Known as ‘Edessa’ in ancient times, Şanlıurfa is a very special Anatolian city, which is featured in the Koran. The history of Şanlıurfa is recorded from the 4th century BC, but may date back to as far as the 9th century BC. Old Urfa was conquered repeatedly throughout history and has been dominated by many civilizations. It thus has a very deep-rooted history and features a wide range of cultural, religious, and architectural elements from its past.

According to both the Bible and the Koran, Urfa was the birthplace of Abraham before his migration to Canaan, now Palestine (recommended visit: the mosque complex surrounding Abraham’s Cave). It was in Şanlıurfa that early Christians were first permitted to worship freely and the first churches were constructed openly. Pagan temples were converted to synagogues, synagogues to churches, churches to mosques, and this has resulted in a unique eclectic architecture.

Şanlıurfa is a city of ancient traditions, friendships, and mystical associations, bringing together people, and sharing the same pleasures, their world views, and ideas. Today, Urfa is a surprising mix of Turkish, Arab, and Kurdish populations, with peasants haggling in the traditional bazaar and also young technocrats and engineers in the modern section. The city has an oriental atmosphere with a very rich cultural fabric reflecting many customs and traditions.

Harran, a town an hour away, stands in the desert with its beehive-like dwellings and its great castle. You can visit the Harran Fortress and the ruins of the mysterious Temple of Sin (known as the first university in the world). In Harran, don’t miss Göbekli Tepe, the oldest temple in the world and one of the most important archaeological sites, which changed everything we thought we knew about Stone Age people.

As the city of Urfa is so deeply rooted in history, it also a unique cuisine, an amalgamation of the cuisines of several civilizations that ruled Urfa. The city is mostly famous for its very rich kebab culture, made of lamb meat, fat, offal, and served hot. It is also widely believed that the city is the birthplace of many dishes including raw kibbé (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbeh). According to legend, kibbé was crafted by Abraham from the ingredients he had on hand. Don’t miss tasting the bitter menengiç kahvesi after dinner, the most common hot beverage of Urfa.

The old trading centers, today serving as touristic bazaars—Kazzaz Bazaar, Sipahi Bazaar, and Huseyniye Bazaar—are worth visiting for their authentic value and local commodities, such as dresses, kilims (rugs) and the like. You can also meet many artisans of traditional handicrafts like felt making, tannery, stone working, weaving, woodworks, copper works, saddle making, fur making, and jewelry works.