Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fourth Day of Tour, Part 1: Harran, Land of the Prophets

Ruins of Great Mosque in far background
We departed the hotel in Şanliurfa around 09:00 for the one-hour drive south to Harran.  Once again we were very close to the Syrian border but nothing to cause concern.  It was almost uninhabited countryside filled with fields of cotton and a few cornfields.  Once again we were impressed with just how much cotton is grown in this region.  Another thing noticed is that here the men also work in the fields; not just the women as is common everywhere else we have seen in Turkey.  Cannot say if this is normally true for this area or if these are more Syrian refugees, in which case in desperation the men might perform work normally deemed just for women.  At any rate, the men are out in the fields here working alongside the women.  And some older children were also out there working.

Entrance to Aga's beehive compound
The countryside appeared to be high plains type area, all very brown rolling countryside, which blended into desert after passing hundreds of cotton fields and cornfields.  The wind was blowing fiercely the morning we were there.  I now understand why the women wear those headscarves.  The skin on my face felt raw. 

Us, enjoying tea in the shade

Harran is the place where supposedly Adam and Eve went when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  Harran is also where Abraham lived after he left his supposed birthplace in Ur (Şanliurfa).  Abraham and his son Isaac lived here for one year.  This is Old Testament stuff of the Bibles used by Christians, and is also believed in Islam. 

Interior courtyard of beehive house compound

All information provided after in the next 5 paragraphs is taken from memory of what our guide, Taş, told us during our visit to Harran.  I am not doing any research on this area but instead am relating what Taş told us.  He is thoroughly educated in these matters by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as are all the licensed guides in Turkey.  

The word Jazeera in Arabic means Mesopotamia.  Harran is Jazeera and is the Land of the Prophets.

Bedroom inside a beehive house
The first known university in the world was located at Harran.  Here the astronomer Al-Battani was the first person to calculate the earth's distance from the moon.  He also is regarded as the originator of science of the atom.  Here, also, studied Jabir ibn Hayyan'nin who is considered the inventor of algebra.  Today there is a brand new university built several miles away.  The residents of Harran are very proud that their town is the home to both the oldest and new.

Lounging room inside beehive house

The word 'harra' means journey; in Arabic it means 'fire'.  (A side note:  In August this area gets to 120F but I doubt the Arabic word referred to the temperature.)  The village of Harran was a main point on the main trade route between the Tigris and Euphrates used by the Syrian merchants as early as 1814 B.C.  The original inhabitants are believed to have been Armenians and Assyrians.

Child's room inside beehive house

Harran is where Crassius was captured while fighting the Parthians around 53 B.C.  Crassius was the richest man in the known world at that time and was not a nice guy.  His captors killed Crassius by pouring melted gold into his mouth.  I think we all have heard that story.

A dried goat skin was used as container to make ayran.
I did not quite understand the process but the Arabic
women would smile broadly and say "ayran" when
they walked into this room; then touch the goat skin
to make it swing.    I guess the movement has something
to do with the making of ayran.

There are over 180 mounds in this area.  The mounds are called tombs.  Not because these contain human remains (although they might), but because a mound is nature's method of entombing an ancient building or structure.  Over millennia Mother Nature blows sediment in the wind and causes layers of soil to build up to cover these ancient sites, often with 30-feet of soil or more.   It is impossible to excavate all these tombs or mounds.  There is a treasure trove of ancient information of which we yet know nothing.

Ruins of the mosque and minaret

A huge fortification was built at Harran, beginning around 1800 B.C., to enclose and protect the traveling merchants.  This castle had 4 1/2 kilometers (almost 3 miles) of 5-meter high walls (16-ft+).  In 744-750 A.D. the Great Mosque, or Harran Ulu Mosque, was built inside the castle walls.  The minaret was 33.3 meters tall (over 108 feet).

Bill and the Aga
Aga commenting on size of Tony's belly
When we arrived in Harran we were introduced by Taş to the local Aga (pronounced ah-gah).  In the Ottoman Empire an Aga was a military commander or official, but the word means more than that.  An Aga is the landowner; therefore, the landlord.  The Aga has complete control of the lands in this area.  I do not remember the Aga's name, but he was Arabic and a friendly guy to the tourists who had come to see the old-style beehive houses.  
AK-47 hanging on compound wall.  Unusable;
he won't be shooting anyone with this.

Various things found nearby & claimed.

Almost all of the people there today live in regular apartments and houses, but driving through the village we did see a few of the beehive houses still occupied.  The Aga and his wives, children and dozens of grandchildren do not live in the beehive house compounds.  They are too affluent to have to live in the old manner.

These beehive houses are exactly as these houses would have been thousands of years ago when Abraham and Isaac lived here for a year.  The beehives were constructed of sand and camel dung and there is no odor. Time has changed nothing in the beehive house compound which we toured except  for modern innovations such as beds and convenience items built for household use.  There are numerous beehive houses clustered together and joined by interior door openings (no doors).  Some are double-deep from the interior rectangle courtyard inside the compound.  There is a high wall encircling the adjoining beehive houses and the interior courtyard, sort of like a mini-fortress.  The beehive houses were use-purposed, i.e., storing and cooking food or sleeping or craft-working, etc.

'New' 200-yr-old beehive houses
The old beehive houses were built from camel dung and that is what we toured in the Aga's compound. The other (identical) conical houses found today throughout Harran village have a history of about 200 years and were built using bricks taken from the historical Harran site.  They are constructed on prismatic bases which are square or nearly square.  The domes are maximum 5 meters high (16.25 ft).  They were built with 30 to 40 rows of bricks and are quite spacious, providing coolness in summer and warmth in winter.  There is a smoke/ventilation opening at the top of the cone ceiling/roof.  These houses are quite suitable for the region.

French girl, serving tea in exchange for room and board
The compound was interesting but the people we met were far more interesting.  A young French woman and man were working there for a week in exchange for bed and board.  They had traveled through isolated areas much farther east (I believe in the country of Azerbaijan) and stopped here for a week before continuing to Istanbul.  Very adventurous souls.

Arabic woman and baby girl

But the ones we enjoyed most were a busload of woman, along with a few children, who arrived shortly after us.  

These women were of Arabic descent from the Turkish city of Şanliurfa where we had visited yesterday.  

Having fun
Beautiful cloth in their dresses

Age and youth

The Arabic women in this region of Turkey dress differently than the Turkish women.  The Arabic women wear much more colorful headscarves and sometimes very elaborate full-length full dresses, often with sequins and satins and velvets.  No all-black drab clothing for these women.  We later learned that once a woman has done haj (Islamic religious pilgrimage to Mecca that each Muslim should do at least once during their lifetime), then that woman normally switches to black clothing but usually still wears colorful headscarves. The change to black clothing is symbolic that she has accomplished her haj and that now life is supposed to be more sedate and calm for her.  
Ignoring us westerners at first
But that is not required by any means; it is a personal choice how one dresses.

Playing with grain mortar.  The Aga had to stop some of
the older woman because they were hitting it so hard that
he was afraid it might break.

They each took a turn.

Used to soften load on donkey

A camel saddle

Arabic women inside the courtyard

One of our group playing dress-up
Arabic women playing dress-up
They were a real hoot!  They were giggling and laughing and carrying on having a grand old time.  One of the beehive houses in this compound held many articles of clothing on pegs on the walls, which visitors were encouraged to try on for photos.  The Arabic women and girls had a ball with these clothes.  
More Arabic women playing dress-up.  They were very
excited about these clothes.  I wondered if the colors
or patterns had any special significance to them.

They also wanted their photos taken with some of us.  One of our group members was a very short woman with long blond hair.  The Arabic women especially liked having their photos taken with the short blond westerner.  Some of the smaller Arabic women wanted their photos taken with me; I guess because I was so huge standing next to them with tops of their heads barely reaching above my elbows.

Ruins of the ancient castle

After the beehive house compound the bus took us up the small hill to visit the site of the ancient city which had been inside the castle walls.  I got a real kick out of reading the signs describing the site.  Bill did not catch the tidbit that tickled me the most.  I wonder now how many of our tour group caught this little thing on the signs.  Every time a prophet or significant historical religious figure was named on the signs, that person's name was followed by "(pbuh)".  I am certain that translates to 'Peace Be Upon Him'.  I knew the Arabs believe that anytime one says the name of Mohammed that the name should be followed by saying "peace be upon him" but did not know that this practice should be observed when saying or writing the name of any prophet.  I thought it was just for Mohammed.  
(pbuh) Peace Be Upon Him
The wind was blowing so hard that I returned to the bus as soon as possible.  Walking around in that blowing sand did not appeal to Bill or me just to see the stone ruins.  We were ready to move on to our next destination -- Gobekli, which is so special that it deserves its own separate blog posting.
Tiny chairs.  Too low for my arthritic hip.
Margy and Tony of our group.  Arabic ladies
in background inside the beehive house compound.

This last photo is my favorite.  Baby girl and her mother, and I think the older woman on the right might be the grandmother.  She sometimes held the baby.

1 comment:

  1. The boat ride and tour of Harran sound great! Again, so much I never knew. So, if Adam and Eve arrived here after the Garden of Eden .... where's the Garden of Eden? =)


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