been to - the 3rd holiest site in Islam. The Islamic history that has been passed down for generations created an attachment to the blessed land of olive trees in the plateau courtyard, in the streets of the old city and in the atmosphere when everyone comes together through the adhan echoing in the wind.
The iconic blue dome can be seen from afar, and walking through the maze of alleys to reach it is all you need for a spiritual and blessed holiday. Exploring the Palestinian land first hand can help you gain peace and stability as well as knowledge by seeing the words you have always read about come to life. We have all heard of the sad conflict that seems to surround Jerusalem in the news, but in this blog we will focus on what brings us together not what divides us.
Sites to visit in Jerusalem
The old city of Jerusalem is separated into four quarters, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian with the Muslim Quarter being the largest. Each has its rich history and culture contained within the ancient walls. The cobbled streets of Jerusalem are full of colour and market stalls, where every local will greet you with the familiar Palestinian welcoming aura and each local has an inspiring story to tell. Smell the fresh juices and the delicious desserts being made along the way.
Shop for souvenirs amongst the locals at the three markets that run in maze-like alleyways. Visit the Souk Al Lakhamin (Butcher Market), the Souk Al Attarine (Perfume Market) and the Souk Al Khawajat (Jewellery Market). The three markets meet on Olive Press Street, which is home to several bustling market stalls where locals from the nearby villages sell their fresh produce on Fridays.
Visit the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer near the Damascus Gate, where you can climb the bell tower for a stunning panoramic view of Jerusalem.
The charming Armenian quarter features authentic restaurants and beautiful ceramic shops.
Last but not least, and perhaps the biggest attraction to Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The current building of the mosque was constructed in the early Umayyad period of rule.
The Noble Sanctuary consists of the Qubbet Al-Sakhra (Dome of the Rock), the Buraq Wall, the Golden Gate, the Al-Qibly Mosque and the Musallah Marwani. The Musallah Marwani is speculated to be the area of where Maryam (AS) sought refuge in Allah when she was accused of adultery and where Isa (AS) was raised as an infant.
Whilst there are many hadiths on the importance of Al-Aqsa, we leave you with one on the importance of visiting the serene mosque:
Abu Hurayrah (RA) relates that the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Do not undertake a journey to visit any Mosque, but three: this Mosque of mine, the Mosque of al-Haram and the Mosque of Aqsa”
Sahih Muslim, 1397
Islam and Jerusalem
The ornate Al Aqsa Mosque is mentioned in the Holy Quran at the beginning of Surah Al Isra 17:1, “Glorified be He [Allah] Who did take His servant for a journey by night from Al Masjid Al Haram to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of our Signs. Verily He is the All Hearing, All Seeing.” Such a spiritual setting is a blessing for Muslims, and should be on all of our bucket lists to visit.
A lot of inspiration for choosing holiday destinations comes from the history we have read about, the beach escapes, culture, the architecture of buildings - Jerusalem has it all and more. Even after days of discovering and touring you will find peace in prayer in the ‘Haram Ash Sharif’ or the ‘Noble Sanctuary’ as it is known in English. As Muslims, we should not only fulfil our duty to the pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, but we should visit the holy lands of Jerusalem which are beloved by Muslims far and wide. Additionally, we should help cater to the small businesses and support the plight of the Palestinians, by contributing to their economy.
Ramadan in Jerusalem
During Ramadan, you can book a property in Al-Quds with HalalBooking and take in centuries of Islamic history. Feel inspired and in awe of following in the footsteps of millions that have visited Jerusalem by booking a hotel close to all the historical sites. Take part in the celebration of this blessed month by fasting during the day, sharing Iftar with the locals at Maghrib and pray Isha and Taraweeh at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Make your visit to Jerusalem during the holy month an unforgettable one.
Food in Jerusalem
The food in Jerusalem is typical of any Middle Eastern palette, with even the simplest of dishes presented beautifully and tempting you to eat and halal food is widely available.
Start your day with the colourful and tasty shakshuka, poached eggs in a spicy sauce made from tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onions and garlic.
The falafels, shawarmas, hummus and grilled kebabs sold at street stalls and cafes are put together so efficiently yet so delicately, that each bite lets you devour the taste of all the ingredients wanting more of the same.
Make sure to try the Maqloubeh (upside down one pot rice dish), packed with flavour and made with meat or chicken. Indulge in the finest sweets, but most importantly the Nabulsi Knafeh - the traditional Arab sweet dessert with crispy exterior and an amazing cheese layer inside and soaked in a sweet syrup. Explore Middle Eastern delicacies with a unique Palestinian twist. In addition to the variety of dishes, you will be spoiled with lots of fresh fruit, juices, olives, figs and dates from organic and homegrown cultivation to enjoy and to take back as gifts.
Halal-friendly hotels in Jerusalem
HalalBooking offers a wide variety of some of the best hotels Jerusalem has to offer for those looking for a halal-friendly experience. Whether you want halal food only at the premises, no alcohol served in your room, HalalBooking is here to make your stay in the Holy City a memorable one.
Experience a spiritual holiday like no other
The beauty of Jerusalem is that you do not need a meticulously planned itinerary to have a special time, as each corner of the city gives its own unique shine and culture-filled twist. However, a little bit of background knowledge as to what Jerusalem is about will come in handy and not leave you overwhelmed when you arrive. The foundation of Jerusalem is like no other, you will be side by side with worshippers from different religions, all there to learn, visualise and benefit. The encounter with citizens and their stories will leave an everlasting impression on you. Seeing everyone come together with prayer beads in hand and the generosity, kindness and stories you hear will warm your hearts. The heart of Jerusalem, like that of the prophets, is full of love for its people.