South-East Turkey: Diyarbakir | Hasankeyf | Mardin | Urfa

The final leg of our journey took us to the metropolitan officially known as Şanlıurfa, but often referred to as simply Urfa. In Turkish Şanlı means “great, glorious, dignified”. Our bus ride from Mardin to “Urfa the glorious” was the most expensive one of the trip, costing approx. 30 lira.  Upon arriving we located our hostel, which for 25 lira was very nice. The Aslan Guest House had a courtyard in the middle with tables and a lounge, surrounded by stonewalls with doors that lead to the different hostel rooms. Similar to Mardin, our room once again resembled a cave. The floors were carpeted, and we slept on thin mattresses placed on the ground. From my description it may not sound nice, but it was actually a great experience and I would recommend this hostel.

The location was very convenient, and only a short walk away from the bazaar and all the other major attractions. Urfa may be most famous for being the birthplace of the Muslim prophet Abraham. All the major attractions are in a park like area, which includes a castle, a mosque, Abraham’s birth cave, and a legendary pool of sacred fish. Unfortunately for us it was Turkish Election Day so the bazaar was closed, but we were able to experience everything else.

The legendary pool was an exceptional sight to see. Inside were hundreds of fat, well fed fish. The legend goes that “Nimrod had Abraham immolated on a funeral pyre, but God turned the fire into water and the burning coals into fish”. It is now said that if you catch one of the fish you would go blind! The mosque in this area was also very beautiful, but women were not allowed inside the main part. Attached to the mosque is Abrahams birth cave. Here men and women enter from different sides. Once inside you are able to view the cave that is now filled with water through a glass barrier. The room is very small and ceilings are low. To the right was a tap that takes water from the cave. Normally it is not safe to drink Turkish tap water, but we saw everyone else sipping this holey water so we followed suit.

The castle overlooked the whole park from a hill above. We hiked to the top, which provided an amazing view of the surrounding area. We were told not to bother paying for the castle, and that the real treat was the view. Following the advice of our hostel owner we just enjoyed the view, and were unable to find the entrance anyways! For dinner we ate at a restaurant just down the road from our hostel. We were given our own private room. Inside the there were very low tables and many cushions. We enjoyed traditional Urfa kebabs while sitting cross-legged on the floor. It was a special, tasty dining experience.

Travelling to Southeast Turkey has given me a new perspective on the country. Istanbul is much more westernized than the rest of the Turkey. It was good to get out and see a different side. It also helped explain the political situation to me. On the news, and the crowd I associate with in Istanbul it seems like everyone dislikes Erdogan and the current government. Travelling farther east you can see how he is able to win again, with many people from the east believing he is great. Our cab driver even went as far to call all of the other politicians “gypsies”, and Erdogan “great”! Overall the people of Southeast Turkey were very kind, and provided us with an amazing trip! I would recommend this trip to anyone who has the time to travel Turkey extensively.

South-East Turkey: Diyarbakir | Hasankeyf | Mardin | Urfa