The structure known as the Old al-Aqsa is accessed by leaving al-Marwani Mosque and walking towards al-Jami’ al-Aqsa. Before reaching the middle of the space leading up to al-Jami’ al-Aqsa , a stone staircase leads to a door and into the Old al-Aqsa. The requirements that apply to visiting al-Marwani Mosque are also applicable here.
Nature of the Old al-Aqsa
The Old al-Aqsa refers to the area that extends from north to south ibneath the middle riwaq (asile) of al-Jami’ al-Aqsa , 18 steps lower than its floor and entrance. This slope continues inside the Old al-Aqsa as the visitor moves southward. As such, the Old al-Aqsa slopes twice: once immediately after passing through the entrance and another at the end of the eastern portico of the Old al-Aqsa. The visitor must move towards the west a little and go down eight large steps. This decrease is characteristic of the nature of the location. The scheme and architectural elements clarify this, with a door comprising two long passageways leading into al- Jami’al-Aqsa . This door was known as Bab al-Nabi (the Gate of the Prophet) in Arabic writings and the Double Gate in western ones.
Plan of the Area
The ceiling of the two passageways, which meet in a semi-barrel shallow vault, is founded on three lines of semicircular arches extending from north to south. The stones of these arches are large and dressed. The openings of the arches were closed off for support purposes. At the opening of the door, there are huge lintels and great pillars. The area to the inside of the door is a a square space decorated by four shallow domes . In this area, one can see a set of huge granite pillars, as well as a modern concrete peir i to support the ceiling.
According to Nasir Khusra, Suleiman Ibn ibn Daoud was the founder and builder of this door, the Old al-Aqsa, because Khusrau could not believe how men could move and use its stones, as this is beyond man’s capabilities. As those above men are the jinn, and Sulieman was the one to whom Allah (God) Almighty dedicated the power of the jinn, so Khusraw believed that Sulieman built this door.
However, it appears that this door is Roman, which was held as probable by Mujir al-Din when he spoke about al-Zawiyya al-Khataniyya, saying that it was built by the Romans. Some experts date it back to Herod (37 - 4 BC). It also appears that this door was destroyed in Titus’ campaign of 70 AD and was neglected until ‘Abed al-Malik Ibnibn Marwan ordered the renovation and reconstruction of the area of al-Aqsa Mosque, rebuilding it from already available materials and introducing architectural and decorative elements, so long as they did not contradict with the traditions of Islam.