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One of the two mosques of Sanliurfa.
One of the two mosques of Sanliurfa.
Inside the old bazaar.
East meets west.
An archaeological find.


Thursday, October 19, 2000
The village of Harran is one of the longest-continually-inhabited spots on earth. It is overflowing with history, including ruins of the world's largest Islamic university.

The village of Harran is one of the longest continually-inhabited spots on earth. It is overflowing with history, including ruins of the world's largest Islamic university, built in the eighth century. There is evidence of civilisation back to 7000 BC. Many believe the prophet Abraham was born in nearby Sanliurfa before going 48km south to Harran.

Houses in Harran have been built the same way since the third century BC. Mud bricks are used to build these four-metre-high beehive-shaped homes. They are very warm in winter and keep the summer heat out.

From a distance, Sanliurfa looks unattractive, but the closer you get to its centre the more appealing it becomes. Buildings in the old city are made of yellow-coloured stone. It is also known as Urfa or the City of Prophets; around 300,000 people live there.

This place on the great upper Mesopotamian plain is a strange mix of old and new, serenity and rowdiness. It is also the site of many battles fought between troops from Cairo, Teheran and Constantinople.

Inside the old city is the area known as Golbasi, which means "by the lake". It is very beautiful, with arched entrances leading to a pool of sacred carp. In some parts of the world carp are considered a pest, but in Sanliurfa they are regarded as sacred — when Abraham was burned by his enemies, the fish are what became of the embers when God intervened.

The site of Balikli Gol dates back to the 13th century and was dedicated as a sign of respect for Abraham. The few original fish have multiplied into thousands and are considered sacred. Men dressed in traditional clothing go to the sacred pool to feed them and pray.

There are two mosques by the pool, the Rizvaniye Vakfi Camii, built in 1736, and the Abdurrahman Camii. They are religious schools where the Koran is taught.

A hamam or Turkish bath is made of marble with a giant circular slab in the middle of the room for scrubbing people down. There are three bathhouses in Sanliurfa — men go in the morning and women in the afternoon.

Han is Turkish for inn. During the middle ages these were accommodation and trading places for travellers. Some are still there but are used as shopping areas, selling a variety of wares, including food and clothing, rugs and silk scarves. Traditionally only men are allowed in, to drink mint tea, play backgammon and relax with their friends.

The old bazaar is a labyrinth of winding streets running in all directions. It has an open-air section and a covered permanent section, is closed on Sunday, but every other day is teeming with shoppers — locals and tourists. You can buy anything, from meat and bread to saddles and spices and intricate copperwork. Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish are spoken and, as there is little English, purchases are usually achieved by sign language. One time-proven way is by shaking hands and stopping when your price is reached. It seems to work well.

Ruins on Mt Nemrut were rediscovered in 1881, but date back to somewhere between 64-38 BC. King Antiochus thought of himself as a god and ordered the construction of nine figures of himself surrounded by gods and animals. Earthquakes and time have taken their toll on the sculptures, but the government is taking steps to make repairs. The mountain is 2150m high, but the top 50m were put there under Antiochus' orders. It is possible that he is buried there.


South-eastern Anatolia, in Turkey.


Exotic Destinations has a four-day Eastern Turkey Highlights package from Sanliurfa, including transfers, accommodation and a guide, from $1269 per person twin-share. Trips run from May to October.
Qantas flies daily to Bangkok and Singapore with Turkish Airlines connections to Sanliurfa.
Turkish Airlines has return economy airfares from $1579 per person from the east coast, Adelaide and Perth.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Exotic Destinations: (03) 9886 4955
Qantas: 13 1313

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