Situated between the legendary Tigris and Euphrates River, in the heart of the Fertile Crescent, lies ancient Urfa, the supposed birthplace of Abraham.
Western thought and practice has vanished as now you are fully in the Middle East. Minarets piece the desert sky, lamb kabobs fill the air and biblical legends rival the Holy Lands here. Tradition has been passed down for thousands of years that the prophet Abraham was born in a simple cave on the outskirts of town, drawing thousands of pilgrims daily. A beautiful garden complex is found in the center of town, highlighted by the pool Balikligol, where legend has it that Nimrod threw Abraham into a fire, only for it to miraculously turn into water. The pool with hundreds of carp is highly protected today and the symbol of Urfa and the people who live here.
Less than an hour outside of town, on a barren and rocky hill, lies one of earths most ancient discoveries. First noted in 1963 but not excavated until 1995, the discovery shocked the world and rewrote history. A series of carefully placed and carved pillars of stone, encircling a central point with carved images of animals and beasts defines the monument Gobekli Tepe, an ancient Neolithic site reminiscent of Stonehenge. But standing apart from any other seemingly stone-age construction is the age. At nearly 12,000 years old, Gobekli Tepe more than doubles the age of Stonehenge. In this period of history, man was thought to be only hunters and gatherers, but as evidenced in this ancient temple, man was able to work together to transport giant stones and arrange them for a mysterious purpose. It is curious to think how this site, and Urfa in general, is relatively unknown and off the tourist path. A visit to this ancient corner of civilization is a reminder to how little we know
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
Sanliurfa lies near the border of Syria, firmly in the Kurdish lands. We reached the city by hitchhiking from Mardin, a 2-hour excursion.
Visiting Gobekli Tepe, the world's oldest temple. It seems very close, but it was an experiencing hitchhiking to the site. It was surreal to see carved stones in place that were more than 12,000 years old.
Experiencing remnants of biblical history, such as visiting the town Harran which Abraham sojourned for several years and observing the living traditions that are alive today.
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
Urfa was a surprising change of scenery, full of Middle Eastern flair. Looking ahead on your path toward the Middle Kingdom, two seemingly similar, but vastly different routes fork from here.
Either take the road to Diyarbakir along the traditional Silk Route, or take the travels further into Mesopotamia in Mardin.