After a pleasant drive from Sanliurfa to the entrance of the Sogmotar village, we suddenly found ourselves driving through the bumpy rubble filled roads, whilst we gazed in wonder at the mud houses that surround the ancient city. But it’s not just about the stones; as we entered the village – which is home to the less common site of Suayip Sehr – we noticed smiling faces, children excited by the sight of tourists and much on offer when it came to plants, vegetation and agriculture. It may be dry in this part of Southeast Turkey, but the land is blessed when it comes to food.
After parking up the car, I immediately took out my GoPro hero like a giddy child to capture every moment. But as much as I look back at my footage, nothing can explain the feelings that I experienced as I was waking around. From a distance I noticed a child standing; dressed ruggedly with no shoes or sandals on his feet. ‘Maybe it’s hot’ I thought. Whatever his story may be, I could feel the moment coming from a mile way when he would ask my wife and I to show us around.
That’s just how it is here and the quicker I got used to that, the better it was. Where are all the adults in these places? Did I come on the wrong day? I’ve been to several of these sites around Southeast Turkey and have realised that children are in charge in majority of them. They seem to be quite knowledgable and experienced in guiding tourists through the various sites. Although they barely speaking English – if any at all – I found it surprising that they were still able to somehow explain to us what was what.
The Ancient City of Shoaib is supposedly home to the house of the Prophet Shoaib A.S. as well as the city in which he lived. A 15 minute drive from this site is the small and ancient village of Sogmotar which is believed to be home to the well of Musa A.S. With Prophet Shoaib A.S. and Prophet Moses A.S. being contemporaries and even family through marriage, it made sense that these significant locations were close to one another.
The Ancient City of Shoaib has Ephesus-like views and is located within the Sanliurfa Province which is dubbed by many to be the ‘city of prophets’ due to having many sites and locations related to prophets. Whilst the place may have been visited quite often prior to the pandemic, this has significantly reduced due to the restrictions placed on travel as well as the tension that lies in this region of Turkey. I definitely think that due to this, many visitors are missing out on a part of Turkey that has more to offer than we can imagine.
As soon as you enter the area of the ancient city, you’ll be welcomed by stones, rocks and rubble. The area is expansive and scattered throughout we saw one or two tourists with the rest being the ‘tour guides’ who were only kids. Leaving their family behind in the close by villages, they make their way to this historic site in an attempt to meet new faces and make some money along the way. I found it very brave and courageous of them but I also couldn’t stop thinking that they were the future generation of this place filled with history and heritage.
Throughout the ancient city we kept coming across caves and enclosed shaded areas where people perhaps lived 1000s of years ago. The area definitely deserves more attention than it gets and it’s a growing problem that the authorities are not working towards making this place more accessible for visitors. But a side of me couldn’t stop thinking that it’s probably for the best. I mean, I quite liked the way it looked and felt. It felt pure, authentic and there wasn’t a moment I didn’t feel immersed. It was almost as if I travelled back in time. Whilst sites like Balikligol in the city of Sanliurfa attracts millions of tourists, this ancient city felt better untouched. And it’s probably for the best.