Explore The Euphrates and Tigris basin
Harran’s enigmatic ruins exude tragic grandeur, dwarfing the beehive dwellings. Near the jandarma an artificial tumulus marks the site of the original settlement. Excavations are currently underway here by a team from Ankara University, revealing the remains of an Umayyad palace. North of the mound, and most impressive of the ruins, is the Ulu Cami, the first mosque ever built on what is now Turkish soil. Its substantial square minaret, originally built in the eighth century, was mistaken for a cathedral belfry by T.E. Lawrence when he passed through in 1909. The layout of the mosque, much re-built under the Ayyubid dynasty in the twelfth century, can be made out clearly, though only fragments of its structure survive relatively intact.
Village kids accost visitors, selling curious wall-hangings made from dried chickpeas and cloth, the more vociferous beg for money, pens or sweets. If you want to take pictures of the traditionally dressed girls, expect to part with some money for the privilege. Most speak Arabic (their first language), Turkish (learned in school) and often Kurdish.
The eleventh-century citadel, in the southeast corner of the old walled city, is possibly built on the site of the ancient temple of the moon god Sin. Three of its four polygonal towers have survived reasonably well, but take care scrambling around as there are several holes in the upper part of the structure.
Only practicable with your own transport (or as part of a tour organized in Urfa) are the sites of ancient Şuayb, northeast of Harran, a partially subterranean settlement dating back to Roman times, and Soğmatar, 65km from Harran. The centre of the Sabian religion (a development of the moon cult of Sin at Harran), the village here is ringed by seven circular hilltop ruins which once formed the Sabians’ temple and observatory complex.