On a recent trip to Jerusalem, I got an unexpected and fascinating tour of a facility just steps away from the Dome of the Rock that is dedicated to restoring old Islamic documents. My host was my new friend Mouhannad, whose family was graciously assisting me with my research and who works as a document restorer in the beautiful facility on the Haram al-Sharif (what Jews and Westerners call the Temple Mount).
As a former architect, the restored building that housed the facility was a treat all by itself. It is a glorious two-story Mamluk-era structure sited on the inner western enclosure of the Haram. The structure was the al-Ashrafiya madrasa, or school, which according to the Arabic inscription at its entrance was built in 1482 CE by the sultan Abu An-Nasir Qaytbay. Its beautiful entrance is characterized by alternating red and biege stone bands, a common Islamic style known as ablaq. I was amazed at the intricated interlocking stone details above the lintel and on the sides of the entry.