“URFA IS GRAND DOESN’T GET OFFENDED / ITS BOTTOM IS MARBLE DOESN’T GET PUNCTURED / URFA’S ÇİĞ KÖFTE / CANNOT BE FOUND ANYWHERE.”
The people of Urfa are generous. They share what they have with their neighbors. However, when it comes to isot (dried and fermented hot peppers unique to Urfa) that they have made with great toil at home, without even thinking for a second they might say ‘may God be my witness that there was so little left and we used it for çiğ köfte (an appetizer prepared with raw meat and hot peppers) sorry.’ This sign can be seen hanging on the windows of many homes: Peppers are milled in this house. Peppers are important for the people of Urfa. Home made isot is appreciated more, but hard to make. Peppers are not to be purchased from anywhere and any pepper from any house is not to be eaten. The Grand Isot Bazaar serves to çiğ köfte. Just as the above written sentences do, all of their folk songs mention çiğ köfte.
Devine and peaceful
It has a divine atmosphere with the blessed fish eating in a peaceful lake, the cool mosques that the sun turns their stones into gold, the doves that fly around the minarets, the fragrant rose gardens, the prayers that echo on the walls of a cavern… Şanlıurfa is among the oldest settlements of Mesopotamia. It is one of the significant centers of both monotheistic and polytheistic religions. It is a city favored by all Muslims, Jews, Christians… One important reason that Muslims, Christians, and Jews visit Urfa is that according to these three religions, St. Abraham was born and lived in this city. Urfa, where prophets such as Eyyup, Şuayp, Elyasa had lived, is also known as “The City of the Prophets.”
Shutters open to an Ottoman tradition
It is an old tradition that each morning at 6 am, the shopkeepers gather at the Sipahi Bazaar’s gate and pray before rolling up the shutters. Once they are up, many bazaars that have centuries-old names such as İsotçu Bazaar, Gümrük Inn, Kürkçü Inn, Aşağı Bazaar, Tütüncü Bazaar, Kazzaz (Bedesten), Hüseyniye, Sarraç, Attar, Boyahane, Keçeci, and Kavafhane come to life; ironmongers, coppersmiths, second-hand electronic sellers, restaurant workers, bosses, labors begin to work. The Urfa Bazaar is an old Ottoman trade center. It is among the most famous ones of Anatolia with its interlaced bazaars, shops that are only a few square meters, old and faithful shopkeepers, and ambience.
The heart of the historical Urfa beats in Gümrük Inn, which is a 16th century caravansary. The men of Urfa who smoke their newly wrapped tobacco with pleasure on one side, the tourists, sitting on the stands of the coffee house, who are mesmerized by the exotic ambience on the other… This place is a kind of coffee house bazaar. They place the rosaries that can find buyers for up to one billion, made-in-Van silver tobacco boxes that their price goes up to 150 million, antique clocks, and rings on the stand next to the tea glasses and wait for buyers. The upstairs of the Inn is another world. Children stitch, young men press pants, everyone shares the eggplant kabob, which comes out of the oven hot, on the newspapers that are laid on the floor at lunchtime.
The copper is pounded under the light that leaks from the dusty stone structure. Shepherds and Arabs have abas made for themselves at Kürkçü Inn for protection from the cold. Also, tambourines made from kid leather, toys, and real drums are sold at this place. Workers weave rugs on stands. If you bring your own fabric, you can have a pair of pants sewn for you in a breeze at Kavafhane. Women stare the fancy velvets that are exported from Syria and Far East with admiration. The women that come from neighboring villages to shop in Urfa, which is located on the passageways that connect Anatolia and the Arabian Peninsula, draw attention with their face tattoos and their clothes made from Arabian silk.
An aviculturist means a real man
Most of the young and middle-aged men of Urfa play, sing, and chat during sıra nights that are organized alternately by one of them each week. One characteristic of the men of Urfa is that they usually walk looking up the sky. While they watch the pigeons that fly around the minarets in flocks, they have only one thing in their mind and it is to go home as soon as possible to fly their own birds. This is the incurable condition of Urfa. People say, ‘If you are not an aviculturist, you are not a man,’ around here. Boys grow up by buying and selling birds. When you walk through the feathers that float in the air, you realize that you’ve arrived in Aviculturist Bazaar. Doves are traded at the shops in here.
Urfa inch by inch
You must see the Ulu Mosque, the Şanlıurfa Castle, Halil-ul Rahman (Balıklıgöl,) the Rızvaniye Mosque, and Ayn Zeliha Lake during an Urfa tour. However, two key locations exist for the ones who want to see the town in its full meaning: the old streets and bazaars. You don’t run into the tourists who want to feed the sacred fish in here, but the ones who want to witness the history of Urfa. Walking around the inns that look ratty but full of spirit, mansions that were built with amazing masonry, and mosques, seeing trays of eggplant kabob that is cooked at the neighborhood oven or watching the birds that were freed from one of the rooftops are going to allow you witness a much significant Urfa. Then, you are going to realize that Urfa is a town that its peppers are hot, but its promises are sweet.
Bazaars are the spirit of Urfa; Gümrük Inn, İsot Bazaar, Kazzaz (Bedesten) Bazaar, Hüseyniye Bazaar, Sipahi Bazaar, Kürkçü Bazaar, and Aviculturist Bazaar.
Watching the landscape of the town with its mosques and lakes is worth climbing for 15 minutes to the Urfa Castle.
Stone and earthenware works from Neolithic and Bronze Age are displayed at the Archeological Museum.