Şanlıurfa, the fabled birthplace of Abraham, feels unlike the rest of Turkey – it is generally referred to as an Arab city, and for good reason. The food here has more Middle Eastern influence, people’s accents are significantly different, and the houses are built in an Arabian style. Urfa is also the site of the old Crusader city of Edessa, and the city embraces this as it grows and sprawls around churches (now mosques) that are upwards of 1,000 years old or more.
The main reason most visit Urfa is to see Balıklıgöl – a massive religious compound built at the base of the Urfa fortress. It was apparently here that King Nemrod, angry with Abraham’s calls for monotheism, threw him into a pit of burning logs only for God to change the fire to water and the logs to fish. The whole temple section is beautiful and amazingly relaxing.
Urfa, despite being a site of religious pilgrimage for many Turks, also has some surprisingly good nightlife. Any of the many guest houses advertise having live folk music and drinks – truly an authentic vibe. You can read more details about Urfa here and here and here.
What I Missed: About an hour and a half outside of Urfa is Göbekli Tepe, a 12,000 year old religious site – the oldest in the entire world, and predating any human cities so far known about. It is supposed to be similar to Stonehenge, but with eerie and abstract shapes of humans and animals carved onto the pillars.
About another hour south of Urfa is the village of Harran, which was once a center for translation and trade in the ancient and medieval world. It is also famous for its unique beehive shaped mud houses. Essentially, I need to go back to Urfa.
How to Get There: If you’re coming from Malatya or Adıyaman after Nemrut, a bus ride to Urfa is only about four hours. The city also has an airport, with direct flights to Istanbul and Ankara.
If you’re looking for a small, fairy tale city check out page 3…