Al Aqsa Qadeem

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Aqsa Qadeem - Underground Room

Al Aqsa Qadeem (Arabic: الأقصى قديم or 'the old Aqsa', also known as 'the ancient Aqsa' ) refers to the underground building and space beneath the central aisle of Masjid Al Qibli in the southernmost portion of Masjid Al Aqsa.


Entrance to Aqsa Qadeem

15 or so steps lead down from the entrance which sits just in front of Masjid Al Qibli on the north side. This is currently the only usable access point to Aqsa Qadeem.

Underground Area

Aqsa Qadeem Tunnel

At the foot of the entrance is a long tunnel with walls of smooth stone and a roof that is slightly arched. The tunnel was shorter in the early Islamic period and was lengthened towards the north during the Abbasid era, when Masjid Al Qibli was reconstructed. The tunnel has a parallel which runs adjacent to it and the two are separated by a set of low arches, some of which are sealed and some open.

Aqsa Qadeem - Pillars in Larger Room
Aqsa Qadeem - Grille in Smaller Room
Aqsa Qadeem - Underground Shaft in Smaller Room

This adjacent tunnel culminates in another flight of steps which is the entry point to two large underground rooms with high ceilings. Huge stone pillars mark out the centre of the larger of the two rooms and its ceiling is adorned by four domes that are 'half-spheres'. There are markings of decoration inside the domes that are faint but visible. The smaller of the two rooms is plainer and houses a grille that is set in the floor and opens to a deep shaft at the end of which a further underground floor can be seen.

At the southern end of the larger room are two enormous doorways set in stone that are part of the outer wall of Masjid Al Aqsa. One of the doorways is sealed and the other, framed by columns, leads to the Al Khutniyah manuscript library. The library was founded on the initiative of a volunteer Marwan Nashashibi and his wife Um Adnan in 1998 and is outside the boundary of Masjid Al Aqsa. There is no access to the library from outside Masjid Al Aqsa. Bab An Nabi (English: Prophets Gate, also known as the Double Gate), which previously offered access to Masjid Al Aqsa from outside the enclave, is today sealed.

Historical Use

The tunnel historically served to provide the Umayyad Caliphs with easy access to Masjid Al Aqsa by connecting it to their palaces, which were built next to Al Aqsa's southern wall. This would present an explanation as to why the entrance is so richly decorated. The building itself is an Umayyad restoration, possibly built using older construction materials from the Roman or Herodian era.


The name 'old' was most likely adopted to refer to this space in the later Islamic period due to the disuse and sealing of the Bab un Nabi gate, as well as the construction of a ceiling over the space which served to make the mount of Al Aqsa level and support the construction of another building (namely Masjid Al Qibli) over it.

Common Misconceptions

There is some speculation that the walls and pillars in the larger underground room were constructed by the Jinn at the command of Prophet Sulayman however there is no archaeological evidence to show that any part of the structure dates this far back.

The name is a potential misnomer and there is some confusion due to this, with the space being occasionally mistaken as the 'original' Masjid Al Aqsa. In fact Islamic tradition holds that the Masjid Al Aqsa 'enclave' or 'compound' today sits almost exactly atop the original foundations of Masjid Al Aqsa and the Masjid is not confined to a particular structure inside the enclave, rather it is the enclave itself. With regards to the name 'old Aqsa' it is simply older than the portion that is around and above it.


  • Page 26, Guide to the Masjid al-Aqsa An architectural and historical guide to the Islamic monuments in the Masjid al-Aqsa By Dr: Muhammad Hashim Ghosheh Dean of The Center For Heritage and Islamic Research 2005
  • Page 16 AL-AQSA MOSQUE AL-HARAM ASH-SHARIF PASSIA O Ist edition, August 2013 Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Jerusalem
  • 2002 The architectural development of Al-Aqsa mosque in Islamic Jerusalem in the early Islamic period, Sacred architecture in the shape of "The Holy" Doctoral Thesis Al-Ratrout, Haithem Fathi P. 256 to 264
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  • AbuSharar, Salam (April 6, 2022). "Volunteer's dream of Al-Aqsa Library comes true". Anadolu Agency.