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Light for the golden Dome of Jerusalem

It culminates the restoration of the 1,525 square meters of mosaics of the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque of al-Aqsa seven years of work in the most disputed zone of the holy City

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Light for the golden Dome of Jerusalem

Inside dome of Rock, oldest Muslim building in world, where it is said that Mohammed ascended into sky, several expert restaurateurs give last touches to ir famous mosaics, a work that has taken seven years and has developed almost In silence given conflict in area where se days return to whistle bullets. On esplanade of mosques, Jordanian and Palestinian restaurateurs have taken all splendor inside gilded dome that presides over photographs souvenirsde Jerusalem.

A cascade of golden light floods impressive main hall of Dome of rock, coming from more than two million colored crystal tesserae with gold, silver and mor-of-pearl. They are newly restored mosaics that decorate walls and vault of famous octagonal building — symbol of early Islamic architecture — surmounted by an imposing cupola. "The tesserae of upper vertical panels were placed with a inclination of 30 degrees to reflect beam of light towards those who contemplate it from below," explains Dr. Mohammed Abu Aysheh, a Jordanian educated in Bologna, in front of se works of Cleaning, restoration and documentation of mosaics that adorn both dome of Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque.

"95% of work is already done." It has been hard because re has never been a scientific restoration of mosaics or ir rich designs had been documented. Now we can say that future generations will know exactly, whatever happens, as y were in 2017, explains restaurateur.

Palestinian restorers retouch One of top tile panels. C. TERUEL/L. B. (WAQF)

The project was launched by Ministry of Religious Affairs of Jordan — custodian country of holy Muslim places of Jerusalem — and has been paid with funds of kingdom. "It is most important project of Committee created by Hashemite Fund for restoration of al-Aqsa," says Sheikh Hassan, representative of WAQF, religious authority that manages site.

In addition to restoration, designs of 1,525 square meters of mosaics that decorate Qubbat al-Shakra — as is known in Arabic as dome of Rock — and al-Aqsa, have been digitized and documented for first time. "If re is anor earthquake or fire y can be reconstructed faithfully," says Proud Abu Aysheh. It refers to Jericho earthquake, which shook region in 1927 when several mosaic panels were detached and fire provoked in 1969 by an Australian extremist. The Flames devastated interior of mosque. Several of mosaics were burned and 1,000-year-old wooden and ivory pulpit was calcined.

"The mosaics damaged by fire were saved because n y could not restore m." Now we have recovered some tesserae but we have worked practically blindly, based on photographs and old images. Finally we have recorded DNA of this gem, but it has been very laborious, says Abu Aysheh showing copies on paper on which his team works.

In m y are marked with different colors tiles that needed a repair, which had to replace and where y intervened manually, with precision of a surgeon, to extract remains of cement and residues that did not come out or with first Dry cleaning, or last chemical review. "On average, we took to copy each panel a week," says architect Asil Abu Rmilah, of Palestinian University of Birzeit.

Inside dome of Temple. LB/WAQF The country

There are floral designs among which phrases extracted from Quran can also be read. "Most of tesserae are gold but re are also silver, colored and mor-of-pearl." Each of golden is like a glass sandwich of about seven millimeters that contains a thin sheet of gold inside. In addition to originals, says Abu Aysheh, y also bought half a ton of "those sandwiches" of glass and gold to prestigious house Orsoni, a Venetian crystal factory founded in late nineteenth century, worldwide known for exquisiteness of ir works.

During Universal exhibition held in Paris in 1889, architect Antoni Gaudí was so fascinated with work of Italian firm that he decided to use his mosaics in Holy Family. "They are best — says Jordanian expert." Its tesserae can be admired in Cadral of San Marcos, in Venice. "And now, in Jerusalem."

The restorer says that mistakes made in previous interventions complicated and slowed down this work. "The mosaics were fixed, but not as it should be." In event of a seismic movement, it would even facilitate its fall, says Jordanian teacher. "Both mosaics and dome are from late 7th and early 8th centuries." We found that y used brass staples to hold some of planks. The normal, from Byzantine period, was to use iron but it deteriorates more with moisture. I have never seen this technique before in some mosaics of that time. "No doubt Umayyad built it thinking that it will endure through ages," says Abu Aysheh.

Since 2010, many specialists and students have been at ir command but, in this final stretch, only four remain. Two architects whose main task is to finish digital map with which one can follow step by step delicate work undertaken during se years and two young university Palestinians formed by Abu Aysheh that will help him to give last touches to complete It's historic restoration.

Muhammad's ascension and sacrifice of Abraham

The Dome of Rock was built at end of 7th century by order of Abd al-Malik, Caliph of Umayyad dynasty, to protect rock from where, according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad ascended to heaven. An Arabic inscription from time dates back to 691 date construction ended. The octagonal structure surmounted by a golden dome is considered oldest Islamic monument standing.

It is located in Mount Moria, in East Jerusalem, a place also sacred to Jews. According to Hebrew tradition, in that rock Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to God and re were located temple of Solomon — known as First Temple — which housed Ark of Covenant and after destruction of this by hosts of King Babil Onion Nebuchadnezzar, Second Temple, destroyed in year 70 after Christ by Roman legions of Emperor Tito.

The sanctuary, which is object of controversy between Jews and Muslims, protects and administers Jordan, following peace accords of 1994. The entrance to non-Muslims, in Dome of Rock and in Al-Aqsa mosque, requires a special permission from Islamic religious authority and can only access Esplanade by one of nine gates, that of Maghrebi. Before 1990s, Jews barely visited resort but now go daily and escorted by Israeli security, but y cannot pray on Esplanade.

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