I almost didn’t want to add this entry because of too many historical and biblical facts that I must write. But thank you, Wikipedia. So this entry is Wikipedia-ish. I am not quite sure how accurate my memory is, to the reason I check Wikipedia because the time I was at Urfa, I was not paying attention to ‘which is which’ during the ancient times. I was just simply amazed by Urfa’s exotic and ancient beauty.
Urfa was our destination after a week in Istanbul, where I left my heart and soul. Yet Urfa had been a surprised, the 3.5 hour flight was a journey to wonderful snowy mountains, long snaky-rivers, huge clouds shaped in all things possible. Of course, I was traveling with great friends who made the 3.5 hour noisy, annoying and interesting gossips LOL.
From Urfa airport, we travelled an hour to the city; we observed, there was really nothing except for huge land mass and scattered small mountains along the way. The driver surprisingly understood our Tag-Bis (Tagalog and Bisaya combined), and looked at us and said, WELCOME TO MESOPOTAMIA! And that’s how we started to wonder what else can we see in that empty Mesopotamia. My friend who once lived in Kuwait knew what to expect, he said, it might be looking like Kuwait. He was right! BUT, Urfa was unbelievably more fascinating.
The city was dusty, with nice wide roads; infrastructures in cubes; palm trees and old cars served as exterior designs which put the city in my thought as exotic. People were the friendliest, we went to a fine-looking restaurant and the owner, an old man with a huge tummy came to us and chatted with us, he made a lot of jokes about marriage and life in Urfa. But I guess, not too funny because I forgot the jokes or probably I was having a great time sipping tea and eating kebab while looking at the great view outside his restaurant. Just in front was the birthplace of the prophet Abraham and the Urfa Fortress, King Nimrod’s castle.
We were stunned, we didn’t know that Urfa is a biblical and historical city. Walking around, I felt like a nuisance biblical and historical character came into life. Urfa was the cradle of Mesopotomian civilization, and it was Edessa during the Hellenistic time. The walkway towards a top of the fortress was amazingly beautiful, over-looking the whole city. And the two Corinthian columns atop were remnants millions of years ago, way back from the time of Abraham and King Nimrod. Below the hill, were traditional coffee shops and all kinds of shops, and an interesting piece of biblical stories and history.
The cave of Abraham and the pool of holy fish or Balikgol, surrounded by mosques. One ordinary-looking mosque yet stunning was the Halil al-Rahman, which was originally the Church of the Virgin Mary, built in 504. Just near the pool was the holy nativity where Abraham was born. (Nose bleeding on going LOL). Going back to Balikgol, both in the Bible and the Qurán, King Nimrod wanted to burn Abraham as a sacrifice, but God intervened and turned the pyre into water and the coals into fish, thus saving Abraham. The pond is believed to have been formed by miracle. Today, eating the fish is a sacrilege, and locals have never dared eating fishes from the pond.
Not far from the Fortress was the Hasmiye Square, where one of the oldest inns and one of the oldest markets in the world were located. The Customs Inn, built in 1563 is still there and alive like the old times, at the ground floor were old men playing cards and sipping Turkish tea and coffee. Ancient bazaars and markets were still busy like the old times.
Urfa has a lot to offer, expect all ancient things and places in the world, which makes Urfa as one of the most interesting places to see. We also visited prophet Job’s healing well, another pilgrim favorite both by the Muslim and Christian traditions. I got goose bumps entering both the caves of Abraham and Job.
The funny part was when we were followed by a dozen children who brought cameras and asked us to take photos with them. We thought we were celebrities for a moment, and we had our most perfect smiles on every pose. They just kept following us, talking to us in their language and staring at us like we were special people, they thought we were Japanese, again. And when we were about to leave the place, they came to us altogether with the printed pictures asking us to pay for it. Such a nice trick, but we refused to buy the pictures. Good thing, they were fine, they were just laughing, and waved bye bye smiling at us.
The most interesting part of the city was seeing faces of women and men in their different cultural clothes. They were Kurds, Turks, Arabs, some Armenians and some Jews, like all those ethnic characters we read in history books were all there, like a living testimonial that people of different faiths from yesteryears were all living altogether peacefully.
Note: Some photos are illegally borrowed from my good friend, Tani. LOL