City of the plain

If today Sanliurfa dominated the area for most of the Classical and Medieval period, Harran was the dominating site of the area.  At the end of the Middle Ages Harran was destroyed and it was only reoccupied 300 years ago by a group of marsh Arabs with their own distinctive architecture.  Today it has mostly been abandoned, but its remaining houses with their distinctive beehive shaped roofs form one of the most evocative sights in the area.

The Romans called it Carrhae, and it was near here that the battle of Carrhae was fought in 53 BC, when the Roman millionaire Crassus was defeated by a Parthan army.


Harran is a fortified city and the main gate has been splendidly restored, but the walls on either side are in ruins, the facing stones having been robbed away.

At the centre is the Harran Culture House, one of the best preserved houses in Harran,  beautifully preserved by its proprietor Ali Kizil and his family of ten children. It is all one house and contains nineteen rooms which are formed by two, three and six groups connected by arches.  The beehive roofs are ideally warm in the Winter and cool in the summer.  It would originally have been occupied by an extended family with grandparents, brother and sisters occupying different parts of the houses.

It is now run as a cultural centre with a series of shops where one may buy souvenirs.

Here one can see through the arches to the adjacent rooms.


In one corner is a kitchen with the original stove still in position.







In the Middle Ages Harran was a major university town, with a huge mosque at its centre which acted as its university.  Known as the paradise mosque, it is said to be the oldest mosque in Anatolia built between 744 and 750.

Its square minaret is still 33 meters  tall.

The mosque stands beside a substantial tell, the site of the earlier towns, running from Prehistory through the Roman period down to the early Arabic conquests.  It is currently under excavations revealing streets with rectangular houses, presumably of Roman date.




There is also a magnificent castle, apparently ruined at the end of the Middle Ages.

The interior is still well preserved with numerous barrel vaults.






Here we are standing on one of the barrel vaults photographed by our guide.







View from one of the windows out over the remaining towns.







View over the town with the minaret of the mosque in the middle distance.







Most of the houses are now abandoned, the inhabitants having been moved out by the Turkish government into a nearby village.

However some still remain.  Note the car port sheltering a fairly modern car.




Another set of occupied houses. Note the television discs on the roof.







As we were leaving we met up with some fellow visitors from a nearby school.  They were intrigued by Wendy’s hair not knowing whether she was naturally blond because she could not possibly be old enough to have grey hair.





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