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Şanlıurfa (Urfa)/Turkey

Introducing Şanlıurfa (Urfa)

Mystical and pious Şanlıurfa (the Prophets’ City; also known as Urfa) casts a spell on anyone who visits this great pilgrimage town, one of the greatest religious and historical sites in Turkey – it’s light years away from nearby Gaziantep in this respect. It also has a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour, courtesy of its proximity to Syria. Women cloaked in black chadors elbow their way through the odorous crush of the bazaar streets; moustached gents in şalvar (traditional baggy Arabic pants) swill tea and click-clack backgammon pieces in a shady courtyard; pilgrims feed sacred carp in the shadows of a medieval fortress… If you’re after touches of exoticism, you’ll be amply rewarded here. Urfa also has its share of the mundane – out on the highway the traffic is noisy and unruly, and the suburbs are disfigured by the ubiquitous concrete eyesores. Regardless of this, it’s a must-see for any vis­itor to the southeast.