Mohamed El Amrousi

(United Arab Emirates University)

The site of Al-Aqsa mosque and its surrounding urban enclave known in Arabic as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Sacred Enclosure) has been subject to study as a contested space for the past decades. Muslims visit this space to pay homage to al-Aqsa mosque, the first direction of prayer in Muslim World, before Makkah. For Jews the site is sacred because of its association with the Herodian temple commonly known as the ‘Throne of Solomon’. The ‘Wailing Wall’ on the Western side of the Sacred Enclosure marks the boundaries of Jewish Space. The newly opened tunnel underneath the Western wall brought new idioms to the site as rumors indicated that that tunnel is under Al-Aqsa mosque and may lead to its destruction, in reality it is distant from the mosque.
This research paper aims to discuss visions of Haram al-Sharif, and how merging architectural history with virtual reality programs such as “Cortona VRML” enables those who may never visit this site to see it and study it in Virtual Cave. Al-Aqsa mosque has changed in shape and size overtime. This is only known to us through texts and archaeological remains, yet now we can see them via virtual models of the Sacred Enclave. Other buildings such al-Marawani prayer space which is under al-Aqsa mosque and the palaces of the Umayyad dynasty remain un-studied. Merging the Real, the Unreal and the Virtual to synthesis metamorphosized theories will be part of this research.
In contemporary times this non-egalitarian space has become inaccessible to most Muslim/Arab scholars, especially females who are restricted in their travel agenda. Inaccessibility and the Muslim/Jewish religio/political paradox fueled scholarly interest charged with political manifestations, virtual reality mediums may help clarify may of the students inquiries. In addition, Virtual Reality mediums motivate students of architecture to revisit the canon of Architectural History. These mediums bring together fragmented historical myths in a student’s mind with more conglomerated visions that maybe real or augmented.