Built in the 16th century by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Dung Gate (in Hebrew ‘Sha’ar Ha’ashpot) is one of seven open gates that provide entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. Situated close to the southeast corner of the Old City, southwest of the Temple Mount, for several hundred years it was merely a tiny opening in the wall, but in 1952 it was enlarged by the Jordanians (who controlled the area between 1948 and 1967). After the Old City of Jerusalem was captured by Israel paratroopers in the Six-Day War, it was then renovated.
The Dung Gate is known in Arabic as the Mughrabi Gate (Bab al-Magharibeh). The Mughrabis, who came from North Africa (the Maghreb), fought in Saladin’s army and then settled in this neighborhood of Jerusalem. In fact, for hundreds of years, they effectively controlled access to the approach to the Western Wall and forced Jews to pay bribes to visit there.
The Dung Gate is also known as the Silwan Gate since it lies in close proximity to the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. Until medieval times, Silwan could be found within the walls of Jerusalem, but once the present walls were built, Silwan was separated from the rest of the city.
As for the origin of the word ‘Dung’...well, residents of Jerusalem argue that the gate is so named because of all the scattered rubbish and soil thrown into the valley below, each time Jerusalem was destroyed. Indeed, from the First Temple onwards, it seems all of the ash and remains of sacrifices were taken out of the city via the Dung Gate and then burned in the Kidron Valley. The origin of the gate’s name is also mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah.
Today, upon entering the Dung Gate, on your right you will find the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Centre. Here you can gaze upon the ruins of walls, streets, gates, columns and ritual baths (mikve’ot). The entire site is reconstructed to look as it would have done 2000 years ago.
Inside the gate, to the west, you can see what is left of the Eastern Cardo Maximus (‘the Cardo’), a busy and bustling thoroughfare from Ancient Roman times. This colonnaded street, which runs across Jerusalem from north to south, was once lined with shops and shopkeepers and served as the economic hub of the city. The Dung Gate is the most convenient of the Old City’s seven gates for visiting the Western Wall.
Want to visit the Old City and go through the Dung Gate? Join our Jerusalem Old City Tour.