Jethro’s City (Suayb Sehir), a former Roman town, is revered as the dwelling place of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. It is here that Moses met his wife, Zipporah, and received the staff with which he would part the Red Sea.
Suayib Sehri, the City of Jethro, holds the stark ruins of a Roman town, tucked among the modest dwellings of Ozkent village. This was evidently once a large and impressive settlement– the site is littered with enormous cut rocks from earlier walls and structures, although most are fallen and weathered, several great stone arches remain standing. Located 30km east of Harran, the site belonged to the well-travelled routes linking Han al Barrur and Sogmatar. These ancient paths have long vanished, and today the ruins of Suayb Sehri stand in remote forlornness. Yet the legend that associates this place with Jethro, considered a Prophet of Islam, is far from forgotten. Among the marble ruins are various small caves, one of which holds a shrine devoted to the prophet Jethro. In this cave-shrine are much-used ritual objects: prayer rugs, tespih beads, hand-sewn talismans in colorful fabrics, and Islamic prayer calendars still maintained up to date.
Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, plays an important supporting role in the story of Exodus. The Hebrew Bible records that Moses, after fleeing Egypt, spent 40 years in the desert working as a shepherd for Jethro (foreshadowing of the 40 years he would spend leading the Israelites through the desert to Canaan). During this time he met Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah, at a well. She became the wife of Moses and the mother of his two sons. Local legend also holds that at Suayib Sehri, Jethro gave Moses the rod that he would later use to part the Red Sea.
Although the origins of the myth linking Jethro to Urfa are hazy, the story holds suggestive thematic resonances with Urfa’s other prophetic legends. For instance, the legend is one of several tales that link Urfa to Biblical genealogy through marriage (and through betrothals that take place at wells, such as Jacob’s Well). Furthermore, the site’s association with Moses’s rod recalls stories of other holy artifacts that are said to either originate in or pass by way of Urfa (such as the Mandylion of Christ and the Cross of Varak).