Not far from Damascus Gate, if you walk eastwards to where the Turkish walls are built right on the rocks you will arrive at a gate excavated in the stone.

Upon entering the gate, you will be surprised to find yourself inside an immense cave, more than 200 metres long, excavated entirely underneath the Old City.

As you walk along, you will notice that in several places the stone has been neatly cut because the cave was once used as a stone quarry.

You may wonder when they started using it as a cave; according to tradition, there is no doubt: the cave is generally called "King Solomon's mine" because it was used at the time when the Temple was built.

The Freemasons' Sphinx

A very peculiar discovery, made accidentally by the French archaeologist Clermont-Ganneau at the end of the 19th century, could very well prove that the tradition was right.

The archaeologist discovered an incision in the rock at the entrance of the cave: it represented an imaginary creature that looked like a sphinx and that recalled an Assyrian bas-relief.

Clermont-Ganneau dated the incision to the time between the eight and ninth centuries BC, that is, the period of the temple of Solomon. Soon the cave became famous among members of the Freemasonry, who felt a kinship with the builders of the temple of Solomon, whom they considered to be the first Freemasons.

During the British mandate, the Freemasons' meetings were official and publicised. One of the "rooms" in the cave is still called "the Freemasons' hall".