Magical shots from the Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Rock is by far the most famous of the buildings that together form Al-Aqsa. Photographer Afif H. Amireh documented its breath-taking beauty and significance to Muslims from all over the world for this photo story.
Afif Amireh
PHOTOGRAPHY

About the story

With its golden round roof reflecting in the light of the sun, the Dome of the Rock has been watching over Jerusalem’s Old City and its inhabitants for some 1300 years. This Islamic shrine is by far the most famous of the buildings that together form Al-Aqsa. Photographer Afif H. Amireh documented its breath-taking beauty and significance to Muslims from all over the world for this photo story.

I’m just taking stills from this movie we call life

‘Sometimes the experience of taking a photo is more important than the result itself,’ says PPM photographer Afif H. Amireh, 41, born and based in Jerusalem. ‘As a photographer and filmmaker, my subjects continue to evolve over time as I continue to explore and grow my craft. I love travelling and capturing stories from different cultures and street photography, also documenting people, traditions, and daily life. To me, the experience of taking a photo is more important than the result itself. I’m just taking stills from this movie we call life.’

What does Al-Aqsa mean to you?
‘As a child, I used to run away from school and go sit under a tree in the yards of the mosque. This huge and quiet, tranquil place with its big yards and trees, was a special and peaceful place for me. Nowadays, and as a photographer, my relationship with Al-Aqsa is one of great respect for its historical, cultural, and religious significance. My lens captures not just images, but also the essence of a place revered by Muslims around the world. Through my work I seek to portray the beauty, serenity, and spiritual radiance of Al-Aqsa Mosque, bridging understanding and fostering harmony in a region where faith and heritage are intertwined.’

How many times has an assignment brought you to Al-Aqsa?
‘I’ve worked there on many occasions during my eighteen-year career, dozens of times if I had to guess. Depending on the assignment, I focus on different aspects of the site, from more historical to more religious angles, the people who worship here, the ceremonies – but each visit offers new perspectives and opportunities to document the beauty and significance of the mosque. Some of these occasions include Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Decree), Friday prayers and various other religious gatherings, ceremonies and events that attract crowds to the mosque.’

My lens captures not just images but also the essence of a place revered by Muslims worldwide

What do you try to capture at Al-Aqsa?
‘That really depends on the nature of the assignment and its timing. Sometimes I am sent to portray someone, sometimes it is about capturing a beautiful, spontaneous moment. It also depends on the occasion: during Ramadan you normally find many visitors from, for example, the West Bank, who have not had the opportunity to visit the mosque before. This usually results in many photogenic moments: a family enjoying a traditional Palestinian maqluba dish, breaking their fast in front of the golden dome, a woman feeding the early morning birds, hundreds of people lining up and praying in one voice at the same time – this always sends shivers down my spine. These, and birds flying around the golden dome in the early morning light, are always magical shots.’

Why should every traveller visit Al Aqsa?
‘Well, of course, every traveller should consider visiting Al-Aqsa for its immense historical, cultural and religious significance. This is one of the places you should put high on your list when you come to Jerusalem. As one of the holiest sites in Islam, Al-Aqsa holds a special place in the hearts of Muslims around the world. Standing there, surrounded by these sacred buildings, witnessing the architectural beauty, spiritual tranquillity and rich heritage, and absorbing all its history and significance, is a very special experience for anyone, religious or not. It is an opportunity to immerse yourself in Jerusalem’s diverse cultural tapestry, gaining a deeper understanding of the city’s complex history and the intertwined stories of different religions. Experiencing the atmosphere of prayer, reflection and community at Al-Aqsa can be a deeply enriching and illuminating experience for visitors who want to broaden their horizons and connect with the spiritual essence of a place revered by millions.’

Birds flying around the golden dome in the early morning light is always a magical shot

About the photographer

Filmmaker and photographer Afif H. Amireh studied journalism in Egypt and Jerusalem and worked for several news outlets as a producer before pursuing his passion for filmmaking and videography. Recognizing the power of still imagery, Afif bought his first camera in 2010, marking the start of his journey as a photojournalist and storyteller. Afif's talent and dedication have taken him around the world, capturing the essence of diverse cultures and communities. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with numerous international news outlets and media platforms, becoming a widely recognized and highly acclaimed master of his craft.