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Harran

The legendary plains of Harran… believed to be where humans took the first step, use the first plough, plough the first ox. Whole another world with Harran Höyük, Bazda Caverns, Shuayb City, Soğmatar, Senem Caverns, Sabiis, and Moon Culture…

“According to the legend, Adam and Eve arrived at Harran Plains after getting dismissed from the Heaven. What felt interesting for Adam and Eve in this unbelievably graceful land where they took their first step, was the lack of trees. Adam had brought two saplings sapling of pomegranate and rose from the Heaven. He planted them both. Rapidly growing sapling of pomegranate and rose blossomed up with crimson and white flowers. Sometime later they felt hungry. Eve opened up her plans, in which she held a single grain of wheat brought from Heaven. Adam made an improvised plough from branches of the rose and rode it himself. The moment he felt exhausted off this tiring work, an ox suddenly appeared beside him…”

Mentioned as “Harranum” in Assyrian sources, “Kharran” in Greek, and “Carrhae” in Romen; the word “Harran” means “conjunction of roads”. Indeed, it is located at the very conjunction of very important commercial roads coming from northern Mesopotamia going towards west and northwest. The fact that the flow of commerce between Anatolia and Mesopotamia has been operated through Harran for thousands of years, is the reason of the accumulation of a rich culture in the province.

Layers at Höyük, the first settlement area of Harran, went on non-stop from 3rd millennia B.C. until 13th century A.D. The most interesting artefacts revealed during excavations at Höyük are cooked tablets and devotional epitaphs with cuneiforms mentioning King Nabuna and Temple of Sin dating back to 6th century B.C.

In Harran, the last capital of the Assyrian state, the Temple of Sin (Moon) mentioned in cuneiform tablets has not yet been found.

Temple of Sin (God of Moon) in Harran was quite famous. Roman Emperor Caracalla was assassinated by his guards in Harran, where he came to visit the Temple of Sin in 247 A.D. Then the tradition of worshipping the “Sky Gods” continued on in Roman Period. And then the astronomy scholars of Harran were highly regarded during the Islamic period, especially in the golden age of Abbasids.

According to al-Tabari, Memnun the Caliph was quite surprised to hear the presence of the idolatrous in Harran in 833; people of Harran rid themselves of death by converting to the Sabii religion, which is also mentioned in Quran. It is believed that the Sabii religion was retained in Harran till 17th century. It can be understood that the Sin Cult continued its existence even after the arrival of Christianity and even Islam later on.

Approximate length of the elliptic Harran city walls is 4 km, and height 5 metres. Only one, the Halep (Aleppo) Gate, out of 7 gates thought to exist in this city has been able to survive. It was known in the past that the ditch, located outside the walls and filled with soil today, was full of water.

It is still unknown for certain when the keep, located southeast of the city, was built. It is mentioned in all sources that there lies a Sabi Temple where the castle is. It is thought that the palace, for which the Umayyad Emperor Mervan II spent 10 million dirham for construction, constitutes the basis of the castle.

The oldest and largest mosque remnant of Turkey is the Grand Mosque of Harran. 12 thousand people can pray at the same time in the courtyard of this mosque.

The mosque was constructed by the order of the Caliph Mervan II during the Umayyad period between the dates of 744 and 750 A.D.; then restored from time to time. It is the first monumental and galleried mosque of Anatolia, which has the richest stone dressing works. Wooden stairs of the rectangular minarets at the height of 33,30 metres were restored in accordance with the original as 105 steps.

Mentioned as “Cami el Firdevs (Mosque of Heaven) or “Friday Mosque” in various sources, the mosque was burnt to ground together with the entire city during the Moghul invasion in 1260.

Provincial remnants from the Islamic periods, revealed during the excavations at this hill, give clues about the architecture of the era. Based on the clues, houses are planned to be in rectangular or square shapes. Houses open up to narrow streets and each house has a room opening to its courtyard. Mentioned often in sources, the School/University of Harran that has an importance place for the Christian and Islamic world. No remnants yet have been revealed during the excavations.

Started in 1950, the excavations in Harran are still going on, even episodically. New places and architectural artefacts are being revealed in these excavations.

The harmal plants, covering the excavation areas, are generally dried by the local women. These plants are burnt on Fridays to incense homes.

Conic, domed houses of Harran, constructed with the technique of super-positioning, are the most famous heritages of Harran. The city draws attention for its houses as well as it does for its rooted history.

Referred to as “Kokan Evleri (Scented Houses)”, the Harran Houses have a conic shape. Creating an interesting architectural pattern in the southern parts of the city, these houses are structures that were built with bricks collected from archaeological sites, in 150 or 200 years over older remnants of the city.

Reaching the top height of 5 metres from inside, these domes were bonded with a series of 30 or 40 bricks. Constructed as doublets, triplets and up to sextets, the domes were connected to one another from the inside via arches to create huge indoor areas. Protruded bricks were periodically placed on the sides as the domes were bonded, and the dome peaks exposed. The exposition on top of the domes serve as a chimney to let smoke out, as well as a source of light.

Accordant to the regional climate, these houses catch the eye for being cool in summer, warm in winter. It is said that within domed Harran Houses, chickens lay eggs more often, some animals such as horses are calmer, and onions sprout faster.

Despite the destroyed of domed houses; occupied men wearing white robes, face-tattooed women and girls, still colourfully swing around Harran in their showily silken clothes in summer when sun tends to set.

Ancient City of Jethro

One arrives at the Ancient City of Jethro10 km past Harran. It is estimated that remnants in this city are from the Roman Period. This vast city is surrounded with walls the remnants of which can be seen in patches. Structures of cut stones were built on many rock graves in the city center. Having a typical Roman settlement with its grid street plans, each house in this city has its own well and courtyard.

It is believed among the residents the Prophet Jethro, who was the father-in-law of Prophet Moses, and is the same person as “Jethro” (Yitro in Hebrew), mentioned in Torah, lived in this city, and therefore it was named after him. One of the caves among other remnants is visited by many people as the place of Prophet Jethro.

It is mentioned in Quran that Prophet Jethro came from the linage of Abraham, and was the prophet of Median folk.

Ancient City of Sogmatar

The highway continuing towards north from the City of Shuaib reaches the ruins of the Ancient City of Sogmatar 16 km later. The word ‘sogmatar’ comes from the word ‘matar’ in Arabic, meaning rain. Waters accumulating in cisterns and wells in this area of Tekke Mountains where it rains a lot in winter, meet the water needs of sheep and goat herds put out on mountains. For this reason, the village is also referred to as “Yağmurlu (Rainy)” today.

It is believed in the region that Prophet Moses, who ran away from the Pharaoh, used to be engaged in farming and that one of these wells was opened by his miraculous staff.

The hill at the heart of the village gives clues about that this settlement was established before the common era. Remnants of walls and towers on this hill prove that the hill was used as a castle in 2nd century B.C.

Sogmatar was a religious centre of pagans in 2nd century B.C. according to researches. Symbolising the main god of this religion, Marelahe (Lord of the Gods), there is an open-air temple, that is the Sacred Hill, which constitutes the centre of settlement of Sogmatar.

Before revealing the remnants of 7 circular structures located on hills around the Sacred Hill, it was thought that such structures represented gods of such as Sun, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury; then during subsequent excavations, it was understood that these were sacred areas. It is now theorised that pagans of Sogmatar used to face towards these temples foersr pray.

Moreover, it is also thought that Sabii people of Harran used to face towards the Sacred Hill in Sogmatar, where temple of the Chief God Marelahe is located, during their prayers at the Temple of Sin the Moon God.

There are human-shaped embossments depicting important individuals and gods of the dates between 150 and 200 A.D. on the walls of Pognon Cavern, located 250 metres north of Castle of Sogmatar.

The writings in Syriac sculpted in the surface of rocks at the peak of the Sacred Hill tell about the pillars and altars placed on this hill by some people of power in the name of Marelahe. Of those writings, the one at the west of the hill says:

I am the Arab Vali, Tridattes, the son of Adonna. In the February of 476, for the sake of my master and his sons, for my life for my father Adonna, for the sake of the life of my brothers and children, I built this altar in Marelahe and raised this pillar''.

The year 476 is based on the Seleucid calendar, which refers to AC 164-165.

There lies two god embossment shaped like humans and sculpted in the rocks close to the peak of northern side of the Sacred Hill. Of those embossment, the one on the right is a male figure standing 1.10 meters tall. Wearing a knee length dress and standing up, at the back of its head this figure has an oyster shape, symbolizing the sun. The Syriac inscription on the right side of this embossment says “The God ordered this sculpture for Ma'na in the 13th of March in 476”.

The architectural ruins in Great Senem Migar Village, located 11 km north of Sogmatar and houses caved into rocks similar to those in Cappadocia illustrates that this region was a significant centre during the first phases of Christianity. The three story monumental ruins, located at the hills of the village, is believed to have belonged to a monastery or a place. On the northern side, there are churches sculpted in the rocks presumably built during the Byzantine Era.

Nowadays a part of these ruins is used as houses; and the householders happily and gladly shows visitors around the ruins. If you wish to see the ruins, just ask the householders, they will be happy to help you.

15 km away from Harran, Bazda Caves welcomes us in the region with ancient stone quarries.  Since Harran, City of Jethro, and Han el-Ba'rur received stones for thousands of years, both caves produced many squares, tunnels, and galleries. The greater one of the two is caved in two stories. Moreover, a square was built by raising two pillars standing 10-15 meters tall. Through long and galleries and tunnels, there was built exits to different directions of the mountain.

The Han El-Ba’rur Caravansary located 27 km southeast of Harran, was ordered to be built by El-Hac Hüsameddin Ali Bey, the son of Isa between 1128 and 1129. Located on the way to Harran-Baghdad, this caravansary demonstrates all characteristics of Anatolian Seljuk architecture.