In this city there was so much I wanted to see that I had to stay there three days —Egeria, 4th century AD
The Urfa area constitutes the deep hinterlands of eastern Turkey, far from the cosmopolitan bustle of Istanbul and the tourist beaches of Marmaris. It is here that walkers pass Gobekli Tepe, dubbed the world’s first temple and vastly older even than Stonehenge, which revolutionized ideas about religion. A city walk through Urfa, officially called Sanliurfa (“glorious Urfa”), centers around its Old City market and a calm wondrous pleasure garden surrounding Abraham’s Fish Lakes and his traditional Birth Cave. Legends of Abraham abound in this region, where Kurdish, Turkish, Arab and Alevi villages dot the dry plains. Here the landscape is found in the wide open sky and in the warm faces of homestay hosts.
For the time being, API advises against all travel south of the Urfa-Mardin highway and in the city of Urfa.
A major site of religious visitation today, the Birth Cave is carved into the base of a mountain. According to local Muslim tradition, Abraham was born here, hidden from the pagan King Nimrod.
Streams of bubbling water laden with sacred carp flow through the Fish Lakes, a soothing oasis of pools and gardens beckoning for a pleasurable stroll, centered around a dramatic legend about Abraham.
The Halil-ur Rahman Mosque, located on the southwest corner of the Lake of Abraham, is one of the key holy sites in Urfa, built on the site where Abraham was cast down by Nimrod and saved by a pool of water.
It’s a pleasure to get lost in the twisting maze of Urfa’s historical market, bursting with colorful fabrics, exotic spices and artisan copperware while remarkably free from sales pressure.
Move over, Stonehenge! Gobekli Tepe, the world’s oldest temple at 12,000 years, baffles historians and turns theories about human history on their heads with its mysterious circles of megalithic pillars carved with images of animals.