Şanlıurfa, also known as Urfa, is an ancient city in the Southeastern Anatolia. With its excellent old buildings and its connections with Christianity and Islamic tradition, Şanlıurfa offers a great trip full of history, religion and architecture. Looking like a Middle East town, while there, you can visit mosques, ancient ruins, wander around historical bazaars, enjoy the delicious cuisine and ...try to bear with its extremely hot weather! This city's name is also in a lot of biblical stories. Many believe that Urfa was the place where God tested Job. At the same time, it is also the place where Prophet Abraham was born, raised and also died. Speaking of Abraham...
Balıklı göl or in English "Lake with fish" or Balıklı Lake is a holy pool which was believed by Muslims to be the place where Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. You are probably thinking "why though"; well, gather around my children because it is story time!
Legends say that Abraham, (İbrahim in Turkish) who was born and raised in here, was also the great enemy of the King Nimrod, since he was the one to declare war on idolatry during his time. But like any other legend, most importantly Abraham won the heart of the King Nimrod's daughter, Zeliha. King Nimrod sentenced Abraham to death instantly, like every other furious king would do and commanded to build a massive pyre to burn him alive. Rumor has it that when he was tossed in the fire, the flames became water and the burning logs turned into fish. Still today, this pool is considered sacred and the fish inside it holy; it is also said that anyone who eats them will be struck blind!
We all know that Abraham is an important figure in the Christianity and Judaism, as well as in Islam. But why is he so important? With his noble personal attributes and by being fully committed to God, Abraham is most frequently mentioned in Islam's holy book of Quran. He had everything he could ask for except from a son. So God asked him to leave his country and travel with his family to a land that God would show him. In return, God promised him many descendants. He trusted God and his family was soon blessed with a son, Isaac. Sounds like a nice story right? But wait, there is even more! God had another test for him later on and he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham was very sad but willing to obey; right before sacrificing Isaac, God stopped him by sending a sacrificial animal from above (my atheist self is rolling eyes so hard). That day is still celebrated as a festival by Muslims, and it is known as Eid al-Adha aka feast of sacrifice.
So yeah, Balıklı göl is a must-visit place for pilgrims no matter what your religion is. The pool is also in the courtyard of the mosque of Halil-ur-Rahman, which was built in 1211. Oh, and it is said that if you see a white fish, the door to heaven will open for you.
Picture © Credits to YILMAZUSLU
Şanlıurfa Kalesi aka Şanlıurfa Castle in Turkish, was built by the Osroene kingdom (a historical kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia between 132 BCE to 608 AD), but the famous dual columns were built by the Abbasids in 814 AD! The castle -or the ruins of the castle might be more applicable- is not open for a visit but functions as an open-air museum. The ruins of the castle are overlooking Şanlıurfa and it is a must-visit place, since the view of the city from there is simply breathtaking!
Picture © Credits to worklater1
This cocoon-shaped houses were the ruins of the major ancient city that hosted many ancient civilizations. The ancient city of Harran is one of the most attractive tourist attractions in Urfa. Archeological proofs state that this ancient city was a major commercial, cultural, and religious center in 3rd millennium BCE period! We first heard of the ancient city of Harran from Ebla tablets, which are dated in the late 3rd millennium BCE. These tablets threw light upon the facts and stated that an early king or the mayor of Harran married a princess named "Zugalum", who then became the queen of Harran! As I said before, Harran hosted many civilizations. Most important eras that were shaped here are the Assyrian period, the Hittite period, the Babylonian period, the Persian period, the Roman and of course the Islamic period.
Harran is famous for its cocoon-shaped houses that were originally made to keep the inside of these houses cold- which makes sense since it is bloody hot in this region! These houses are still standing strong for over 3000 years. This place is very important to Muslims, since Harran has the oldest mosque built in Anatolia and it's an important showcase of the Islamic architecture. The grand mosque of Harran was built in between the years 744–750 and remains still up until today!
Göbeklitepe is more than just a massive carved stone temple which was crafted by prehistoric people, whom had not yet developed metal tools or pottery! It is known that Göbeklitepe is 7000 years older than Stonehedge, and 7500 years older than the Pyramids of Egypt! This breathtaking archeological site has distinctive T-shaped pillars carved with images of wild animals, showing us what life was like about 11,500 years ago. It is located at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent, which was the perfect place of settlement for the prehistoric people. Do not miss out on visiting this incredible site along with the archaeological museum situated right next to it!
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