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Travel: South East Turkey–Sanli-Urfa and Surrounding, Oct. 12-13/2022

Barely getting out of the previous jet lag, invoked by the travel from California to Israel, we were thrown back into another one, when passing the night of Oct 11th on the red-eye flight, which departed at 2:00am, from Israel, via Istanbul, to South East Turkey,




We joined the esteemed most knowledgeable Tour Guide -

Sefi Ben -Joseph ,who was leading a guided tour to the East and Central part of Turkey- Kappdoca, which we desired to tour already for few years, and finally manged to realize.on this trip.

,Joined him, were few of his old time "Groupies" who came aboard his trips religiously, for over 25 years.




The Twelve days Trip Course


This travel schedule, which killed the night, caused me sleep deprivation and diminished the enjoyment of the trip's first day, Yet, the long layover and wait for the second flight lag, at Istanbul's 24/7 operating airport, provided an ample opportunity to do my writing, during these forced sleepless hours.


At Istanbul's Airport



The land between the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers (Here)



Landing at Sanli-Urfa City Going through Passport Control and checking out of the airport, in mid morning, was to our delight, a very efficient and fast process.

Most comfortable bus with reclining chairs, wide windows and Wi-Fi service arrived some time later, to pick the group up for the site seeing of the day.



The dry yellowish arid vast plain scenery was immediately encountered, upon exiting the airport,



Approaching Sanli Urfa the City we spent 2 nights. in. revealed the many newly

built high rises, starting at the outskirts.


Breakfast at Melodi Van Kahvalti Cafe was the first place stopped at.



Sanli Urfa - The "Shining" Urfa (Seleucids name - Edessa)


Situated on the South Anatolia plateau about 80 km east of the Euphrates River, the city has always bore a favorable commercial and geographical placement.


According to a legend, Urfa is Ur Kasdim, - the hometown of Abraham,

and is nicknamed as the "City of Prophets"


It was founded under the name Edessa by the Seleucid king Seleucus I Nicator in 303 who most probably renamed the previous older small settlement, after the ancient capital of Macedonia.

In part of the Balikh River Valley region, about 12 km northeast of the city, there are famous significant Neolithic sites at Nevalı Çori and Göbekli Tepe. settlements which originated around 9000 BC, offering the world's oldest known temple sites.


The area was part of a network of the first human settlements where the agricultural revolution took place.

A more recent newest agricultural revolution, took place about 25 years ago with President Erdogan's major funding of the Southeastern Anatolia water project, (GAP)



Euphrates River and its water bodies


GAP

A multi-sector integrated regional development project, based on the concept of sustainable development for the 9 million people (2005) living in the Southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey, dammed the water of the Euphrates River.

Transporting water in tunnels from Atatürk Dam and creating many lakes as water reservoirs, made this part of Harran plain, an extension of the huge Syrian desert into a blooming green garden.


Harran Plain,

is one of the most important agricultural areas in Turkey, blessed with volcanic most fertile soil, which facilitated the growth of the largest center of Pistachio Nut orchards and grape vines.

With massive investments in infrastructure (water, roads and housing), the city has been growing up for the past 25 years, immensely, providing all necessary services in support of the agricultural expansion


From only a 250K, largely Kurds inhabitants in Singli-Urpa, in 1980,due to the economic boom, the city has enlarged to over 2 Million in the present time.




Kurds are Iranian ethnic group who believe that they are decedents of Madai empire

The Kurds were always a minority within the Ottaman Empire.


The region was conquered repeatedly throughout history, and has been dominated by many civilizations, including the Ebla, Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites, Hurri-Mitannis, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Ancient Greeks (under Alexander the Great), Seleucids, Armenians, Arameans, the Neo-AssyrianOsrhoenes, Romans, Sassanids, Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuqs and Ottomans.


The city was conquered by Macedonian forces under Alexander the Great, and it was renamed Edessa by the general Seleucus I.

Urfa became important to Christian in North Syria and from it the new religious also spread out to other regions.

During the First World War, Urfa was a site of the Armenian and Assyrian genocides,

Following the 1918 Sykes-Picot agreement, the English ruled also in Sanli-Urpa and later passed it to the French army, that also had an Armenian troops.

Those troops retaliated against the Turkish Kurds, for the 1916 Armenian massacre. when Armenian soldiers sided with Russian, betraying in the Ottomans. The Armenian attacked the Muslims both Kurds and Turk, and only then the Turks responded, and the Kurds retaliated with the blessing of the Turks.

The kurds joined in the rebel with Atta-Turk, fighting for 6 years, against the the French and English foreign armies, until the Turks won and managed to banished the French, who left the city in 1924.


The ethnic demographics of the city have shifted over the centuries. including in ancient times, a mixed of Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, and Armenians, later Syriac Christians, Assyrians, Turks, Arabs and Kurds, were all in the mix



On the way to the Archeological Museum

The Origins of Turkic People

Turkic peoples, consist of any of various peoples, whose members speak languages belonging to the Turkic family within the Altaic language group.(Turkic, Mongolian, and Manchu-Tungus language families) - a geographical spread from west of Italy mountains the Volga, and all the way to the Pacific.


They are historically and linguistically connected with the Tujue, - name given by the Chinese to the nomadic people who in 6th AD founded an empire stretching from what is now Mongolia and the northern frontier of China to the Black Sea.


Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest Turkic peoples descended from agricultural communities in Northeastern China and wider Northeast Asia, who moved westwards into Mongolia in the late 3rd millennium BC, where they adopted a pastoral lifestyle. By the early 1st millennium BC, these peoples had become equestrian nomads.

Many vastly differing ethnic groups have throughout history become part of the Turkic peoples through language shift, acculturation, conquest, intermixing, adoption, and religious conversion.

Nevertheless, certain Turkic peoples share, to varying degrees, non-linguistic characteristics like cultural traits, ancestry from a common gene pool, and historical experiences. Some of the most notable modern Turkic ethnic groups include the Altai people, Azerbaijanis, Chuvash people, Gagauz people, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz people, Turkmens, Turkish people, Tuvans, Uzbeks, Yakuts. Balkar, Bashkir, Dolgan, Karachay, Karakalpaks, Kipchak, Kumyk, Kyrgyz, Nogay, Shor, Tatars, Tofalar, Tyvans (Tuvans), Uighurs, and Chuvash. ( about 280m people belong to these people.) The ancient Mesopotamian Skits and Parthian were also of Turkic origin as well as the Seljuks Their most important cultural link, aside from history and language, is with Islam, for, with the exception of the Sakha (Yakut) of eastern Siberia and the Chuvash of the Volga region of Russia, the vast majority of Turkic peoples are Muslim.


Jews of Senli-Urfa - Urfalim Urph had a small Jewish community of Kurdish origin who spoke Turkish With many Levy family name and these Jews maybe were connected to the Assyrian first diaspora. Possessing very special cultural characteristics and Synagogues rituals, many moved to Israel at the end of 19th C, and to Aleppo Syria, due to persecutions. In Israel they settled in Tiberias ,many were working in the orchared of Rishon LeZion but lived in Jerusalem, and only later also start residing in Rishon.


The first site-seeing stop, after the early breakfast we had upon landing was at: .


Sanli Urpa Archeological Museum



This huge museum, the 5th largest in Turkey, which is open since 1965 is situated in an impressive current huge structure since 2015, and houses the oldest ancient art of the world,




Baliggol Statue figure

The life-sized limestone "Urfa Man" statue, “Balıklıgöl Snowman” which dates back to the Neolithic period, was found at Urfa during an excavation and is now on display at the Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum.


T-Shape stone Pillars from Göbeklitepe Temple exhibit


It exhibits historical works from Şanlıurfa and its many surroundings settlements, tumulus and ruins, of "Neolithic period”. remains of Harran which was inhabited from 3000 B.C. to 15 AD, and possession of the works of Göbeklitepe, the oldest temple in the world.

The actual site would be visited next day.



There are als0 artifacts excavated and rescued from the area inundated by Atatürk Dam, Birecik Dam and Kargamış Dam.


Intricate Clay -Animal Figures


Remains from Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. in a form of sharp tools made of flint rock, drillers, stone icons, terracotta geometric patterned ceramics, stamps, burial pithos, necklaces made of faience, ceramic fragments with stamp seals, cylinder seals, pieces of containers with figurines, metallic tools and idols, are all on display.







King Nabonid Embossed - Harran (6 BC)




Near-by the museum, at the same park complex, where many archeological remains were dug, on top and around the hill slopes next to it, there is also a an impressive Mosaic Museum.






Haleplibahce (Alepo Gardens) Mosaic Museum



This grand museum - a tall Rotunda dome structure, without any columns, was built over fantastic mosaic, discovered in 2006 on site, during construction works of a parking lot of a planned theme park, part of the municipality's urban renewal project.


This most important of ancient Greek culture relics of ancient Edessa which was established next to the Halil-Ur Rahman Lake, were found in the Mosaic ground of an Ancient Roman Villa. of 13 rooms dating back to 3rd and 4th c BC, right next to the archeological museum complex.

The 1-4 mm original stones from the Euphrates river were used for the amazing

mosaic ground work


The most famous one in the museum is the mosaic floor (3 m x 9 m) depicting Amazon warriors queens Hippolite, Thermodosa, Melanippe and Penthesileia hunting lion and leopard


Another Mosaic is of Orpheus, (illegally taken abroad and returned to Şanlıurfa, in 2015) dating back to 194 AD, in which he is depicted sitting and playing lyre for wild animals surrounding him. with the name of the artist inscribed on it.


Many of the mosaics uncovered around Şanlıurfa are also exhibited in this museum.



Halil-Ur Rahaman Lake - Baliki Gol - An Holy Fish Lake


A pool in the center of Sanli-Urfa, known in Jewish and Islamic legends as the place where Nimrod threw the Prophet Abraham into a fire.

According to the legend, the fire turned to water and the woods turned to fish.

A belief states, that it was formed as a lake at the exact point where the biblical Abraham fell down and the surrounding of the lake was turned into rose gardens. Regarding this legend, even today the fish in the lake are considered as “holly” by the citizens and they’re not allowed to be caught or eaten.



Abraham -who lived around 2000BC- denied the pagan divinity of The King of Urfa Nimrud Bin Kenan and broke the icons, which were adored by the citizens. Nimrud.


Balıklıgöl as a religious center, appears to have been a venerated site long before the time of Abraham, as a statue was found there which dates to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (~ 8000 B.C)



The pool is surrounded by beautiful gardens and Khalil-ur-Rahman mosque, once a church which functioned for over 2 millenniums as an economic religious entity.


Until 10 years ago the area was a slam and thanks to funding given by Erdugan the place was upgraded. A serene corner,which is beautifully renovated and cultivated, thus attract many locals and tourists to stroll around.


Lunch was eaten by the lake's park site , as is near by a beautiful hotel structure


Lunch at Halil Ibrahim Sofrasi Beautiful Hotel El-Ruha Sanli-Urfa Police on site


Near By is also the Central non-enchnating Bazzar/ Market of Senli-Urpa


Spice Bazaar (market) That was the last site visited in this long most interesting day.

A labyrinth of disorderly alleys constitutes this colorful but not that appealing

central market David and I, briefly checked, and checked-out.


Apparently the market area contained in the past about 300 -400 Haans

establishments -a parking area for the caravan merchants and their animals,

The Haans were tucked away within the narrow alleys, distinguished by the

professional guild for whom the special services were provide, like perfume

or spice merchants

As the lodging and protective services were no longer in use, most of the Haans

turn into

coffee shops in modern times Once The Jewish synagogue stood in one f the market's alley



On the second day outside of Town


The out of town surrounding of the Gobkli-Tepe Hill


Gobkli-Tepe - (Puppik -Potbelly Hill) a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site from 2018



The oldest in the world pre-pottery Neolithic archaeological site of a sanctuary, built in the fertile Crescent and consisting of 6m high massive T- shape stone pillars, within several sunken circular shapes, dating back to 12,000 years ago,

Many of these pillars are richly decorated with abstract anthropomorphic amazing details, clothing, and reliefs of animals like: varanus griseus, reptile embossments, wild boars, common crane, white stork, fox, gazelle, wild donkey, snake, scorpion, wild ship, lion, and spider.


It also include many smaller rectangular buildings, quarries, and stone-cut cisterns from the Neolithic, as well as some traces of activity from later periods.


The site provides rare insights into prehistoric religion and the particular iconography of the period. Maybe indeed it is a ritual site but not only as no sacrifice remains were found.



The site which has been excavated since 1995, and is located 17 km east of Sanli Urpa

is a monumental complex built on the top of a rocky mountaintop, far from known sources of water, was constructed by humans who adopted sedentary life, but to date produced no clear evidence of agricultural cultivation.

It is speculated that these humans arrived from the Black Sea, as they are some similar sites. but from a much later period (6000 years) in that region.


It marks the appearance of the oldest permanent human settlements anywhere in the world. representing also the beginning of the history of architecture


Another an hour and a half bus ride landed us at where ancient Harran Town was

Harran Site - also known as Carrhae




A 5000 years old city of a glorious past, now appears as a rural a small most shabby disappointing village, located about 40km southeast of Urfa




Harran is the place mentioned as the city iat which the Biblical Abraham (the first monotheist) stops on the way from Ur Kasdim (Genesis 11) on his way south to Canaan.

Several of the area's mounds- tel near Harran are named after Abraham's family members.

The ruins of the ancient city of Harran date back to the 3rd millennium BCE when the area was a cultural, religious, and commercial center.



Harran was probably founded between the 25th and 20th c BC as a merchant colony by Sumerian traders from Ur. It evolved in one of the most important cities of Northern Mesopotamia; as a cultural, commercial and religious center. alos through its association with the moon-god Sin;

What’s for sure is that many different empires and dynasties, such as the Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Persians, the Alexandrian Empire, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ayyubids, occupied Harran


kümbets,- mud-and-brick con roofed houses,

It also served as the capital of the Islamic Empire, becoming famous in the region,

By 1260, the city faced its final demise as Hulagu Khan (Genghis Khan’s grandson) invaded and destroyed it,

Excavations have also revealed evidence from the Early Bronze Age.


The destitute and neglect in the village


The ruins of Harran, includes the 131-foot (39.9-meter) minaret square flat tower and ruins of the Grand Mosque, the inner Seleucid fortress, roman fortifications/walls and the well-preserved kümbets, mud-and-brick con roofed houses, that look like beehives.

The hole at the very roof's top is used for lighting and as a chimney, while the shape allows for excellent thermodynamics and air circulation.


The Fort remains


Lunch in Harran


This bombastic name was given to an initiative which runs jointly by Harran District Gov. and Harran Municipality, to serve tourists visiting the district by providing them with the opportunity to taste the "unique flavors" of the region during the day.

The food was served in a pleasant Patio




The Hotel stayed in for 2 nights


Hilton Garden İnn in Şanlıurfa

Karakoyunlu Mah. No:11, Sanliurfa

An OK 4 star Hotel in a convenient location.


To be continued....