Sanliurfa, has been a province where many states and sultanates had reigned, different cultures had met and had united throughout the history. As a result of the surface researches done in Sanliurfa and surroundings, various remains from Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Hellenistic ages had been found, so it was understood that this city and surroundings had been a settlement in ancient times.
Sanliurfa and its surroundings had been under the control of Acadia, Sumerians, -Ursians, Hurrians, Mitannians, Hittites, Aramians, Assyrians , Caledonians (New Babylon), Med- Persians , Macedons , Seleukos, Osrhoene (Edessa Kingdom), Romans, Byzantines and Sasanians respectively After the Four Caliphates period between 639–661 A.D. Umayyad, Abbasis, Numeyrogullari, Mervanians, again Byzantines, Great Seljuks and Syria - Palestine Seljuks , Armenians, Crusaders, Zengis, Egypt and Syria Ayyubid, Mamluk, Doger Clan, Timurs, Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu states, Dulkadirogullari, Safevis and Ottomans from 1517 to 1922 had reigned in the city respectively . The city which was called as “Urfa” had been given the appellation “Sanli” because of its excellent resistance against invading armies in the Independence War.
Sanliurfa had been a center for many religions throughout the history. Especially Harran, one of the districts of Sanliurfa stands in forefront. It is an interesting record of Sanliurfa that Abgar Ukomo, one of the kings of Osrhoene invited Jesus Christ to Sanliurfa for spreading Christianity; with respect to that invitation, Jesus Christ blessed Urfa by sending a scripture and a handkerchief with his facial image on it formed by his sweat and the city is still called “the blessed city” even today
By being a blessed city, Sanliurfa is an important center as it contributes to the faith tourism of South East Region. Thus, perhaps the places we recommend most to be seen in the city are Lakes Halil-ur-Rahman (known as Balikligol) and Ayn-Zeliha. With respect to the legend, King Nemrut had a dream about losing his kingdom. When the dream of the king had been interpreted by the prognosticators as a child to be born in that year would eliminate paganism and thus the kingdom of Nemrut , king ordered all the children which were born in that year to be killed. Nuna, who was pregnant to Hz.Ibrahim, succeeded to give birth to him in a cave secretly. Hz. Ibrahim, who lived in this cave until he was seven years old, began to reject King Nemrut and idols his people worshipped, but caught by the king and was thrown into fire with a catapult set on Urfa Fortress. At that moment, fire was ordered by God as “Fire! Be cool and peaceful to Ibrahim”. Fire became water and wood became fish (Halil-ur Rahman Lake-Balikligol). Hz. Ibrahim fell into a rose garden instead of fire. With respect to the legend, as Zeliha, the daughter of Nemrut, believed in Ibrahim, jumped after him into the fire and Ayn-Zeliha Lake formed where she fell.
The cave Hz. Ibrahim was born in, Lakes Halil-ur Rahman (Balikligol) and Ayn-Zeliha formed where He and Zeliha fell are in Centrum. As the fish in the lakes which are visited every year by thousands of domestic and foreign tourists are accepted as sacred, they are not eaten and are protected.
Another place to visit in Sanliurfa is Sanliurfa Fortress which is on Mountain Damlacik at an overlooking position. It was estimated to have been built in 4th century B.C. Its entrance is in west direction. Beside the two columns with Corinth heads, many monument remains of periods beginning from Roman up to Byzantine and Islam exist in the fortress. The length of the walls of the fortress is nearly 4 km. Harran Gate, Mahmudoglu Tower of Bey Gate and remains of walls and battlements are the parts of the fortress walls which could reach today.
Sanliurfa is rich for religious architecture samples. While Ulu Mosque in the Centrum is one of the oldest mosques of the city, it was built on St. Stephan Church, which was known as “Red Church” because of its red columns. The walls of the court of this church, columns and column heads and octagon campanile which is still used as minaret could reach today
Halil-ur Rahman Mosque in south west of Halil-ur Rahman Lake is a unit of the madrasah, graveyard and the complex where Hz. Ibrahim fell when he was thrown into fire. According to some sources, the structure known as "Doseme Mosque" or "Makam Mosque" in the public was told to have been built on Virgin Mary Church built in Byzantine period.
Rizvaniye Mosque which was built in Ottoman period by Rakka- Urfa Governor Rizvan Ahmet Pasha in 1736 and rests on northern part of Halil-ur Rahman Lake Old Omeriye Mosque, Hasan Padisah Mosque, Kadioglu Mosque, Nimetullah Mosque (White Mosque) and Yusuf Pasha Mosque; Circis Prophet (Prophets), Firfirli and Selahaddin Eyyubi Mosques which were converted into mosque from church; Rizvaniye and Eyyubi Madrasahs, Double Dome Tomb, Seyyid Maksudoglu Seyyid Haci Ali Tomb known as Kral Kizi tomb and Seyh Mes‘ud Tomb are of the important religious structures of the city.
Der-Yakup Church (Throne of Nemrut) and Deyr-i Mesih Church which was defined by Evliya Celebi to be the church which was visited by Jesus Christ when he came to Sanliurfa and thus known as Jesus Christ Church have importance as they are early period structures which had been built after the birth of Jesus Christ.
Archeology and Ethnography Museum, which contains monuments from Neolithic and Chalcolithic Ages belonging to Lower Firat region, is an important place to visit. Also, steles in which many gods like “god of thunder” and “guard god for the steppes” of Assyrian and Babylon civilizations had been illustrated. There is a basalt statue representing the Nike, the goddess of Romans who had polytheist belief.
Sanliurfa is also rich for ruins. Sogmatar Ruins which are 73 km. away from Centrum had been the center for the Paganism which accepts moon, sun and planets as sacred and primary god Mare-lahe (lord of the gods). An open air temple built in the name of Mare-lahe (Holy Hill) is located in the focus of Sogmatar. At the peak of this hill, Syriac scriptures engraved in rock dating back to 164-165 A.D., monument which have been erected by some important people in the name of Mare-lahe and writings about altars can be seen. .
7 ruins on the hills in the west, north and northwest of Holy Hill represent the gods of Sun, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury. On the walls of Pognon Cave which rests in 250 meters northwest of Sogmatar and was found by French Consulate Pognon who read the scriptures on the walls at the beginning of our century, human relief was seen describing the gods of periods of 150–200 A.D. and important people.
Among the ruins of Sanliurfa, Suayb city, which is known as Ozkent Village and is 88 km away from Centrum, are surrounded with walls and was established in Roman period. Public believes that Prophet Suayb lived here. Here, a cave exists in which it is believed that the Prophet lived.
On Gobekli Hill near Centrum, the world’s oldest temples of the people of Neolithic Age Aceramic stage which was 11000 years before today were found
Sanliurfa is also famous for its mansions with traditional civilian architecture characteristics. Haci Hafizlar House of these had been restored by Ministry of Culture and become a gallery. Sakip’s Mansion and Kucuk Haci Mustafa Hacikamiloglu Mansion which is used as Provincial Mansion are of the important historical mansions.
Starting from west to east over Karakoyun Stream; Hizmali Bridge, Millet Bridge, Junstinyen Aqueduct , Samsat Bridge (Old Bridge ), Haci Kamil Bridge, Kisas Bridge and Iron Bridge are of the water architecture samples which are affective in the formation of the historical structure of Sanliurfa.
Sanliurfa also draws attention with its inns. There are 11 big inns of Ottoman period in Centrum as Gumruk Inn, Haci Kamil Inn, Barutcu Inn, Mencek Inn, Saban Inn, Kumluhayat Inn, Fesadi Inn, Samsat Gate Inn, Millet Inn, Bican Aga Inn and Topcu Inn.
If you would like to know the cultural characteristics of Sanliurfa better, you must wander through its bazaars. Of these bazaars which had come to today from Ottoman period and had accumulated around Gumruk Inn, Kazzaz Bazaar (Antique Market), Sipahi Bazaar (Covered Bazaar), Koltukcu Bazaar, Pamukcu Bazaar, Oturakci Bazaar, Kinaci Bazaar, Picakci Bazaar, Kazanci Bazaar, Neccar Bazaar, İsotcu Bazaar, Demirci Bazaar, Culcu Bazaar, Cadirci Bazaar, Sarrac Bazaar, Attar Bazaar, Tenekeci Bazaar, Kurkcu Bazaar, Eskici Bazaar, Kececi Bazaar, Kokaci (Kovaci) Bazaar, Kasap Bazaar, Boyahane Bazaar, Kavafhane Bazaar, Hanonu Bazaar and Huseyniye Bazaar are shopping centers which still preserve their characteristics today. From bazaars, domestic clothes which are of Sanliurfa region handiwork and are weaved at looms called “Culha loom ” coarse cloth, shawls , belts, domestic rugs and caps, felts and carpets ; also, as jewelry, netted and filigree bracelets, cordons and blazes made with engraving and niello techniques can be purchased. Furriery, tanning, saddlery, copper working, silk thread making, comb making and masonry are other interesting handicrafts which are still alive in Sanliurfa
The regional dishes of Sanliurfa; isot pot, semsek, has (lettuce) stuffed, mimbar, acir squeeze, masluka, lebeni, borani, braided rice, meatballs (raw meatballs), has has kebab, kemeli kebab, tike kebab, zingil and paliza are tastes which must be tried.
Harran rests in 44 km south east of Sanliurfa, in the center of the savanna called with its own name. It is thought that the place called as Haran in the Old Testament is here. Islamic historians associate the establishment of the city to Kaynan, one of the grandsons of Prophet Noah or to the Aran (Haran), brother of Prophet İbrahim. With respect to the legend, Hz. Ibrahim lived in this city before he went to Palestine. Thus Harran is called “the city of Hz. Ibrahim”.
The most correct information about Harran history is reached via the remains obtained as a result of archeological diggings. On tablets found in Ebla, Northern Syria, Harran is mentioned as "Ha-ra-an". On Hittite tablets of the middle of two thousand B.C., it was defined that God of Moon (Sin) and God of Sun (Samas) were kept as witnesses for an agreement between Hittites and Mitannians.
Harran is on a point where important trade routes which come from Northern Mesopotamia and connect to west and north west intersect. Consequently, it had been one of the important posts for Assyrian merchants who had strong trade relationships with Anatolia. The fact that for thousand of years, trade flow had been made over Harran from Anatolia to Mesopotamia and from Mesopotamia to Anatolia had caused a rich cultural accumulation to be collected in this historical city. One of the three big philosophy schools of the world is Harran School. In Harran University, whose presence had been known since the ancient times, had educated many world wide famous scholars.
As Harran was one of the important centers of paganism, in which Moon, Sun and planets were accepted as sacred, the astronomy science in Harran had developed very much. While Sanliurfa was accepted as one of the most important centers of Christianity, Harran became the center of pagans and was given the name "Hellenopolis" which meant “pagan city”. Paganism lasted in Harran until XI. century and it ended after that century.
Harran was directed by Assyrians between 1310–1280 B.C and was used as the garrison of King Teglat Falazar. The city had been in the hands of Partians with the name “Carrhae” until Crassus’ death in 54 B.C. In Harran, which was the capital city of Umayyad once, Fatimis, Zengis, Ayyubid and Seljuks reigned; the district was invaded by Mongols at the beginning of 1260. When Mongols understood after a while that they could not defend here, they destroyed the city by demolishing its mosque, walls and fortress. While Harran was a small village during Ottoman period, it was connected to Akcakale district in Republic period and was converted into a district in 1987.
It is worth to advise to see Han-el Ba’rur Caravanserai, which is 20 km away from Harran and is dated between 1128–1129 years, the typical houses, mound, fortress, city walls and various architectural remains of Harran.
Birecik, which rests in 80 km west of Sanliurfa near Firat River, is famous with hermit ibis birds which are endangered with extinction. There are accommodation and camping facilities here. www.sanliurfa.bel.tr www.sanliurfa.gov.tr