Damascus Gate is the largest of the Old City's seven gates. The name, Bab El-Amud (Gate of the Column) dates back to the time when Hadrian conquered Jerusalem and, in celebration of his victory, built a victory column at this gate. The column disappeared centuries ago but the name has lingered on.
The steps leading down to the gate, renovated in recent years, form an amphitheatre where people can sit to admire the Old City's majestic walls and watch the hundreds of people walking in and out of the gate every day. During Ramadan, and other Muslim feasts in general, the gate is decorated with colourful lights and the whole area is bustling with shoppers until late at night. On Fridays, the gate is packed around noontime with thousands of Muslim worshipers who come from all over Palestine to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The gate's angled entrance, designed to break the path of potential attackers, leads into the main north-south artery of the Old City. Immediately inside there are a few steps after which the road forks. To the left, Tareeq Al-Wad leads into the heart of the Moslem quarter. To the right, Souk Khan El-Zeit separates the Moslem and Christian quarters and it is the busiest shopping street in the Old City. To wander through this street on a busy morning can be an enjoyable experience for walking at a relaxed pace, but rather frustrating if you are in a rush. At the end of this street the road forks again taking you to the Christian quarter on the right and to Souk Al-Attareen (herb and spice market) straight on.