Beyond Istanbul


In Turkey, it is Istanbul that gets all the attention while there are so many other places just as worthy of the visitor’s time. However, next time you are in Turkey and with time to spare, here are some highly interesting places around the country to check out. Historic sites, a wealth of art and culture, and stunning views – a weekend visit to these places has everything going for it.


Harran is a valuable historic site. First inhabited in the 3rd century BC, you will find ruins of one of the oldest universities in the world, also the oldest Islamic university in the world and the once-famed Harran Great Mosque. Today, there are just ruins but this was a thriving cultural and commercial centre. The region was known for its beehive houses or conical roofs. These houses were constructed using mud and entirely without wood – the style remains in many places in this region. In fact, you can see these houses nearby in Syria too. The nearby Harran Cultural Village recreates the lifestyle of the past so visitors get an idea of the times gone by.


Halfeti is about 100 kms away from Harran. A partially-submerged town in southern Turkey, Halfeti has great historical and architectural value. Following the construction of the Birecik Dam downstream and the flooding of the area in 2000, its inhabitants were evacuated. Hence, a new town was subsequently built a little distance away. The views of the stone houses, trees, minarets and historical monuments such as the old castle and palace are worth all your time. The half sunken minaret of the Savaşan Koy is a famous image. The other important sight here is the Rumkale, an ancient fortress that was built by the Assyrians and later used by Byzantine rulers and Armenian warlords during the Middle Ages. The best way to take in the historic area is by a cruise on the waters.


Mount Nemrut, with its summit at 2,200 metres (approximately) above sea level, has been the subject of intense study by archaeologists, historians, architecture and culture experts. The site contains the tomb of King Antiochus I of Commagene. There are guardian animal statues as well as relief sculptures of ancestors and sandstone stelae. Some of the stone blocks used weigh nearly nine tonnes and up to 10 metres high.


From Mount Nemrut, you can return to Sanliurfa for lunch and spend the rest of the day shopping. There is plenty to choose from – the famous national dessert baklava, a flaky pastry dipped in sugar syrup and stuffed with nuts (mainly pistachio), Turkish delight (another well-known sweet of the country) copper utensils, ethnic shawls and carpets, Turkish coffee, Turkish towels, and loads of other local handicrafts. If you are bird lover and the season is right you can go and meet the bald ibis. This is a rare and endangered bird found (almost) only in this area in the world besides Morocco.

Words: Aruna Chandaraju

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