National Geographic Photographer Ziyah Gafic shares an unprecedented look at the oldest Islamic monument in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023 12:41PM

The journey to capture the Dome of the Rock

JERUSALEM — This month, National Geographic follows a photographer’s journey to capture one of Islam’s holiest sites.

The iconic Dome of the Rock mosque has fascinated people for decades. In the magazine’s September issue, National Geographic Photographer and Director of VII Academy Ziyah Gafic showcased an unprecedented look at the oldest Islamic monument in Jerusalem.

The award-winning photographer was granted exclusive access to the Dome of the Rock, passing layer upon layer of security in one of the world’s most protected areas. Access is so restricted that it took two years of negotiations before NatGeo and Gafic could even set foot on the premises. After that, Gafic was asked to recite the first chapter of the Quran every time he entered, despite all his credentials and prior approvals.

Many parts of the Dome of the Rock have been replaced in modern times. The exterior tiles date to the 1960s; the gilded dome, to the 90s.

Ziyah Gafic

The actual process of photographing the holy site was challenging as well. Since there are no staircases inside, Gafic needed to scale the top of the Dome from the outside to capture photographs looking down at the “Rock.”

“This is as close as I get to heaven,” Gafic told NatGeo, referring to this experience.

See more of these photographs and learn about Gafic’s journey on

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