Retracing the steps of the Prophets

After a hearty breakfast – including a very hot and spicy scrambled egg (the waiter introduced it as pepper jam) which definitely gave us the wake-up call we needed – we set off for some more exploration. The plan for the day: go to Harran, a small village nearby, which once used to be a major city in Mesopotamian times and after. Aside from being one of the continuously inhabited spots on Earth, it is also famous for being the place where the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) lived for a few years during his life.

Stuffing ourselves before our tiring day ahead
Stuffing ourselves before our tiring day ahead

At first, we were going to get the hotel to arrange our visit to Harran, which would have been quite at an affordable price but given the expenses accrued from our organised tours and the fact that due to road construction and renovations, we wouldn’t have seen much of what we wanted anyway, we decided against. We started walking to the city centre following the directions of the hotel manager and maps in hand. At some point, someone came to us to see if we needed help – probably pitied our helpless-looking faces.

Our saviour was a banker and invited us in (the bank!) to chill for a bit. He said it was the month of Ramadan so he was fasting but he would be very happy to serve us some water or tea or whatever else we wanted. We refused, of course. I have to say this was the first time I had been asked to come in and rest for a bit in a bank, out of all places, probably the most sacred place of the modern world. We, of course, had had the ingenious idea to go out around midday, when the sun was at its peak and it was only getting hotter. We talked for a bit, telling him where we wanted to go, including the Şanlıurfa Museum which was also on our list of places to go to for the day. He believed the museum to be closed for renovations but made a few calls just to confirm. Then, he went out of his way to take us to the dolmuş stand for us get our bus for Harran. He even gave us his number just in case we needed help.

The city walls and traditional houses at Harran definitely made us feel as if we had leapt back in time. The midday sun had made everyone retreat back indoors until it was safe enough to be out and other than the kid who asked us if we wanted a guide (we refused), there was no one to be seen anywhere.

2014-07-09 13.04.45 HDR

The place was quite well preserved, with quite informative, albeit badly translated, signs everywhere to help guide-less tourists like us. According to one of them, Harran was one of the cities built after the Flood and that aside from the Prophet Abraham, many other people of importance in the Abrahamic religions had marked this place as well.

Quite some imagination is needed to visualise how this city must have looked once but it was quite fun exploring on our own and trying to discuss about everything. That is definitely one of the reason I love travelling with someone else: we don’t always notice the same details and it’s always interesting to look at things from someone else’s point of view and realise what you have missed. It definitely paints a better picture.

Harran Tumulus - excavations ongoing
Harran Tumulus – excavations ongoing
The Grand Mosque of Harran (in bits and pieces) - the oldest mosque in Anatolia
The Grand Mosque of Harran (in bits and pieces) – the oldest mosque in Anatolia

We were quite relieved when we finally made it to the famous beehive houses which had been specially designed for such an environment; despite the heat outside, the houses were quite cool inside. They’re only used for cultural and touristic purposes now but it seems quite amazing that people still lived in them just a few decades ago.

Beehive houses
Beehive houses
A converted cafe by the beehive houses
A converted cafe by the beehive houses

Most of the other sights were closed and we were definitely ready to go back and chill somewhere else, which wasn’t as hot as this place. As we walked by, some car stopped in front of us and offered us a lift back to the city walls from where we could get the bus back. This definitely felt like a blessing from god.

We chit chatted as he drove and he offered to show us more of the Harran – to be honest, we really had just seen the bare minimum. We thought why not and there we went whizzing through the tiny roads of Harran.

He took us to visit the “Jacob’s Well”, a place we had no idea was even found in Harran. When his brother envisaged to kill him, Jacob ran away to Harran, to his uncle’s place and stayed there for a month. This is the well where Jacob first met his wife Rachel. We even had a sip of the water from the well, which was quite refreshing given the circumstances.

Jacob's Well
Jacob’s Well

As we drove back, we learned that he was actually the nephew of the mayor here in Harran and seeing that the bus wouldn’t be coming anytime soon, he invited us into the municipality building.  I have never been so grateful for the invention that we call air-conditioning. He even bought us water and possibly saved us from dehydration. We sat outside in the park on benches where some kids had previously been lying on but quickly shooed away to make place for the foreign ladies. That definitely was quite an amusing finale to our cultural and historical trip in time.


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