Our next stop was Sanliurfa, known as Urfa for short. On the way we visited Halfeti, which is situated on the Euphrates River. We took a boat ride along the river up to Halfeti of which some parts became submerged after the construction of the Birecik dam that was built-in 2000. Legend has it that the name, Halfeti, was taken from two young sweethearts, Halil and Fatma, whose families did not approve of their relationship and refused to let them marry. So Halil and Fatma threw themselves into the raging waters of the Euphrates River. In their memory, the area was known as Halfeti, an abbreviation of Halil and Fatma. Rumkale fortress overlooks the river.
Just half an hour’s drive from Urfa is Gobeklitepe built 11,000 years ago. To put this into some sort of perspective Stonehenge was built about 4,500 years ago. So this site is very very old. The site comprised of monumental structures and was discovered in 1963. Excavations began in 1995 by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt . He discovered more than 20 monumental round structures
Schmidt believed that the site was a ritual centre where small nomadic groups from the region gathered as part of their beliefs. They built things at regular intervals, held banquets, and then dispersed again. Following Schmidt’s death the excavators had to dig deeper than Schmidt had done for foundation work of the canopy over the central structure. They discovered there were houses and residential areas under the monumental structures. So it was more than just a site for rituals but a growing village.
We visited the town of Harran which is just 20km from the Syrian border. This area was quite different to the rest of Turkey that we’d been to so far and we’d covered a lot of Turkey by this time. Harran is known for its traditional mud brick beehive like houses which are believed to be around 3,000 years old. We were shown around by a lovely young lad who as well as showing us around was very excited about a band who was playing in the town. We also visited the ancient city ruins of Harran.
The Pool of Abraham, Balikli Göl, is in Sanliurfa. The story goes that the Prophet Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. The fire turned into a pool and the firewood into fish. As a result the fish in the pool are considered sacred and are protected so there are a lot of them. You can buy food to feed the fish, bit like feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. It was quite a frenzy when we threw the food in the water.
We stopped off on a walkabout around the town for cay in a caravanserai. There are youngsters walking around selling treats. One of them about eight of nine years old was selling candy floss. In perfect English with no trace of an accent he asked if we would like to buy some to which we said no and his response was ok thank you, sorry to have disturbed you. We got chatting to him and discovered he was a refugee from Aleppo in Syria and he was missing his home and hoped to return one day. He was such a lovely lad and from the way he spoke and how polite he was well educated. So terrible he and his family had had to flee their homeland.
We were walking along the street looking at the various shops and was surprised and shocked to see a gun shop. Ian had to go in and have a look, as you can see it was very busy.
On our way to Mardin we visited the Mor Gabriel Monastery which is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. It is still in use and is a working community. It is in pristine condition and is continually maintained. So much so the toilets were like something out of a really expensive hotel! And no I didn’t take a photo.
We went into the town of Midyat and did some wine tastings and then bought some Syrian wine as we thought Mardin, our next stop, would be devoid of wine. Little did we know every other shop was selling Syrian wine and soap. Mardin is a touristy place and some of the streets are decorated in very brightly colours.
The final day of our trip had dawned and so we were heading back to Diyarbakır for our flight back to the boat. But … not before we looked at another bridge. When we arrived a week earlier it was raining and yes you’ve guessed it, was raining again. The Diyarbakir Dicle Bridge, aka On Gözlü Köprü (Ten Arches Bridge) sits across the Tigris River. It was built between 1065-1067. The bridge has had a number of repairs over the years, so the original construction may have been partly altered from its original state, possibly a bit like “Triggers Broom”.
It was pouring with rain and we had some time to kill before our flight. We managed to find a pub called the “North Shields Pub” (it was part of the Ramada Hotel so that would explain why we found a pub) where we had a traditional burger and a pint.
We had covered about a 1000miles in a week and seen so much of this part of Turkey, an area where not so many western tourists travel to but it was definitely worth the trip. Mount Nemrut being the hightlight.