Turkey: Harran & Gobekli Tepe

Posted November 28, 2009 by David McGuinness

Ismail arrived at my hotel after breakfast (and this hotel’s buffet is even better, my particular favourite is a grape syrup mixed with Tahini, one of the essentials of hummus!) and we walked down to the bus station. We hopped into aminibus for Harran and after a short nap we were there. Famous as a place where Abraham (from the bible) lived for some years and mentioned in the book of Genesis, Harran has an impressive history. First We headed to the walls which once stretched 4km long and had 187 towers. Little remains of this but the nearby minaret dating from the 8th century is said to be the oldest in Anatolia. Nearby are the ruins of the first Islamic university in the world.

Harran is full of beehive houses (baked-mud structures whose genius is the constant temperature through the year regardless of the blazing sun or the winter’s cold outside. However there are two that are particularly elaborate and now done up inside as cafes and lodges. Each dates back well over 250 years. After a short visit to the castle we went back to one of the beehive homes for some tea and to wait there as they called the bus to come and collect us. That’s what I call service.

As I waited one of the locals spotted a foreigner (me) and insisted I come to eat with them as they had just prepared lunch. I sat down with them and chatted over bread, yoghurt with cucumber and a delicious red-pepper and olive oil paste, washed down with Turkish tea. After saying goodbye to my gracious hosts we hopped on the bus back to Urfa. After a quick stop at the cave when the Prophet Job holed up during a tough time in his life and filling my water bottle up with some holy water (drinking water too I was assured) myself and Ismail hopped in a taxi to Gobekli Tepe.

After a drive through some exquisite scenery we arrived at the site. Discovered only two years previously the site of Gobekli Tepe is thought to be the oldest human site in the world, dating back twelve or thirteen thousand years. More impressively the site is said to have completely redefined how we look at the history of humanity, the origin of religion and perhaps even the truth behind the garden of Eden!

One prominent archeologist described the discovery of the site by a Kurdish farmer as “simply the most important historical find in the history of the world”! The site is too new new for a consensus to have yet emerged on what it really means but there is no doubt it is a very, very important place.

Fortunately however the site is also interesting to look at as well as ponder its significance. There are some very impressive stone carvings that are very well preserved including foxes, lizards, boars, ducks and big cats (as yet no one is sure which cat, or even if it is even something that still exists). The surrounding views are also quite spectacular with a stone-studded landscape and ridges and troughs of various colours.

I am not sure I have done justice to this site, so I am posting a link to an article about it here

Anyway after coming back from Gobekli Tepe, myself and Ismail had some Kurdish lamb kebabs in thick bread and headed to a cafe for the evening’s entertainment: an Istanbul derby, Besiktas vs Fenerbace. The cafe was a male-only preserve and I was the only foreigner around (in fact I have only seen about four of five foreigners since I left Istanbul). Besiktas won 3-0–after a scoreless first half–and this seemed to please most people, though mostly as they were Galatasary fans, and a win for them tomorrow meant they would share the top of the table with Fenerbaçe. At half time everyone reverted to their games but returned to the match as soon as it restarted. I’m sure I have lost a few of you over the last few sentences but it was a most entertaining evening and I made many new friends, and despite the obvious passions during the game, it was all very friendly, perhaps helped by the fact that everyone was drinking tea instead of something stronger!

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the links below to navigate through this journey.

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