Harran is said to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited spots on Earth, founded between 2500 and 2000BC possibly by Sumerian traders. It’s mentioned in the Book of Genesis as the place where Abraham stayed for a few years in 1900 BC. It was associated with worship of the moon god, Sin, also worshipped in Sogmatar which I visited yesterday. Although we had warm but comfortable October weather I can certainly understand worshipping the moon and not the sun in the scorching summer heat!
One of the paradoxes of travel is that it is in the crummiest of hotels that you often meet the most interesting people. I really hated the rundown somewhat decrepit Grand Babil Hotel, but it did have a pleasant courtyard where it was easy to meet other travellers.
Not over drinks! Sanliurfa is a devout town and as dry as a desert.
It was in the courtyard that I met the two Germans: Martin, the history teacher and Klaus, the doctor. We agreed to visit Harran which is a little over 40km south of Sanliurfa.
We headed to the bus station to pick up a mini bus headed to Harran and eventually found one. The way the system works is that you have to wait for more passengers before the driver goes anywhere. So that took some time. And then the driver circled town to try to find more passengers so it would fill up. More time wasted. The trip that should have taken an hour wound up taking at least an hour and a half. Then we got there and weren’t sure where the actual village was. It was just a dusty strip of road with some stores and shops along the side. But where there are lost tourists there’s money to be made so we were soon approached by several guys offering us to drive over the hill in front of us to the entrance to the village.
The village is famous for its beehive house architecture a few examples of which have been gussied up for tourists. It’s a scraggly village and there are a few other beehive houses where people seem to actually live. There were once hundreds of them. It’s marvelously cool inside.
Since wood is rare in the region around Harran owing to its climate, locals have traditionally built houses from materials they could easily gather such as stone, brick and wood] The modern beehive houses were constructed by locals who learnt how to build them by examining excavated ancient buildings and used bricks gathered from the ruins as building material. The beehive houses were compatible with the nomadic lifestyle of the locals since they can be built and dismantled rapidly, like a tent, but also efficiently resist both heat and cold. Because of the weak materials used for plastering the beehive houses require repair every 1–3 years. Their walls are usually 50–60 centimetres thick and their domes are about 20–30 centimetres thick. The domes have an opening at the top which provides natural air circulation and ventilation. This feature, combined with the thick walls, provide relatively good indoor conditions throughout the year, even in the extreme summer heat. (Wikipedia)
There is also a large but crumbling castle in the village which dates from the 11th century, possibly earlier. It must have been an extremely strong fortress at the time but is now falling apart. Workers are trying to shore up the foundations.
Impoverished, decrepit and underpopulated, Harran is one of those places that’s far more interesting to read about than to visit. It took real imagination to picture Harran as the important trading city it once was.
We traipsed over to see the minaret of the Grand Mosque which was undergoing extensive restoration and then caught a mini bus back to Sanliurfa.
Although I had a tasty dinner at the huge Cevahirhan restaurant I paid the price later on with major stomach turbulence.