Harran and Sanliurfa

After that spectacular breakfast, we hopped on the bus for a trip to the ancient city of Harran which is south of Sanliurfa and about 50 km from the Syrian border. There we saw what remained of the city’s Grand Mosque. The majestic building was constructed to inspire visitors to convert to Islam. Even today, the size of the structure’s foundation is very impressive.

Harran is also famous for the beehive houses which are not houses with bees to make honey as I first thought. Instead, the name refers to the shape of the houses. Because wood was scarce (the town is basically in a desert), the villagers built square stone rooms then used old bricks to form a conical roof. These oddly-formed houses trap warmth in the winter months and keep the inside cool during the hot summer months. Unfortunately, the beehive house we visited was a tourist trap even Myrtle Beach would respect. They dressed up fellow students Liza and David in what they claimed to be traditional garb. They did serve us a special type of Turkish coffee that was especially potent. According to tradition, if you rest your coffee cup down on the table in front of you then you are obliged to pay for the server’s wedding. Despite being warned, Ben gave us a good a laugh when he “accidentally” put his cup on the table. The server made a couple jokes in Turkish but didn’t seem adamant about making Ben pay. He did try to “keep” Liza though.

Harran Crusader Castle

Next, we checked out the crusader castle at Harran. Some of us where more adventurous than others and chose to climb the remnants of the tower. This prompted Sevim to remind us (the first of many times) that our life was in at our own risk. The size of the castle was impressive and we could almost see Syria across the flat plain.

The history of Harran dates back to 2,000 B.C.E where it was an important trading outpost. Settlers since then have constructed their villages is a cluster of buildings. The next group of people would then build on top of the previous villages and so would the next. Today the mounts noticeably bulge upwards out the flat plain surrounding Harran. These sites are invaluable for archaeological excavations. In fact, our next stop was a small museum back in Sanliurfa that showed clearly how the layers have been peeled off of the mounds and artifacts from each period going back to the early bronze age have been uncovered.

Sanliurfa Statue

This museum also has the oldest life-sized human statue ever found. It was created in the Neolithic period around 9000 B.C. Seeing the such old artifacts and how they have transformed of periods that are incomprehensibly long ago was a new experience for me. It’s easy to get caught up in the history of recent times, but this reminder how old we actually are adds an intriguing perspective to history.

Our last activity for the day was to check out the old market in Sanliurfa and the cave where Abraham was supposedly born. This area was spectacular. Legend has it that an oracle predicted that a boy born in Urfa would kill the king, so naturally the king ordered all boys to be slaughtered. Abraham’s birth was concealed in this cave but the king captured him anyway. The king allegedly threw Abraham off the adjacent cliff in to a big fire. But, when Abraham hit the flames, they turned into water and the pieces of burning wood turned into carp. Today there is a very pretty pool loaded with “holy” carp which the locals feed regularly. I think the most ridiculous part of that story is that these people consider carp (definitely in the top 10 of disgusting fish) as holy.

Mosque in Sanliurfa

We visited the mosque that attaches to the famous cave then strolled through the close-covered bazaar. It’s basically the precursor to Wal-Mart.

Sanliurfa Bazaar

You can find anything you could possibly need from spices to work tools. We stopped in the main courtyard to try the local menengic or pistachio coffee. It was a big hit. The coffee was creamy and sweet with an obvious taste of pistachios.

On the road to Gaziantep

Finally, we jumped on the bus and headed towards Gaziantep, crossing the Euphrates along the way.


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