Şanlıurfa, commonly called Urfa, is a large city in the Şanlıurfa Province of southeastern Turkey. The population as of 2013 was approximately 550,000.[i] The two primary ethnicities are Kurd and Arab.[ii]
Throughout history, the city has been called by several names including Urhai and Edessa. At one point in time, the city was an important Syrian bishopric, with Christianity having first reached the area around 150 AD. Later Urfa was ruled by Arabs in 638 AD, then the Ottoman Empire from the mid-16th century.[iii] Of interesting note, the Armenian alphabet is said to have originated in Urfa, giving a strong connection to Armenian history.[iv]
[i] City Population - Sanliurfa. City Population. Retrieved on 2014-04-03.
[ii] Joost Jongerden . The Settlement Issue in Turkey and the Kurds. Brill Publishing. 2007. p. 170.
[iii] Sanliurfa. Encylopedia Britannica. Retrieved on 2014-04-03.
[iv] Kerem Öktem. Creating the Turk's Homeland: Modernization, Nationalism and Geography in Southeast Turkey in the late 19th and 20th Centuries. Academia.edu. Retrieved on 2014-04-03.
Famed for pistachio desserts, Urfa offers many sweet treats. Kebab vendors are also common near the bazaars, and there are many restaurants and cafes.
Pond of Holy Fish - This pretty walled pond contains various fish who are publicly fed by locals and visitors. The arches are a nice background to the cool water.
Cave of Abraham - Some accounts suggest that Abraham, the father of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, was born near Urfa. There is an entire tour called the Path of Abraham for tourist in Urfa to learn and enjoy.
Gobekli Tepe - The prehistoric site in thought to be the world's oldest temple, dating back 11,000 years. The excavation efforts at Gobekli Tepe are still underway, but visitors can take a look at some areas. It is located a distance outside the city, so a car will be necessary for travel.
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Urfa -- mostly with basic guestrooms, but a few offer mid-range amenities. There are many to choose from offering online reservations, allowing international travelers the opportunity to book in advance.
For a unique agro-tourism experience included hosting lodgings with a local and opportunities to milk goats and other chores, try the Yuvacali Village Tours.
The city of Urfa is located in a valley surrounded by limestone-rich hills on three sides just east of the Euphrates River. The fertile flat lands are used primarily for livestock and some agriculture.
Head scarves are especially popular in this hot city, and both men and women are often seen wearing a vivid violet purple particular to the area. Average summer highs of 94°F are common, and winter lows average at 34°F.[i]
[i] Average Weather Sanliurfa. World Weather Online. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
There is a domestic airport in Urfa with connecting flights to Ankara and Istanbul. Buses also offer transportation from Mardin, Van, and beyond, bringing visitors to a new bus station just outside the city. Local buses can then be boarded or a private taxi hired to go to the city center. Most tourist attractions are in the old city and are best seen by foot.