Harran, Southeastern Turkey

An otherworldly place in Mesopotamia

Harran had been calling us for so long.

During the long cold nights of Ankara, we had so often dreamt about sitting on a hilltop overlooking Harran's beehive-shaped houses, feeling the Mesopotamian breeze on our face, watching the vast brownish-yellow land all the way to Syria, and enjoying the stillness of village life that our trip would not be complete without a sojourn to Harran.
Beehive houses of Harran

Thus we hired a car and set out in a loop that would take us to Harran, Suayp, the caravanserail at Han-el-Barur, and Sogmatar. A whole day of driving on deserted dirt roads, past villages in which colorfully dressed women sat outside their homes, children played happily, and flocks of sheep grazed dry grass.

Our first stop would be Harran, approximately 45 kilometers from Urfa. The name is derived from ancient Akkadian, meaning "crossroads". Indeed, Harran was an important trade center from 300 BC till medieval times.

We never thought that arriving in Harran would be annoying. A van started to hoot and follow us around as we entered the village. We weren't sure why this was happening and were rather averse to pulling up. However, when the van did not give up and only started to hoot more, we reluctantly stopped the car to see what the problem was. A rather energetic looking young man with a way too huge smile on his face sprang out of the van and ran towards us. Our jaws dropped as he firmly pushed a brochure of a shop-restaurant (aka tourist trap) into our hands andordered us to follow him. Now, we have seen many places where aggressive salesmen hassle travellers but this was simply too much. The firmness with which we said NO soured the fellow's smile and made him return to his van.

After this little incident, we parked our car and went for a wander around the village. Unfortunately, there are many "modern" buildings right next to the traditional beehives, which steals the place's charm. As we went around, we came across the van-man's tat shop-restaurant and scurried away as quickly as we could before anyone spotted us.

We then resumed our walk, looking for the ancient city and the remains of the world's earliest Islamic University.
Ancient city in Harran

Ruins of the first Islamic University
 It was at this university that many scholars in theology, astronomy, medicine, mathematics and philosophy were raised during the 8th century. Today, there is a modern university in Urfa known as Harran University.

At the end of the Harran leg of our trip, we said goodbye to the village exactly the way we wanted to:

Sitting on a hilltop with the Mesopotamian breeze on our face, watching the vast dry land stretching all the way to Syria, appreciating the stillness, and ruminating on life.

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