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“Most Typically Oriental of the Gates of the Old City of Jerusalem”

Damascus (Shechem) Gate
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Ranked #42 of 312 things to do in Jerusalem
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Fee: No
Recommended length of visit: <1 hour
Owner description: Built by Suleiman the Great in 1537, this is considered Jerusalem’s most grand and ornate gate. There are seven gates open: New Gate, Zion, Dung, Jaffa, Lions’ (St. Stephen's), Herod’s, and Damascus (Shechem).
Reviewed February 15, 2014

Although the space outside of the gate has been modernised with stoned steps going up to different sides of the gate, the distinctive Orientalness of this gate strikes me very much. Specially in late afternoon or early evening one could simply sit in one of the corners and watch people come and go or just loitering around the area: old, young, men, women, children, soldiers, religious of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, tourists, pilgrims, local Israelis and Palestinians--in short, all kinds of people with various concerns and appearances. I find this gate the busiest of all for human traffic. Once in a while, a motorcycle goes through it or a pushcart with some goods. As one gets into the gate and paved road inside the gate, one encounters all kinds of shops--for clothing, both modern and traditional ones, for souvenirs, food stuff (fruits, Arab sweets, bread and pastries). There are also small restaurants along the streets inside and a little further inside is a public toilet, open during daytime only during certain hours. The beginning of the Via Dolorosa is not too far from this gate. Since it cuts through the center of the Old City, one could go to different quarters through this gate, which seemed to me the main thoroughfare in the olden times.

1  Thank Benny B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed February 2, 2014

The Damascus Gate is a 'must' for any visitor to Jerusalem, though its frenzied activity makes the Jaffa Gate look pastoral in comparison !

I usually walk to it along the sidewalk from the Jaffa Road. This way one gets a feel for how it is situated amongst its surroundings. Shortly after leaving the sunken plaza look up on the other side of the roadway and you will see two French Catholic Buildings. Though they look a bit out of place in this streetscape I am now used to them. You will pass by the 'New Gate'. It is as uninspiring as its name suggests. However, do take it another day to see what you can find.

About a block before the Damascus Gate the major roadway curves off to your left. This is Highway, Number 1. Ground zero of the Israel Highway system. As the roads get less important the numbers get larger. ie major Highways are single digits while secondary roads double digits and so on. However, it all starts here.

The Damascus Gate's name is not an honorific title, but rather reflects its pratical nature. In days gone by this was the gate through which the early citizens of Jerusalem left their city to go along the roads to the city of Damascus. Similarly the Jaffa Gate was the one people took to go to Jaffa. This simple logic is lost on travellers amid the rush of traffic in modern day Jerusalem.

Before you plunge through the Damascus gate pause and have a look around you. There are small hotels and businesses on the opposing streets. Walking down the main street, Hatzanhanim street, will lead you to a Post Office and further along when it turns into Sultan Suleiman Road to the Rockefeller Museum. On the other side, about two blocks along is the often over looked cave of Zedekiah, which in reality was an ancient quarry from where the stones of the Temple were hewn. I keep hoping that I'll stumble on a secret passageway which will lead me up into the Kotel plaza, but so far without success !

There will be many buses lined up taking on or letting off residents of Arab areas. Back behind you Light Rail trains will probably zip by, though in true civic planning logic their stops are off to the left or right not directly where one might wish for one. There are a constant supply of taxi cabs here and I have found them to be the quickest and cheapest for getting to the Mount of Olives and points in that vicinity.

You may notice many Ultra Orthodox coming and going through the gate. This is because when facing the gate far behind one on the other side of the highway is the start of Mea Shearim. I first took a short cut to it by following a private security guard many years ago. The gun tucked in the back waist band of his jeans stuck out as we climbed a ladder. Now there is a proper roadway leading off a parking lot.

Noting the many vendors of produce go down the plaza steps and plunge into the tumult which is the Damascus Gate. This is after all a shopping area for the 40,000 + residents of the Arab Quarter who live their daily lives here.

Try to read up on it ahead of time so as not to have to consult a map while you are there. One can also 'luck out' and be in Jerusalem when one of the free Municipal Shabbat morning walking tours are going to the Arab Quarter. Even if its the one in Ivrit take it. In this way you will be able to visit many out of the way spots which would normally take you hours to find on your own.

Make sure to look down occasionly as there are steps and also ramps for carts, so it is easy to lose one's footing. Also look up. You may notice a house with Israeli flags. This was the home Ariel Sharon bought to show that Jewish Israelis could live in the Arab Quarter. Keeping slightly to you right will lead you to a street which comes to a crossroad from which a sharp right will lead you back to the now tranqul appearing Jaffa Gate.

Alternatively follow one of the frequently appearing Ultra Orthodox men. I find you have to be very quick to do this. He will lead you to the the tunnely looking roadway which in turn leads to the Kotel plaza.

If possible try to repeat what you have just done in reverse a few days later. I am sure you will get lost, but its a great way to stumble upon things.

At 5:30 AM on the morning of February 19, 2008 I walked though the deserted streets of the Old City after praying at the Kotel. It was a rare second snow fall that year. There were only a couple of municiplal workers removing garbage. Coming up to the Damascus gate I was able to photograph it in uncluttered quietness. A bit how it must have looked many centuries ago.

Do visit and find something you will be able to remember for ever.

2  Thank Yonatan C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 17, 2013

Even though the main entrance is Jaffa Gate, this is definitely one of the busiest ones and most important ones. Different to Jaffa Gate, stairs descend towards the gate which gives you a great panorama of whats going on there. This gate looks basically like the entrance to a market, but if you take the first intersection to the right, it will take you to the Holy Sepulcher Church. There are lots of places to get souvenirs, just remember that arabs like to bargain, so dont take the first deal you get because it will be most likely that they are trying to rip you off. Outside Damascus gate there is a bus station which takes you to several places nearby, like Bethlehem. So why pay 90 usd for a tour? Bethlehem is a safe place and Palestinian people are very friendly and welcoming.

Check my full Bethlehem review if you need more information about going to Bethlehem.

1  Thank innavonfustenberg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 22, 2013

The main gate of the Old City. There is a lot going on around this gate. Shopping, markets, the bus station and a type of 'garage sale' outside of the gate. It is quite a site to see and the entrance will take you to one of the main, convenient roads to many of the sites in the Old City. I found it easy to navigate the city by entering this gate although Herod's Gate was closest to my hotel.

Thank JFG29to4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 30, 2013

Impressive old gate and still standing.
Usually they sell fruits and vegetables over there and its lovely entrance to the old city.

Thank Nicky F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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