Şanlıurfa , pronounced [ʃanˈlɯuɾfa], often simply known as Urfa in daily language (Arabic الرها ar-Ruhā, Armenian Ուռհա Uṙha, Kurdish Riha, Syriac ܐܘܪܗ Urhoy), in ancient times Edessa (Έδεσσα in Greek), is a city with 561,465 inhabitants in south-eastern Turkey, and the capital of Şanlıurfa Province. It is a city with a primarily Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen population. Urfa is situated on a plain about eighty kilometres east of the Euphrates River. Urfa's climate features extremely hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters.
As the city of Urfa is deeply rooted in history, so its unique cuisine is an amalgamation of the cuisines of the many civilizations that have ruled in Urfa . Dishes carry names in Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, Syriac, and Turkish, and are often prepared in a spicy manner. It is widely believed that Urfa is the birthplace of many dishes, including Raw Kibbé (Çiğ Köfte), that according to the legend, was crafted by the Prophet Abraham from ingredients he had at hand.
Many vegetables are used in the Urfa cuisine, such as the "'Ecır," the "Kenger," and the "İsot", the legendary local red capsicum that is a smaller and darker cultivar of the Aleppo pepper that takes a purplish black hue when dried and cured.
Unlike most of the Turkish cities that use different versions of regular butter in their regional cuisine, Urfa is, together with Antep, Mardin and Siirt a big user of clarified butter, made exclusively from sheep's milk, called locally "Urfayağı" ("Urfabutter").
Places of Interest:
- The birthplace of the prophet Abraham – a cave to the south of the lake
- Urfa castle – built in antiquity, the current walls were constructed by the Abbasids in 814 AD.
- The legendary Pool of Sacred Fish (Balıklıgöl) where Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. The pool is in the courtyard of the mosque of Halil-ur-Rahman, built by the Ayyubids in 1211 and now surrounded by the attractive Gölbaşı-gardens designed by architect Merih Karaaslan. The courtyard is where the fishes thrive. A local legend says seeing a white fish will open the door to the heavens.
- Rızvaniye Mosque – a more recent (1716) Ottoman mosque, adjoining the Balıkligöl complex.
- 'Ayn Zelîha – A source nearby the historical center, named after Zulaykha, a follower of Abraham.
- The Great Mosque of Urfa was built in 1170, on the site of a Christian church the Arabs called the "Red Church," probably incorporating some Roman masonry. Contemporary tradition at the site identifies the well of the mosque as that into which the towel or burial cloth (mendil) of Jesus was thrown (see Image of Edessa and Shroud of Turin). In the south wall of the medrese adjoining the mosque is the fountain of Firuz Bey (1781).
- Ruins of the ancient city walls.
- Eight Turkish baths built in the Ottoman period.
- The traditional Urfa houses were split into sections for family (harem) and visitors (selâm). There is an example open to the public next to the post office in the district of Kara Meydan.
- The Temple of Nevali Çori – Neolithic settlement dating back to 8000BC, now buried under the waters behind the Atatürk Dam, with some artefacts relocated above the waterline.
- Göbekli Tepe – The world's oldest known temple, dated 10th millennium BC (ca 11,500 years ago).