Local folklore indicates that the construction of Silwan originated with the arrival of the Rashidun Caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab. According to one resident, the Greek proprietors of Jerusalem were impressed by the humble majesty of the Caliph as he entered on foot while his servant rode in on camel, and presented him with the key to the city. The Caliph thereafter granted the wadi to “Khan Silowna,” an agricultural community of cave dwellers living around the valley spring.
Silwan is mentioned as “Sulwan” by the Arab writer and traveller al-Muqaddasi. In 985, he wrote “The village of Sulwan is a place on the outskirts of the city [Jerusalem]. Below the village of ‘Ain Sulwan (Spring of Siloam), of fairly good water, which irrigates the large gardens which were given in bequest (Waqf) by the Khalif ’Othman ibn ‘Affan for the poor of the city. Lower down than this, again, is Job’s Well (Bir Ayyub). It is said that on the Night of ‘Arafat the water of the holy well Zamzam, at Makkah, comes underground to the water of the Spring (of Siloam). The people hold a festival here on that evening.”
In 1596, Ayn Silwan appeared in Ottoman tax registers.
In 1834, during a large-scale peasants’ rebellion against Ibrahim Pasha,thousands of rebels infiltrated Jerusalem through ancient underground sewage channels leading to the farm fields of the village of Silwan.A traveler to Palestine in 1883, T. Skinner, wrote that the olive groves near Silwan were a gathering place for Muslims on Fridays.
In the mid-1850s, the villagers of Silwan were paid £100 annually by the Jews in an effort to prevent the desecration of graves on the Mount of Olives. Jewish visitors to the Western Wall were also required to pay a tax to the inhabitants of Silwan, which by 1863 was 10,000Piastres.