Urfa: Much More than Kebap

Among the cotton fields. In Mesopotamia. This city not only offers easy access to many historical gems of Eastern Turkey, like Göbekli Tepe, but Urfa itself is also worth visiting. Late October is probably the best time to visit Eastern Turkey. Even this year, hotels were quite full, and one could see foreign tourists in Urfa. Turkey has to offer much more than Istanbul, Antalya and Bodrum. Southeastern Turkey is definitely a proof for this. Many foreign tourists haven’t discovered it yet. One of the reasons might be the negative image from the media.

What to do and see? (Besides the obvious: eating Urfa kebap and çiğ köfte.)

Get lost in the narrow streets of old Urfa.

Narrow Streets of Urfa

Visit the Archaeological Museum. This is a modern archaeological museum and definitely worth visiting, even though you are not into history. I recommend you to visit it after visiting Göbekli Tepe, as a big part of the exposition is also dedicated to the temple. Here you will have a chance to see the T shaped pillars from very close, and even to step into the reconstruction of the temple.

Balıklıgöl, symbol of Urfa

For those interested in history and art, the next stop should the Şanlıurfa Mosaic Museum. It is located in Haleplibahçe, nearby the archaeological museum. These mosaics were discovered by chance, during the construction works of the parking lot. It turned out that they discovered the Ancient Roman villa, which was richly decorated with mosaics.

Cotton fields around Urfa

Very close to the mosaic museum, there is 2,000 years old Kızılkoyun Necropolis. These rock tombs are not in the best conditions, since many were (illegally) converted to houses, and thus “refurbished”. Many walls were destroyed for different reasons, and treasure hunters opened many sarcophagi. Those rock tombs, which were hidden under the paved road are much better preserved. It seems that these are not the only rock tombs in the area. The excavation works continue.

Balıklıgöl is probably the most touristic spot in the city. Yes, there are plenty of fish there and there are not supposed to be killed. What makes this area especially nice is that is a kind of green oasis in the centre of the city. It is also very clean (which cannot be said for Castle Hill). This area is also surrounded by mosques and tea gardens. From the courtyard of one of the mosques, one can visit a tomb, where Abraham is supposed to be buried.

Church of Twelve Apostoles, today Fırfırlı Mosque

It is interesting to witness multiculturalism of the place. Urfa is located in Mesopotamia, a cradle of civilisations. It is a crossroad of cultures, ethnicities, religions and languages. Still today, the majority of inhabitants in Urfa are Kurds (which are a minority in Turkey). Due to the war in Syria, there are also many Syrians living in the city and this region in general. In the past, many Christians lived in the region as well. One can still see traces of Christian presence in the region: there are ruins of monasteries, like Deyr Yakup Monastery. In the old Urfa city, today’s Fırfırlı Mosque is actually a converted church of Twelve Apostoles from the beginning of the 11th century.

Where to stay?

There are plenty of accommodation options in Urfa. Especially close to the old city, many old houses and palaces were converted to hotels. We stayed in one of those, Palmyra Boutique Hotel. Hotel is very nice and walking distance to all touristy places.

Around Urfa

If you come to Urfa, you should definitely visit Göbekli Tepe. If you have time also visit Harran. This is a sister city of Italian Alberobello in Puglia. In these two cities, one can see a kind of “beehive” houses. Harran is also the place where one of the world’s oldest universities was located. Some say that Abraham lived here after leaving Ur, others say he lived in Urfa. In Urfa, one can visit a place, which is supposed to be Abraham’s tomb.

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