“It does not feel like we’re in Turkey anymore!”, I exclaimed to my wife as we drove into the Southeastern region of Turkey. The dusty atmosphere, the rustic streets, houses sitting on top of one another on hills, and the culture of local life all came together to make us feel like we were in a different country all together.
The entire region of Southeast Turkey is a must see and definitely a region sadly seldom visited. Full stop. But people who don’t visit, have absolutely no idea what they’re missing out on! The further east you head from the tourist spots like Istanbul, Cappadocia, Izmir and Antalya, the more interesting things get in the country.
On our road trip along the mediterranean coast towards the southeast of Turkey, we stopped in the city of Sanliurfa. Coming from Gaziantep which we toured the day before, I noticed that this city felt and looked less congested, cleaner and more spacious.
The city of Sanliurfa is not heard of by many in the West. Located in between the notable city of Gaziantep and Mardin, this city sits around 60km north from the Syrian border. Historically, Sanliurfa was part of Ancient Mesopotamia which incorporated not only Sanliurfa, but also almost all of southeastern Turkey.
If you’re after good food, genuinely friendly locals and super ancient religious and historical sites, Sanliurfa is where you have to be. Don’t just take my word for; read onto find out why this city is a must-see!
1. Balıklıgöl – It’s Where Prophet Ibrahim A.S. Was Thrown Into The Fire
For starters, this city is believed to be home to the the famous lake where Nimrod threw the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. into a fire, which miraculously transformed into water. The water in the lake which is still there today, is believed to be curing and blessed water, with taps set up in and around the site. The two pillars from which the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. was thrown is still visible today from the Sanliurfa Castle just opposite the lake.
2. Mevlid-I Halil Mosque – It’s Where Prophet Ibrahim A.S. (Abraham) Was Born
Take a one minute walk from Balıklıgöl and you will arrive at the 16th century Mevlid-i Halil Mosque. It is also known by the names Mevlid-I Halil Magarasi or Dergah Camii meaning the mosque of the birth place of God’s friend (referring to Prophet Ibrahim A.S). What’s more, some historians believe that the cave within the complex of the Mosque is believed to be where the mother of Prophet Ibrahim A.S. gave birth to him.
The Mosque was initially a synagogue, which then transformed into a church and soon became a Mosque in the 16th century. Therefore, it is fair to say that walking in this place, is like walking through centuries worth of history and religion. Five times a day, the mesmerising Adhan calls out which echoes its way through the area and brings the history and place to life.
3. Eyup Peygambar Camii – It’s Where Prophet Ayyub A.S. (Job) Resided
How much do you know about the Prophet Ayyub A.S. (Job)? I did not know much until I visited this site. This Mosque was built commemorating the most patient of Prophets known to mankind. Whilst he had it all at one point in his life. there came a time where he was struck with major illness, though patience was his only choice.
This Mosque has two very interesting sites to see. Firstly, there is a cave within the courtyard of the mosque which is believed to be where the Prophet Ayyub A.S. resided whilst he was ill for many years. Secondly, there is a well just opposite the cave which is believed to be where curing water was taken out from which was something that was given to him by Allah. The water actually gushes forth from within the cave as it is within the cave where the Prophet Ayyub A.S. was commanded to strike the earth with his foot.
There are taps located within the courtyard of the mosque which all produce water from this very source. I witnessed locals filling bottle after bottle, whilst also wiping their faces and their children’s for blessings and cure.
Harran – It’s Province Is Home To An Ancient City
Drive 50KM south of Sanliurfa, and you’ll step into another world steeped in history. Although this ancient city is now the size of a small village, there are sites to see hear which go back thousands of years. As you step out your vehicle, bus or tour bus, you’ll immediately be greeted by Turkish and Syrian children all excited to see yet another visitor. Beehive houses surround the notable Harran Castle with locals living in houses that look like they were built 1000 years ago. Kids either play on the streets, help their parents with the house work or herd a flock of sheep or camels. It really is a different world within this small ancient city.