Şanlıurfa is a city that everyone would like to see tens of times which a legend comes up from every corner and streets under shiny blue sky that smell liver (a specific local food for here)
Urfa is one of the oldest centers of population in Mesopotamia with its history roots back to 11.000 years. Before I hit the road, I do a little search online. Antiques founded in Göbekli Tepe in Örencik Village proves the deep rooted history of the area.
Ebla, Akkadian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Hittite, Hurrian-Mittani, Aramean, Assur, Persian, Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine Empires settled in Urfa many years ago, and it joined the territory of Seljuk Empire in 1094.
City was ruled by County of Edessa in 1098. Ayyubid Dynasty, Mamluk Sultanate, Turkmen Tribes, Timurid Empire, Ağ Qoyunlu federation (also called White Sheep Turkomans), Beylik of Dulkadir and Safavid Dynasty ruled over the city for many years, and then lands became Ottoman lands.
In 1919, what happened to it year after year, sparkling was firstly invaded by English then by French, then in April 11, 1920, it was freed. In 1984, because of its great chivalry in the Turkish War of Independence, “Glorious” title was added to city’s name.
A Coffee Break in Gümrük Han
And in a spring day, I’m on the way to Şanlıurfa.
I arrive there easily with using the Şanlıurfa GAP Airport which was opened in 2007. As soon as I get off of the plane, I throw my luggage to my hotel room and go to Bazaar of Urfa quickly.
It is told that it was built in 1566, in Suleiman the Magnificent era and still, the Ottoman trade life is alive there. I walk around narrow streets of the bazaar, between colorful fabric, various dried nuts and fruits, bead, copper and spice shops, I find Gümrük Han which is famous for its Turkish coffee.
I feel like I reborn while I was sitting under the shades of a hundred years old trees. There are many people around just like me, sitting at the tables with many shopping bags. The voice of stirring the sugar in tea cups mixes with the voices coming from counters around. For some moments, a man that sells liquorice syrup walks around between tables, I fall for his words “it is the cure of everything”, and drink a cup of that cold, black syrup.
Walking in the streets and visiting the historical places of a city is not enough to know it. We know a city perfectly not with seeing the buildings, houses and streets of it but with knowing the residents and seeing the skills of craftsmen. With these thoughts, I go to the bead makers.
Craftsmen tell me about colorful beads they make, old and new, made with amber or onyx. One of them says “there are not any of the old craftsmen left”. He complains about the people who sell plastic beads as original fieldstone beads.
As the conversation goes on, he gives me precious hints about how to understand if a bead is original or not. With the hints of him, I buy an onyx bead. His heart is rich as his words are. For the sake of our warm conversation, he makes a discount for me even if I did not wanted.
In the Yard of an Old Mansion
When I leave Gümrük Han, I go into streets of the city from the first gap that I found on the artery. I see a stone-built mansion in nearly every street I go. It is told that they are under protection, they must be..
I hear children’s voices from some of the mansions, and some of them serve as restaurants. I enter the gates of one as I was using a time machine.
There, an esquire from Urfa saddled his horse, and at that fountain, a veteran of the Independence War performed ablution, and from that door, a newly wed bride stood next to the fountain with a white towel in her hands.
A baby was shaken in a crib thousands of time in this yard. How many children greeted their fathers with joy, how many people cried after the death of a loved one. Many joyful tabled have been set, but in the days of invasion, nobody could eat a single bite.
It must be terrifying to look at the door even if it swings with the wind.
They are not wrong for calling this city “the City of Prophets”
After I leave the mansion, I realize how thirsty I am. I immediately go to the fountain at the beginning of the street. The fountain that cooled many people down, is not working anymore. I feel sad and I go back to the artery, for drinking water from plastic bottles.
Drinking water also makes the one hungry. And the smell of fried liver that is all around the city attracts me right then. As you get closer to the shops, salesmen quickly realize from your clothes that you are a foreigner there. They invite me to their restaurants with saying “The real fried liver of Urfa is here”.
I believe in him, go inside and sit at a table he shows me. First the appetizers come, then thin breads. And in a few minutes, fried livers on a skewer come. It is soft like a delight. Warm and delicious.
I remind one of my friends saying that the people in Urfa eat fried liver for breakfast. They are right for doing that. I am eating heartily, and then I feel something between my feet down there, a cat. I give a couple of pieces to it. It leans, and eats it slowly. You can understand if the people of the city is tender-hearted or not by looking at how the street animals of that city eat when you give something to them.
By looking at this cat, people in Urfa are absolutely tender-hearted. They are right for calling this city as “the City of Prophets”.
The Place Where Fire Turns Into Water
Now it is time to see Balıklıgöl. I ask how I can get there to people around. Then I arrive the Balıklıgöl, which is covered with hundreds of years old trees and locals choose to call “Halil-ur Rahman”.
According to the legend, the emperor of that time, Prophet Abraham which was defending the idea of only one God and fighting against religious cult figures, was attacked by the emperor of that time, Nimrod. Nimrod threw fire to Abraham from the top of the Şanlıurfa Castle, but that fire immediately turns into water, and the woods turn into the fishes inside with the order of God.
As the lake is accepted as sacred, number of fishes is going up and down freely for many years. No one thinks about catch and eat them. As everyone who visit the lake do, I also buy fish feed from the children of Urfa and feed these free fishes.
I pass through the locals talking and having picnic around, I go to the Urfa Castle from the upright road at the end of the lake. Two columns at the castle placed in mountainside of the Damlacık Mountain draw my attention. Because, it is told that these two columns are used as the two foots of the catapult that was used for throwing fire to Abraham.
I look over the city from the castle. The scene of the day fades away before my eyes, and a giant fire rises from the location that the lake is at. Nimrud is just behind me, telling his men to stretch the catapult, and let Abraham burn inside fire.
Someone is adding woods to the fire. The place becomes a mess. An ant hears that Abraham would be thrown into fire, and carries a leaf with a drop of water on it to the fire. I lean on to the ant, and ask the question that has been asked hundreds of years ago, “How can the water drop you carried put out that huge fire?” The ant, with a strong faith, says that “I know that this drop will not put out Nimrod’s fire, but I want to show which side I am at in this terrific day”.
The sky goes dark completely. I feel anxious. And then, with a sweet voice of water, fire turns into lake, and woods turn into fishes. I get wet.
It is spring in Urfa, and it is raining. In order to run away from the rain, I go down the upright road that I walked before, and I get inside a café around Balıklıgöl. The weather gets cold in a minute. The keeper of the cafe puts a cup of warm tea on my table even if I don’t ask for it. At the same time, he tells something to his helper. And then, the helper, with the napkin he brought for me, says “Get yourself dry”. How can I These locals of Urfa are the ones to like.
Human is not something without roots
When the rain stops, I quickly go to the Museum of Urfa before it closes to see the oldest sculpture of the World.I buy my ticket, I go inside, and there is the most organized museum I have ever seen right before my eyes. Everything is placed carefully. Behind glasses, there are many cups, plates, weapons, combs, mosa ics, seals and ceramics from Assurian, Babylonian and Hittitian civilizations.
I spent a few hours there. Mankind is not something without that roots and it doesn’t only belong to this century. The museum shows that mankind has also built an order for itself thousands of years ago. I feel relaxed..
Şanlıurfa is the one of the first station for travelers due to meals, history and inwardness.
When the night comes, I go to a famous place for its famous “row night” and very spicy “Raw Meatballs.” In the middle of the night, singing the popular song of latest years at the region “falling deng would be”, I am going back to hotel very tired.
This is how I end a beautiful day in Şanlıurfa. Of course, it is not a city to finish in one-day trip. I leave the mosques, bridges, mausoleums, open-air museums and caves that I couldn’t see to another trip.
Next morning, while I was leaving the streets that smell like fried liver, I sing the favorite part of that song in my mind “Come by myself, what color would you see.”
Turkish Article: Şanlıurfa: Beş Bin Yıllık Bir Günün Hikayesi