The highway crosses the Euphrates River at scruffy BIRECIK, 40km from Gaziantep. The endangered bald ibis, a relative of the stork, once nested wild here but is now confined to a breeding station, 1km north of town on the east riverbank. Birds are released into the wild every year, but so far none has migrated back. Storks themselves are ubiquitous both here and elsewhere in this region, best seen in spring and summer occupying their nests atop electricity pylons, telegraph poles and minarets.
Birecik’s castle, founded during the eleventh century, was a frontier outpost for the Crusader state of Edessa. In ruins now, both it and its entourage of old houses backed into the cliff-face are best seen from the west bank of the Euphrates, where the pleasant Kıyı Restaurant stands in shady grounds right on the water’s edge.