Sanliurfa Things to Do

  • Inner façade of Harran Gate, Dec 2012
    Inner façade of Harran Gate, Dec 2012
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  • Greek inscription, Dec 2012
    Greek inscription, Dec 2012
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  • Harran Gate and adjacent building, Dec 2012
    Harran Gate and adjacent building, Dec...
    by MM212

Most Recent Things to Do in Sanliurfa

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    The Souk/Bazaar of Urfa

    by MM212 Updated Aug 14, 2015

    Among the cities I visited in south-eastern Turkey, Urfa has the most fascinating souk. It was also the most reminiscent of the now destroyed souk of Aleppo (albeit smaller). The similarity is not only architectural, but also due to the fact that both souks only cater to locals and seem to have not changed in centuries. Urfa's position along trade routes linking China to the Mediterranean meant that it was a trading entrepôt, much like other cities in this part of Greater Syria and northern Mesopotamia, such as Aleppo and Damascus. It was such a pleasure to walk through the narrow, covered alleys, and to see a market as it might have been centuries ago, with locals buying anything from meat from a butcher, to copperware from a coppersmith working in his atelier. For a visitor, perhaps the best thing one could buy is a rug, whether antique or new, or a kebab for lunch.

    Locals shopping in the Urfa souk, Dec 2012 Covered section in the Urfa souk, Dec 2012 The Urfa souk, Dec 2012 Butcher, Dec 2012 Spices and nuts, Dec 2012

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    Ex-Church of Saints Peter & Paul

    by MM212 Updated Aug 7, 2015

    Built in 1861 and dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, this was the main Syriac Orthodox (Suriani) church in Urfa (ar-Ruha). A church has existed on the site since the 6th century, from which an ancient plaque has survived. The Suriani community was the second largest Christian community in Urfa (after the Armenians), but the terrible events of 1915 resulted in the departure of the entire Christian population and many perished in the process. Since then, the church served as multiple functions, including a warehouse and a cigarette factory, but was renovated in 2003 and, along with other buildings in the complex, turned into the Vali Kemalettin Gazezoğlu Cultural Centre.

    Interior of the ex-Suriani church, Dec 2012 Interior of the ex-Suriani church, Dec 2012 Ancient Syriac inscription from previous church Ex-Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Dec 2012 another building within the complex, Dec 2014
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    Muhammed Muhyiddin Tomb & Sheikh Saffet Fountain

    by MM212 Updated Aug 7, 2015

    Located next to the ex-Church of Saints Peter & Paul, this domed structure is a mausoleum for a certain Muhammed Muhyiddin, built in 1795. On the side overlooking the Hoşgörü Square is a fountain known as Sheikh Saffet Fountain dating from 1891, and nearby is the Sheikh Saffet Lodge, built in 1892 as a Sufi lodge. Also closeby is Nematullah Mosque. The combination of church, Sufi lodge, and mosque earned this square its name, Hoşgörü, which is Turkish for "tolerance."

    M. Muhyiddin Tomb & Saffet Fountain, Dec 2012 Muhammed Muhyiddin Tomb - Dec 2012 Sheikh Saffet Fountain, Dec 2012
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    Shaban Khan (Şaban Hanı)

    by MM212 Updated Aug 7, 2015

    One of many caravanserais in Old Urfa, Shaban Khan (or Şaban Hanı in Turkish) was built in the late 17th century under Ottoman rule. It was commissioned by a certain Shaban Effendi, who also built the nearby madrassa (theological school) and hamam (bath), both of which carry his name. The interior consists of an open square courtyard surrounded by two levels of rooms and storage spaces, in parts under arched porticoes. The khan or hani seemed to continue to be used as a warehouse to the present day, but unfortunately it was not in the best of shapes when I visited in December 2012.

    Shaban Hani, Dec 2012 Entrance, Dec 2012
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    Abraham's Mosque (Halilürrahman Camii)

    by MM212 Updated Jul 31, 2015

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    Dedicated to Abraham, this small mosque is located at the southwestern end of Balikli Gol, the Fish Lake, on the spot where Abraham supposedly landed after being hurled from the Citadel hill by King Nimrod. Abraham is Ibrahim in Arabic and is nicknamed Khalil ar-Rahman (Lover of the Merciful), which is rendered Halilürrahman in Turkish, hence the name of the mosque. It was built in 1211 AD on the site of a crusader church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and whose bell tower appears to have remained as the minaret of the mosque. There is no historical record that proves (or disproves) that the bell tower has survived or was rebuilt, but the Crusader/Romanesque architecture is unmistakable (originally a Byzantine church would have been built here in the 5th or 6th century). The actual prayer hall was rebuilt, probably using the church's stones, and is quite beautiful with a large central dome supported by cusped arches and vaults. An interesting feature is the modest pulpit (minbar) inside the mosque which seems to be a recycled baptismal font of the Crusader church. Prior to the arrival of the Crusaders in Edessa/Urfa, there was an Abbasid-period (9th c.) mosque, which in turn had replaced a Byzantine (5th or 6th c.) church dedicated to Saint Mary. It is likley that there would have been a synagogue and/or a pagan temple even before that...

    Crusader architecture, Dec 2012 Abraham's Mosque, Dec 2012 Minaret, Dec 2012 Dome covering the interior, Dec 2012 Baptismal font turned minbar (pulpit) Dec 2012
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    Nimetullah Mosque

    by MM212 Updated Jul 31, 2015

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    Thought to have been built in the 16th century on the site of a church dedicated to St Sergius, Nimetullah Camii is named after a certain Nimetullah Bey, who is buried in the courtyard and is the mosque's likely builder. It is also known as Ak Camii (White Mosque). The rectangular prayer hall is topped by a several domes and is preceded by an arched portico with pretty Muqarnas decorations around the windows. The cylindrical minaret was the tallest in Urfa until more modern mosques were built in recent decades.

    Portico and minaret, Dec 2012 Nimetullah Camii, Dec 2012 Minaret, Dec 2012 Muquarnas decorations, Dec 2012 Nimetullah Mosque courtyard, Dec 2012
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    Haleplibahçe Museum Complex

    by MM212 Updated Jul 31, 2015

    Named after the Aleppo Gardens on which it was built, the Haleplibahçe Museum Complex (Haleplibahçe = Aleppo Gardens) finally opened its doors in May 2015. This location, which is close to the Citadel and the core of the old city, was an accident. A themed park had been planned within the Aleppo Gardens, but when the project developers broke ground in 2006, they accidentally discovered a set of mosaic floors belonging to a Roman villa complex, the most valuable of which is that of the Amazon warrior queens. The project was immediately scrapped and replaced with the largest museum complex in Turkey, incorporating the mosaics in situ under the Edessa Mosaics Museum and a new archaeological museum with artefacts transferred from Urfa's former archaeology museum. When I visited Urfa in Dec 2012, the museum was still under construction and I was able to take the attached photos of the construction project from the Citadel of Urfa (I am writing this tip in July 2015, a couple of years late!).

    Urfa's New Archaeology Museum, Dec 2012 Project under construction, Dec 2012 Excavations, Dec 2012 Haleplibah��e on the left, Dec 2012 Under construction, Dec 2012
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    Eski Omeriye Camii (Old Omariya Mosque)

    by MM212 Updated Jul 30, 2015

    Named after the second Caliph of Islam, Omar, this mosque is believed to be the oldest in ar-Ruha (to use Urfa's original Semitic/Arabic name), built soon after the Islamic conquest of the region under Omar. The structure itself is certainly newer, but the exact construction date is unknown. The Crusaders would have likely destroyed the mosque on the site and replaced it with a church and once expelled, the reverse would have happened. An inscription on the mosque says that it was restored in 1301, so the existing structure was probably constructed sometime between 1144, when the Crusaders were expelled from Urfa by the Zengids, and 1301. It is located in the middle of the bazaar area of Urfa and is of very modest proportions. A courtyard precedes the prayer hall, which has an exterior portico with triple arches. The interior of the mosque is rather small and consists of a single nave with a dome covering the transept and vaulted ceilings over the two wings of the hall on either side. The whole interior is built of monochrome pale stone. The mihrab (prayer niche) is arched and framed with intricate stone carvings, and is flanked by two windows for minbars (pulpits).

    Old Omariya Mosque, Dec 2012 Entrance within the bazaar, Dec 2012 Courtyard and portico of the mosque, Dec 2012
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    Gümrük Hani

    by MM212 Updated Jul 28, 2015

    Urfa's grandest caravanserai, Gümrük Hani, was built in 1562 by Behram Pasha, the Ottoman governor under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It has a traditional plan, i.e. a spacious courtyard surrounded by double arcaded porticoes in the typical Levantine style with the use of ablaq (alternating stripes) and cusped arches. Nowadays, cafés occupy the courtyard, surrounded by shops, while the upper floors contain workshops. It is a great place to stop for a tea break while shopping in the busy bazaar of Urfa.

    G��mr��k Hani - Dec 2012 Caf��s at G��mr��k Hani, Dec 2012 Dec 2012 G��mr��k Hani's entrance, Dec 2012 Exterior of G��mr��k Hani, Dec 2012
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    Roman Wall

    by MM212 Updated Jul 28, 2015

    Just west of the Harran Gate are remains of the Graeco-Roman wall of Edessa. When I visited in Dec 2012, work was being conducted to expose and restore the walls. It looked as though some buildings were removed in the process.

    Roman wall of Urfa, Dec 2012 Exposed Roman walls, Dec 2012 Excavation & restoration of the walls, Dec 2012
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    Harran Gate

    by MM212 Updated Jul 28, 2015

    Named after the (now ruined) city it faces south of Urfa, Harran Gate is the only surviving gate from the numerous that once pierced the walls surrounding the city. The gate probably originated with the founding of the city under the Seleucids, but the existing structure was built by the Romans and modified and restored over time. What remains today is mainly a combo of Roman and Seljuk works. The inner façade (in the main picture) is mostly Islamic/Seljuk in style and contains a long Arabic inscription and lion sculptures. The outer façade contains Roman masonry, including Corinthian pilaster and a Greek inscription. A recent restoration project brought the gate and the adjacent Ottoman-period buildings to their former glory. Near this gate are remains of the Roman wall, which is currently being exposed and restored (see next tip)

    Inner fa��ade of Harran Gate, Dec 2012 Roman corinthian capital, Dec 2012 Outer fa��ade and Roman details, Dec 2012 Greek inscription, Dec 2012 Harran Gate and adjacent building, Dec 2012
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    Grand Mosque of Urfa (Ulu Camii)

    by MM212 Updated Jul 28, 2015

    Much like elsewhere in Greater Syria and Mesopotamia, the site of the Grand Mosque (Ulu Camii) is one which has been used for worship for many centuries under different religions. A synagogue that once stood on this site was replaced by a church around the 5th century AD (and there was likely a Hellenistic pagan temple even earlier). Thereafter, the site oscillated between Christianity and Islam several times before the firmly settling in Muslim hands with the expulsion of the Crusaders in 1144 by the Zengid Dynasty. Little information is available on the structures that existed prior to the Crusader period, but under their County of Edessa, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral stood on this site. In 1170, the Zenghid ruler Nureddine commissioned the construction of the Grand Mosque on the ruins of the cathedral, but many of its building stones, columns, and other materials were recycled. Some of those same materials had come from mosque-church structures, and maybe even the synagogue or pagan temple, that pre-existed on the site centuries earlier. Nureddine had also commissioned the renovation of the Great Mosque of Aleppo a decade earlier after a fire, and as a result, Urfa’s mosque shows great resemblance. However, many features from St Stephen’s Cathedral were kept intact, including the octagonal bell tower (now the minaret), exterior walls, and some fragments and columns here and there.

    Courtyard and minaret, Dec 2012 Interior, Dec 2012 Portico, Dec 2012 Dome & Minaret of the Grand Mosque, Dec 2012 Entrance with recycled Roman piece, Dec 2012
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    Naranji Mosque

    by MM212 Updated Jun 19, 2015

    Yet another mosque in Urfa whose date of construction is unknown. An inscription says that it was renovated in 1714 by a certain Mohammed Ali ibn al-Hajj. The mosque is known as al-Naranji in Arabic, which becomes Narinci in Turkish, and it means the Orange mosque (Naranj is a type of bitter orange and it is also the source of the English word "orange" via Spanish "naranja"). The mosque is located within the Souk of Urfa and has a modest entrance that leads into a courtard that preceeds the prayer hall.

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    Hızanoğlu Camii

    by MM212 Updated Jun 19, 2015

    The original date of construction of this mosque is unknown, but according to an inscription, it was renovated in 1523, so it is probably much older. It has a spacious courtyard with austere, but beautiful architecture. The cylindrical minaret is distinctive and is riminiscent of Mardin's architecture. Hızanoğlu Camii is located within the winding alleys of old Urfa, east-south-east of the Souk.

    Hızanoğlu Camii, Dec 2012 The minaret of Hızanoğlu Mosque, Dec 2012 Entrance, Dec 2012 Entrance into the prayer hall, Dec 2012 Courtyard and iwan porticoes, Dec 2012
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    Haji Lutfallah Mosque

    by MM212 Updated Jun 14, 2015

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    The date of the construction of this small mosque is unknown, but according to a plaque on its exterior, it was restored in 1720 by Haji Abdurrahman Mustafa Çelebi. It is located just outside Harran Kapısı, one of the few surviving Roman gates of the city of Edessa. Harran (Carrhae in Latin and Κάρραι in Greek) was a great city in Classical times, but was destroyed by the Mongols and has only survived in ruins south of Urfa. The mosque was restored in 2011.

    Haji Lutfallah Mosque, Dec 2012 Haji Lutfallah Mosque, Dec 2012
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