Urfa can make an argument for itself as one of the most important historic spots anywhere in the world, and you can still see almost all of it. Göbeklitepe is just one of 3 Neolithic spots surrounding the city, and is one of the oldest settlements known to mankind. From there, the city’s spot as a center of religion is well documented. Abraham is reckoned by some to have come from here, with Balıklıgöl an obvious must-see to all who visit. The city is also associated with the Biblical character of Job, and it’s considered a holy city for Armenians as well and the spot where the Armenian script originated.
It’s location right in the middle of Mesopotamia means that it’s played host to countless civilizations. Oh you think we’re exaggerating a touch? While many cities in the world may claim the title of “cradle of civilizations” or the like, here’s just a preliminary list of the number of civilizations who’ve made Urfa their home over the millennia: The Ebla, the Akkadians, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Hittites, the Armenians, the Hurri-Mitannis, the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians, the Ancient Macedonians (as led by Alexander the Great), the Seleucids, the Arameans, the Neo-Assyrian Osrhoenes, the Romans, the Sassanids, the Byzantines, the Mamluks and the Arab empire. It’s truly one of the most remarkable cities on Earth.
These civilizations each left their mark on the history, the culture and the cuisine of Urfa, so without further ado let’s check out how you can see this amazing city in just a couple of days!
Wake up and visit this Medieval fortress on the Euphrates. As with the rest of Urfa, it’s been held by many different civilizations and still houses a wonderful church inside from the 13th century. It’s accessible only by boat, which makes it all the more imposing and wonderful.
This Bronze Age village is still intact and lives similar to how it’s been living for the past 3,000 years. Its traditional mud brick homes are miraculous, staying cool in the summers and warm in the winters without any electricity necessary. The village still lives a quaint lifestyle that takes you immediately back through the years to a place unlike anywhere else in the world.
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Sira nights literally translates to “nights by turn,” and they’re essentially how friends gather in Urfa to spend an evening together with food and live music. Now, Urfa restaurants cater specifically to this idea, ideally in a beautiful old courtyard house, and you eat the incredible local cuisine (and there’s so much of it, make sure you bring your appetite!) while listening to traditional local music that all makes for a truly magical experience.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the earliest examples of human settlement we have. Many believe it to be the first religious sanctuary we have remains from, possibly the first known temple in existence. It dates back to the 10th–8th millennium BCE, and features the world’s oldest known megaliths in the form of massive T-shaped stone pillars. There are pictograms whose meaning we have yet to understand, and in general the site is a level of development previously thought impossible in a period still dominated by hunter-gatherer societies. In essence, this is a site that changes what we know about human civilization and may literally mark the beginning of what we call civilization today. Incredible.
This pool, aside from being a beautiful spot to sip tea and stroll along, is believed to be the spot that Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. It has holy significance for all three of the major monotheistic religions, and it truly is a beautiful spot.
The shopping for souvenirs in Urfa is a tourist wonder in and of itself! The bazaars are all historic and pieces of the fabric, and even the souvenirs are often part of a family tradition of craftsmen making the same beautiful pieces for generations, explore and enjoy!