Friday, July 27, 2012

Turkey 23: Urfa

Urfa is a city of nearly 500,00 in SE Turkey.  It first shows up in records from the 4th century BCE, but it could easily date back to 9000 BCE as it was one of several cities in the Euphrates-Tigris basin, the cradle of the Mesopotamian civilization.

According to Turkish Muslim traditions, Urfa is the city of Ur of the Chaldees in the bible, and the birthplace of Abraham, due to its proximity of Harran, 30 miles to the south.  However, according to Wikipedia, other scholars claim the city of Ur is in southern Iraq.
That hasn't stopped the locals from building a huge mosque around what they claim is the birth site of Abraham.

The actual entrance to the cave where Abraham was supposedly born is here, inside the mosque walls.
Women enter the sacred site on the left, men on the right.

Once inside, I hurriedly grabbed this frame when it was my turn to look through the window into the inner recesses of the cave.  The actual inner cave is now flooded and has fish in it.  And water from a tap just outside the this window is considered holy by many of the somber pilgrims who visit.

This pool is located just outside the wall from Abraham's cave.  According to some traditions, the patriarch was to be flung into a fire when the burning wood was magically transformed into a pool of water with fish.  This pool and its fish are believed to descend from that miracle and are considered holy by some traditional Muslims. 

The grounds of this area, in the center of Urfa have been turned into a lovely park with several pools and fountains.  We saw an interesting mix of local people and pilgrims, many with their families, enjoying themselves in this nice park, alongside hordes of tourists.

Part of a wall that enclosed the park.

We had lunch in a nice downtown restaurant, which was a close walking distance from the park.

And then we took a leisurely walk through some of the town's markets. 

They don't go in for all the packaging here, as they do in the US, but all the food I saw was clean and appealing.

Also, let it not be said that they lacked for fruits and vegetables here.  It was delicious.

I realize, now that I'm home, that I have no pictures of Urfa's bustling modern side. We must have been too busy navigating its busy streets and traffic jams for me to think about photographing them.

 Still, we found Urfa to be a thriving, energetic mix of old and new Turkey.  These few snapshots don't begin to scratch the surface of what we experienced there.

Continue on to Post 24: Gobekli Tepe Overview, by clicking here.


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