Şanlıurfa (also Urfa, formerly Edessa) is a city in Southeastern Anatolia, and the provincial capital of Şanlıurfa Province. The modern city of Urfa is situated about eighty kilometers east of the Euphrates River. It has a rapidly growing population.
Urfa has many excellent old buildings and plenty of connections with the Old Testament and Islamic tradition.
Buses connect to most big cities.
- Cave of Abraham. Urfa is supposedly the birthplace of Abraham (called Ibrahim in arabic, he was an important prophet) and henceforth an important islamic place of pilgrimage. Around the site of the cave are a number of mosques built around a park with water features. One of these mosques, the Halil-ur-Rahman has a pool (called the Balikligöl) occupied by a rather large number of holy fish. It is said that anyone who catches one of these will go blind. That said the story behind the pool is quite interesting: The pool is at a site where Nemrut (there's a legend claiming him to be the builder of the tower of Babel) wanted to burn Abraham as a sacrifice. God however intervened and turned the pire into water and the coals into fish thus saving Abraham.
Legend also names it as the birthplace of Job.
- The atmospheric bazaar with it's hustle and bustle is quite charming as is the old town.
- The ancient ruined castle with newer walls dating from around 814 AD on the rocky promontory at the south side of town. A lone column is just about all that remains of the older structure but the views are spectacular.
As it can get scorchingly hot during summer (50 degrees C or above), you'll be hard pressed to do anything during the afternoon. In the park around which the mosques are you can wait for the midday heat to subside while enjoying ice tea or other cold drinks (though obviously: no beer or alcoholics) before exploring the old town , the bazaar or the mosques. That's also the extent of what you can do in the evening. Sit down, have a cold non-alcoholic drink and play backgammon or just have a chat.
Nemrut Tours has a friendly guide called Yusuf with many suggestions.
Be careful with food hygiene as very many people suffer stomach trouble in Urfa. Suspects include the water, the ice cream, the kebabs, and possibly the people making or selling them.
Famous are the cigkofte or raw kebabs.
As Urfa is a city of pilgrimage, beer or any other alcoholic beverage is near impossible to get. Apart from that you're able to find any of the soft-drink brands sold in the rest of Turkey or stick to Turkish or Arabian tea (which is sweeter or minted).
Urfa has many hotels.
- Lizbon Guest House, Otogar Balikli Göl yolu Yeni Mah. No: 1286 (Hotel Number 21). Telephone: 05353738926. From Otogar free pick up. Very friendly couple that runs the guest house. There are 8 rooms with three new onces which opened in 2009. Homecooked Kurdish food (wıth beer avaılable). Also, Aziz, the owner, can be a guide to the sites (Harran, , Bazda Cave, Han el Barur, Caravansarae, Nemrut Mountain,Mardin,Mediat Hasan Cave, Cıty of the Prophet Jethro, Hittite Astronomic temple) and many other archeological sıtes around Urfa. The price for a single person is 25 TL.
- Hotel Bakay, Asfalt Cadessi 24, Tel: 0215 2689 has aircon, tv, showers and a friendly staff though breakfast is a bit of a let-down. It's also about 45 YTL for a double and 30 YTL for a single.
- Hotel Kilim, aircon wifi: 45 YTL.
Go to Harran, and see some reconstructed beehive huts and the remains of the trading "fortress" around which they're situated.