In the southeast of Turkey, about 28 miles south of Sanliurfa (once called Edessa), lies the city of Harran. The ancient city of Harran was located on the west bank of the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates, in Northern Mesopotamia. The river has long since dried up, although it still has water semiannually in Syria. Harran’s location was a major crossroad for primary trade routes from Mesopotamia to the west and the northwest. The city was an important trade center in ancient times. It appears to be named after its geographic function. Harran is derived from the Sumerian or Akkadian harranu which means road or caravan. The Bible refers to Harran as Paddan-aram which is Aramean for highway. The city of Harran was believed to have been founded around 2000 BCE as a merchant outpost of Ur. The Bible records that Abraham stayed in Harran after leaving Ur, which some claim was actually Edessa (modern Sanliurfa). Beginning about 2000 BCE, Harran’s name was mentioned in a variety of historical accounts as one of the most prominent cities of Northern Mesopotamia. However, very scarce information regarding the earliest period of its history has survived. A number of excavations have revealed early Bronze Age materials that support the existence of Harran during this period. The name of Harran first begins to be mentioned in the Mari Archives (around 1760 BCE). Some documents detail practices such as adoption and inheritance similar to those found in the Genesis accounts. Reports in the royal letters from the city of Mari on the middle Euphrates indicate that the area around the Balikh river was occupied in the 19th century BCE by semi-nomadic tribes, who were especially active in the region near Harran. According to the letter correspondence between the Assyrian King Shamsi-Adad I (1812-1797 BCE) and his son Ishme-Adad, Harran was also once a vassal kingdom of Assyria, the farthest outreach of the Assyrian Empire.
I stayed in Şanlıurfa when I visited southeastern Turkey. Şanlıurfa, or in ancient times, Edessa, is a city in southeastern Turkey, and the capital of Şanlıurfa Province. The Holy Carp complex, locally known as the Balikligol, is the ritual and symbolic center of Urfa, a site of pilgrimage and healing that spans many centuries and faiths. The history of Şanlıurfa is recorded from the 4th century BC, but may date back at least to 9000 BC, when there is ample evidence for the surrounding sites at Duru, Harran and Nevali Cori. The city was one of several in the upper Euphrates-Tigris basin, the fertile crescent where agriculture began. 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. Şanlıurfa is known as the city of prophets such as Jethro (Hz. Suayp), Job (Hz. Eyup), Elijah (Hz. Elyasa) and Abraham (Hz. Ibrahim) lived in this city, which in ancient times known as Edessa, and Moses (Hz. Musa) lived in the region for seven years working as a shepherd before returning to Egypt with his staff. It was in Sanliurfa that early Christians were first permitted to worship freely, and where the first churches were constructed openly. Pagan temples were converted to synagogues, synagogues to churches and churches to mosques, resulting in a uniquely eclectic architecture.