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Göbekli Tepe and Şanlıurfa: A Journey through History in Turkey’s Most Mystical City

Imagine a city that every corner has a mystical atmosphere and manages to surprise you with its architecture and different cultures. Şanlıurfa is such a place where you enjoy exploring this city blended with history, architecture and nature.

Şanlıurfa is a very important city in terms of faith tourism. It is not in vain that it received the title City of the Prophets. Seeing people of all ages coming here not only from Turkey but also from different parts of the world is an indicator of the value given to this city. In addition to faith tourism, Göbekli Tepe, known as the zero point in history, has also attracted all the attention of the world to Şanlıurfa.

The year 2019 was the Year of Göbekli Tepe, which has destroyed all known history. In addition, the historical Harran houses, of which there are only two examples in the world and the sunken villages around Halfeti are among the places that make Şanlıurfa unique.

Note: If you only have two days for Şanlıurfa, set aside half a day for Göbekli Tepe on the first day. In the remaining half day, you can tour the main points of the city and you can visit Harran and Halfeti on the second day.

Transportation and Accommodation

There is a direct flight from Istanbul to Şanlıurfa and the flight takes about 1.5 hours. When you land at the airport, you can rent a car or take the Havaş airport shuttles to reach the city center easily. Public transportation in Şanlıurfa is very comfortable and there are buses all over the city. There are only buses from the bus station for Harran and Halfeti, but it takes a long time to go to these places by bus. That is why, to go to Harran and Halfeti, you can take a taxi or rent a car.

There are many hotels in the city for accommodation. We preferred to stay in Teacher’s House and we were very satisfied with both its location and the service it provided. You can find Teacher’s House in every city in Turkey. These hotels belong to state and there is discount for teachers and public personnel. If you are not teacher or public personnel, you can stay there without any problem. Teacher’s House is a cheap option and it is very clean.

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is a Neolithic archaeological site near the city of Şanlıurfa in southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. Dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, the site comprises a number of large circular structures supported by massive stone pillars. They are the world’s oldest known megaliths. Many of these pillars are decorated with clothing and reliefs of wild animals, providing archaeologists rare insights into prehistoric religion and the particular iconography of the period.

Göbekli Tepe, which broke all known habits, and almost rewritten the history of the world, attracted the attention of the whole world with these features. The year 2019 was the year of Göbekli Tepe. Until the discovery of Göbekli Tepe, it was thought that people first settled down and then developed their belief systems. However, the approximately 12 000-year-old temple in Göbekli Tepe showed that people began to believe when they were still nomadic. Until the discovery of this temple, the oldest temple in the world was thought to be in Malta.

Göbekli Tepe is covered with a roof and is open to visitors every day of the week. Excavations continue in the immediate vicinity. However, sometimes they could close Göbekli Tepe to visitors. For this reason, it is useful to confirm before going. Buses depart to Göbekli Tepe from city center at certain times every day. You will be there in approximately 25-30 minutes.

Şanlıurfa Archaeology Museum

The oldest sculpture in the history of civilization, Balıklı Lake Statue, is exhibited in Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum. Made of limestone and 1.80 meters tall, this statue was excavated from Balıklı Lake. Balıklı Lake Statue dates back to 9800-7000 BC, that is, about 12 000 years old! Human reliefs from the Hellenistic and Roman Periods, terracotta pottery, artifacts from the Assyrian, Babylonian and Hittite periods, and ethnographic remains are also exhibited in the museum. There is also a model of Göbekli Tepe in this museum. When you come to Şanlıurfa, do not forget to add this museum to your program.

Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum

Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum is located right next to Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum. What makes this museum special is the Warrior Amazon Queens mosaics. Such mosaics are exhibited only in Turkey, in Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum. There are no examples of these mosaics anywhere in the world. These mosaics are among the most valuable mosaics in the world.

Balıklı (Fish) Lake

Balıklı Lake and its surroundings, which are the symbol of Şanlıurfa and admired by all who see it, are truly indispensable for this route. The story of Balıklı Lake, which conquered hearts with the view offered by the mosque and arches right next to it, is also very interesting. According to the legend, Abraham began to struggle against idolatry. The King of the period, Nemrut, had lit a huge fire in the area where the current lake is located, and threw Abraham into this fire from where the current castle is. At that very moment, at the command of God, fire turned into water and wood turned into fish.

Aynzeliha Lake

Located next to Balıklı Lake, Aynzeliha Lake is both visually stunning and warming us with its story. Zeliha, the adopted daughter of Nemrut, fell in love with Abraham. Because of both her love and belief in Abraham, she jumped into the fire after him. The fire that she jumped turned into a lake.

Halil-Ur Rahman Mosque

Halil-Ur Rahman Mosque is a mosque near Balıklı Lake. It was built in 504 as a church for the Virgin Mary. Then, it was converted into a mosque in the 800s.

The Cave Where Abraham Was Born and Dergah Mosque

According to the legend, King Nemrut had a dream before Abraham was born and dream interpreters said that a child born that year would end his reign. Thereupon, Nemrut ordered his soldiers to kill all male children born that year. However, Abraham’s mother secretly gave birth in a cave and managed to hide her in this cave for 7 years.

Located near Balıklı Lake, this cave is the cave where Abraham was born. Here is also a strand of Muhammad’s (last prophet of Muslims) beard. The water coming out of the cave is believed to be healing water.

Şanlıurfa Castle

Şanlıurfa Castle is located on Dambak Hill, the hill where Abraham was thrown into the fire. The 12 000-year-old Balıklı Göl Statue exhibited in Şanlıurfa Archeology Museum was also found near this castle. Normally, you can go up to the castle, but when we went, the entrance was forbidden because the archaeological excavation was carried out. Check it out before you go.

Historical Bazaars

There is a bazaar with many shops around Balıklı Lake. You can find local products, clothes, fabrics and handicrafts in Şanlıurfa Bedesten, Carpet Shops and Bakırcılar Bazaar.

Custom Inn (Gümrük Hanı)

We definitely drank Şanlıurfa’s most delicious Menengiç Coffee (wild pistachios used to make a caffeine-free coffee that looks like Turkish coffee. It has a resinous quality to it and a mouth feel that is definitely an acquired taste) at the Custom Inn. This is a historical inn built during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. Custom Inn, which was built as a caravanserai, is an ideal place to cool off and drink coffee in Şanlıurfa.

Where and What to Eat in Şanlıurfa?

Are you ready to fall in love with Urfa’s legendary kebab, chicken grill, şıllık dessert, lahmacun (thin piece of dough topped with minced meat and vegetables) and eat your fingers at every meal you taste?

Dedecan Ocakbaşı: You can enjoy your meal in its garden; eat Urfa kebab, eggplant kebab and chicken in this restaurant. Dedecan’s Bostana is also very delicious. Bostana, a local salad with pomegranate syrup, is very good for the body, especially in summer.

Çağdaş Ocakbaşı: This place is famous for its chicken grill. In addition, the sıllık dessert of this place is delicious. You can think of the Şıllık dessert, which takes its name from the Kurdish word Şileki, which means wet and watery, as a version of pistachio or walnut stuffed in sherbet pancakes.

Ciğerci Aziz Usta: I think we ate the softest and most delicious liver kebab we’ve ever eaten here. The best liver in Şanlıurfa is eaten at Ciğerci Aziz Usta. This place is located near Balıklı Lake with wooden stools. You chop the onions on the table yourself and eat your delicious meal!

Traditional Sıra Night in Şanlıurfa

Gülizar Guest House: Sıra Night actually means that everyone gathers in their own house with their friends. In the past, if a friend needed something or had a financial problem, they used to gather at each other’s house in turn. This is where the name “Sıra Gecesi” comes from. Today, it is possible to attend Sıra Night organized by various restaurants in Şanlıurfa for a certain fee. Prices are offered in the form of a fixed menu and it has a very rich food/beverage list. Here you can eat raw meatballs and local dishes accompanied by live music and local songs.

You can eat very good meals in Şanlıurfa, and learn many things you do not know or hear about the places and museums you visit. The treasures of Turkey will once again amaze you. Go, travel, explore… life is beautiful when you travel!

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