Şanlıurfa, 150 km (93 miles) east of Gaziantep and 1,300 km (808 miles) southeast of Istanbul,
is perhaps the most interesting
and historic city in Turkey's southeastern
Turks know Urfa (as it's commonly called) as the Prophets'
City because of legends telling
that the Patriarch Abraham was
born in a cave here. (The Bible does
say he stayed at Harran,
50 km [31 miles] to the south.) The cave,
and other legendary locations, are
visited annually by hundreds of thousands
of Muslim pilgrims.
It's certain that Urfa (OOR-fah,
pop. 500,000, alt. 518 m/1700 feet),
as it's commonly called, is very
old, dating back at least 3500
years to Hittite times; and the world's first temple at nearby Göbekli Tepe dates from 11,000+ years ago.
Because Urfa is set right at the crossroads
of routes to Europe, Asia and Africa,
just about everyone important has marched
through and left their mark, including
the Babylonians, Egyptians, Alexander
the Great, Greeks, Romans and Seljuk
Turks under Saladin.
The Crusaders, no doubt attracted
by the town's easily-defended promontory
called the Throne of Nimrod,
called it Edessa and made it the capital
of the Latin County of Edessa,
ruled by Count Baldwin of Boulogne.
Daily flights connect Şanlıurfa's GAP Airport (GNY) with Ankara and Istanbul, as do intercity buses (no trains—nearest train station is in Diyarbakır). More...
Because of its attraction of religious pilgrims, Şanlıurfa has a good variety of hotels. Stay at least one night here so you
have time to see
the sights: Balıklıgöl,
or Fish Pool, at the
center of the religious pilgrimage
area; the wondrous old covered
the Throne of Nimrod fortress;
the good little archeological
some of the fine old houses; and of course an excursion to Göbekli Tepe. More...
The southeast is
hot hot HOT in summer, so plan
your visit for another time of year
if possible. See When
to Go for details.
—by Tom Brosnahan