Excursions to the Far East and Black Sea Coast: Places to Explore



A quick ride from Urfa, the ancient city of Harran is well worth a visit. The Urfa region is rife with dubious biblical legends, but there seems to be almost unanimous agreement that this Harran of modern Turkey is quite likely the Harran mentioned in the Old Testament as a place where Abraham spent some time before heading off to the promised land. True or not, today's Harran stands on the spot of a very ancient settlement, with crumbling fortifications surrounding what is now a simple village and the ruins of what was once the world's first Islamic university, built in the 8th century, just on the edge of town. Called the Ulu Cami, all that's left is a distinctive square minaret that can be seen from throughout Harran. Indeed, in Harran visitors get the sense that not much has changed here over the centuries, and some of the pastoral scenes around Harran, of shepherds driving their flocks of sheep along seem, well, almost biblical.

Harran's main claims to fame, besides playing host to Abraham, are its beehive-shaped houses, wondrous structures built of hay and mud, each topped with a conical roof. The small town is filled with them, although many are no longer family dwellings and are now used as stables or are in the process of collapsing.

Harran at a Glance