Bab al-Khalil (Gate of Hebron)
Bab Yafa (Jaffa Gate)
Located on the west wall of the fortifications of the old city of Jerusalem, facing the Citadel of Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Hegira 945 / AD 1538–9
It is probable that a team of local architects and delegates from the city of Aleppo were responsible for the construction of the gate. The registers of the Shari’a Court in Jerusalem have recorded the names of some of the architects from Jerusalem and Aleppo who worked on the fortifications of Jerusalem.
The Ottoman sultan, Sulayman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–74 / AD 1520–66).
The Bab al-Khalil (Gate of Hebron) is the only gate that receives visitors into the city of Jerusalem from both the south and the west. It is for this reason that the gate was given two names: Bab Hebron (al-Khalil) and Bab Yaffa (Jaffa), as they are two cities located to the south and west of the gate. Roughly facing Bab al-Khalil is Bab al-Asbat (the Lion's Gate), located in the east wall of the old city of Jerusalem.
Due to the architectural bulk of Bab al-Khalil it resembles a tower projecting from the fortified walls. The gate is square in design and contains an L-shaped passageway whereby the orientation of both the interior and exterior are forced to change direction by an angle of 90 degrees. This layout is reminiscent of other gates in the walls of Jerusalem and similar gates of the Middle Ages, specifically those of the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
The interior of the gate is accessed by an entrance on the north side of the wall. The entrance leads into a vestibule, on the west wall of which is an aperture with an embrasure opening. An inscription panel hangs in the middle of the south side of the vestibule, recording the name of the Ottoman Sultan, Sulayman the Magnificent as patron of the fortifications.
The northern side of Bab al-Khalil leads into the city by means of a wide receding portal that ends with a supporting arch. Directly above the arch is an inscription panel carved in Ottoman naskhi script:
“In the Name of the God, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful,
The order for the construction of these blessed walls was made by our master, the Sultan the Great, The Sovereign, The Ruler of Rome, Arabs and Persians, Sultan Sulayman bin Selim Khan. May God prolong his reign and power in the year AH 945 [AD 1538].”
The portal is flanked by a recess, above which is a tapered arch. Around the voussoirs of the arch there is stamped decoration. The decoration ends either side of the arch with a projecting panel in the form of a medallion carved with vegetal and geometric motifs. At the height of one stone course from the keystone of the arch there is a stone lobe. Directly above it are three stone corbels, which bear a machicolation. Opening out of this façade, is an embrasure for shooting arrows as well as serving as an observation point. The eastern façade of Bab al-Khalil, which overlooks the interior of the city, resembles the northern façade of the gate.
This is the only gate which opens onto the Western Wall of Jerusalem. Its construction was ordered by Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent as part of his great project to restore the walls of the city and its gates. For defence purposes the two vestibules of the gate are at right angles to each other, meeting at a sharp corner. An inscription panel is set in the middle of the southern façade which records the name of the sultan as the builder of the gate and the walls of Jerusalem. The gate also has other elements whose aim is to facilitate its defence.
The gate is dated by epigraphic inscriptions on both its interior walls and northern façade.
Berchem, M. van, Materiaux pour un Corpus Inscriptorium Arabicarum (Part II), Cairo, 1920–2.
Al-Natsheh, Y., “The Architecture of Ottoman Jerusalem”, in S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (eds), Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (Part I), London, 2000.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Bab al-Khalil (Gate of Hebron)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2023. 2023. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;28;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-NatshehYusuf al-Natsheh
Yusuf Said Natsheh is a Palestinian and since 1997 he has been Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology in al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University. He was educated in Jerusalem and Cairo and in 1997 obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Natsheh is a council member of many Palestinian societies for architectural heritage and a consultant for various projects on Jerusalem. He has written books and more than 40 articles about Jerusalem's architectural heritage including the architectural survey of Ottoman architecture in R. Hillenbrand and S. Auld (eds) Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000). He has contributed to many international and national conferences. He supervised the restoration project, sponsored by the Arab League, on Mamluk monuments in and around al-Haram al-Sharif, and was Palestinian expert for the UNESCO mission to Jerusalem in 2004.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: PA 28
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