Şanlıurfa, (Arabic: الرها ), often called Urfa, was known in ancient times as Edessa. It is a city in south eastern Turkey that is the capital of the Şanlıurfa Province. It is situated 150 kilometers east of Gaziantep and 188 kilometers west of Mardin. Lying 44 kilometers southeast of Şanlıurfa is the historical city of Harran visited by thousands of Turkish and foreign tourists each year. Allegedly Harran is the place mentioned as Hârân in the Jewish Torah. İslamic historians tie the foundation of the city to Kaynan who is one of the grandchildren of Noah or to Aran (Haran), the brother of Abraham of the Bible. İbn Seddad who was a 13th century historian wrote that Abraham lived in this city before moving to Palestine. There are very interesting architectural sights in this historical city known as the Harran houses, which are unique and cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. These houses, built by the villagers using the bricks collected from the antique architectural remnants of the ruins of Harran, are comprised of a round dome covering a square formed lower area. The individual domes standing next to each other are connected to each other with archs from the inside and thus a rather wide living area could be obtianed. The houses are complimentary to the climate of the region being cool in the summer and warm in the winter. People in the region say that chickens kept in these kind of structures lay more eggs, animals such as horses and sheep are much more quiet, onions sprout faster and that food remains longer without spoiling in these dome covered buildings.
The city of Şanlıurfa is now inhabited with a mixture of Kurdish, Turkish and Arab residents. It is situated on a plain about eighty kilometers east of the Euphrates River. For a period of its history it was named Callirrhoe or Antiochia on the Callirhoe (Ancient Greek: Αντιόχεια η επί Καλλιρρόης). During Byzantine era it was named Justinopolis. Prior to Turkish rule, it was often known by the name given to it by the Seleucids - Εδεσσα or Edessa. Şanlı (from Arabic shan (شأن) "dignity" + Turkish adjectival suffix -lı) means "great, glorious, dignified" in Turkish, and Urfa was officially renamed Şanlıurfa (Urfa the Glorious) by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1984, in recognition of the local resistance in the Turkish War of Independence. The title was achieved following repeated requests by city members of parliament, desirous of earning a title similar to those of neighbouring cities 'Gazi' (veteran) Antep and 'Kahraman' (Heroic) Maraş. Today the modern day Şanlıurfa presents vivid contrasts between its old and new quarters. The old town is one of the most evocative and romantic in Turkey, with an ancient bazaar still being used by the locals to buy fruit and vegetables. There visitors will find traditionally dressed and head scarfed Arab and Turkish villagers arriving in the early morning to sell their produce. Much of the old town consists of traditional middle eastern houses built around courtyards that cannot be seen from the streets - many of which are impassable in automobiles. In the narrow streets of the bazaar people can be seen carrying trays of food, which is then eaten on newspapers spread on low tables in an out of the way corner of the little shops. This atmosphere is characteristic of the old city which is very poor with people still living in cave houses built into the side of the rocks.
Şanlıurfa's newer districts are a sprawl of modern concrete apartment blocks, with well landscaped avenues containing modern restaurants, sports facilities and other amenities with air-conditioning. Ever since the early 1990s Şanlıurfa has initiated productive development due to the Southeastern Anatolia Project, that provided a reliable supply of water for local farmers and fostered serious agricultural production - especially in organic cotton production. This in turn is encouraging the development of medium and light industry in the city itself, and as a result the amount of unemployment and poverty is far less than in other eastern Turkish cities. Many new cars can be seen on the streets of Şanlıurfa. In addition, the massive reservoir is also an additional asset as it hosts regular watersports tournaments and offers the community many waterfront restaurants.
The city of Şanlıurfa has a rich history, so its unique cuisine is an amalgamation of the foods of the many civilizations that have ruled in Şanlıurfa. Many carry names in Arabic, Armenian, Syriac, and Turkish, and are often prepared and served with spicy flavours. It is widely believed that Şanlıurfa is the birthplace of many traditional dishes common to the area, including Raw Kibbé or Çiğ Köfte, which according to legend was crafted by the Prophet Abraham from ingredients that were widely available in the area at that time. Şanlıurfa is also known throughout Turkey and in nearby Syria for its rich kebab culture which makes extensive use of lamb meat, fat and offal. This offal has also a primordial place in the regular Şanlıurfa cuisine, being prepared in more than two hundred different ways. Şanlıurfa's meze menu is also very rich in varieties mostly unknown in other parts of Turkey such as Ağzı Yumuk or Semsek. Many vegetables are used in the Şanlıurfa cuisine, such as the Ecır, the Kenger and the İsot - the legendary local red pepper that is a smaller and darker variety of the Aleppo pepper that has a purplish-black hue when dried and cured. It is used to flavor many dishes, as well as a local variety of ice cream.The cuisine also makes an extensive use of the eggplant with more than a hundred recipes containing eggplant (Turkish: patlican). Unlike most of the Turkish cities that use different versions of regular butter in their regional cuisine, Şanlıurfa together with Antep, Mardin and Siirt are big users of clarified butter, made exclusively from sheep's milk, called Urfayağı (Urfa butter). Other than that, Şanlıurfa is a heavy consumer of quality olive oil that is imported into the city from nearby Syria. Among Şanlıurfa favorite sweets is the Şıllık - a coarse walnut ground covered in sweet pastry, the Kahke - flavored with aniseed and baked in a steamer and the Külünçe - a stone oven-baked pastry similar to Iraqi Kleyça. These more often than not served with the bitter Arab coffee Mırra and the coffee substitute drink made from wild terebinth Menengiç kahvesi.
The history of Şanlıurfa has been recorded starting in the 4th century BC, but may date back to 9000 BC, when there is plenty of evidence for the surrounding sites at Duru, Harran and Nevali Cori. It was one of several cities in the Euphrates-Tigris basin, the cradle of the Mesopotamian civilization. According to Turkish Muslim traditions Urfa, its name since Byzantine days, is the biblical city of Ur of the Chaldees, due to its proximity to the biblical village of Harran. However, based on historical and archaeological evidence, the city of Ur is today generally known to have been in southern Iraq, and the true birthplace of Abraham is still in question. Urfa is also known as the birthplace of Job. For the Armenians, Urfa is considered a holy place since it is believed that Armenian alphabet was invented there. According to tradition, Nimrod had Abraham immolated on a funeral pyre, but God turned the fire into water and the burning coals into fish, and this pool of sacred fish remains to this day. Urfa was conquered repeatedly throughout history, and has been dominated by many civilizations, including the Ebla, Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites, Armenians, Hurri-Mitannis (Armeno-Aryans), Assyrians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Seleucids, Arameans, Osrhoenes, Romans, Sassanids, Byzantines, Crusaders and the Macedonians under Alexander the Great. In the Byzantine period Edessa was a powerful regional center with churches, schools and monasteries. Islam first arrived in Urfa around 638 C.E., when the Rashidun army conquered the region without a fight. Islam was then established permanently in Urfa by the empires of the Ayyubids, Seljuks and the Ottoman Turks. In March of 1098, the Crusader Baldwin of Boulogne established the County of Edessa. The city remained in Christian hands until 1144, when it was captured by the Turk Zengui who had most of its inhabitants slaughtered together with the Latin archbishop during the Siege of Edessa.
By the end December of 1145, a Second Crusade was launched to recapture the city, but failed in this objective. Subsequently, Urfa was ruled by Zengids, Ayyubids, Sultanate of Rum, Ilkhanids, Memluks, Akkoyunlu and Safavids before the Ottoman conquest in 1516. Under the Ottomans Urfa was a center of trade in cotton, leather, and jewellery. There was a small but ancient Jewish community in Urfa, with a population of about 1,000 by the 19th century. Most of the Jews emigrated in 1896, fleeing the Hamidian massacres, and settling mainly in Aleppo, Tiberias and Jerusalem. There were three Christian communities: Assyrians, Armenian, and Latin. According to Lord Kinross, 8,000 Armenians were massacred in Urfa in 1895 and the last Syrian Christians left in 1924 immigrating to Aleppo where they settled in a place that was later called Hay al-Suryan - The Syriac Quarter. At the end of World War I the Ottoman Empire was defeated and European armies attempted to take over various parts of Anatolia. First the British, and then the French occupied Urfa to incorporate it into the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon. They found the town nearly without any Christian pre-war inhabitants left alive. The British occupation of the city of Urfa started de facto on the 7th of March 1919 and officially de jure as of the 24th of March 1919, and lasted until the 30th of October 1919. French forces took over the next day and their uncomfortable presence was met by outbursts of resistance. It lasted until the 11th of April 1920, when they were defeated by local resistance forces, as the new Turkish government in Ankara not being yet established until the National Assembly declared on the 23rd of April 1920.
The French retreat from the city of Urfa was conducted under an agreement reached between the occupying forces and the representatives of the local forces, commanded by Captain Ali Saip Bey assigned from Ankara. The withdrawal was meant to take place peacefully, but was disrupted by an ambush on the French units by irregular Turkish and Kurdish Muslim forces at the Şebeke Pass on the way to Syria, leading to 296 casualties among the French, and even more among the ambushers.
Şanlıurfa has a semi-arid climate being very hot during the summer months. Temperatures in the height of summer usually reach 41.5°C or 108°F. Rainfall is almost non-existent during the summer months while the winter is cool and wet. Spring and autumn are mild, but are also wet.
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