Suitcase and World: Urfa. Visiting the Birthplace of Abraham.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Urfa. Visiting the Birthplace of Abraham.

Rizvaniye Mosque and Halil-ur Rahman Lake also known as Balıklıgöl or Pond of Holy Carp.

We arrived into the town of Şanlıurfa, more commonly known just referred as Urfa very late in the day. We would be spending the night here but we had one more place to visit before heading to the hotel.

Urfa is supposedly the birthplace of the Christian prophet, Abraham. To Muslims, he's called Ibrahim and as important prophet to them as he is to Christians. Thus, his birthplace is an important Islamic place of pilgrimage. I knew we were coming to see some pond of holy carp but beyond that, I had no idea what we were here to see. As much as I love to research the places I go to before I get there, sometimes, it's good to be blissfully ignorant because then I don't put pressure on myself to make sure I cover every single highlight that I've read about. I just get to wander and take in the sights as they unfold before me.

Abraham was born in a cave and over the centuries.  Today, an entire religious complex of mosques and madrassas surrounds the cave.  We were here to see part of the complex and to visit the cave.

Entering into Balıklıgöl

We started our visit at Balıklıgöl or Pond of Holy Carp.  There's a story behind the fish.  Supposedly, the pool is located on the spot where he pool is at a site where Nimrod, the grandson of Noah and according to some legend, the builder of the tower of Babel) wanted to burn Abraham as a sacrifice. God however intervened and turned the fire into water and the coals into fish, thus saving Abraham. Since that day, the fish have been deemed to be holy - it is prohibited to catch or eat them.

The Holy Pool of Carp; Halil-ur-Rahman Mosque on the right.

It had been cloudy all day and even though it wasn't all that late in the day, night was already starting to fall.  Not great conditions for taking photos.

Another view of the pool.

Halil-ur-Rahman Mosque

Popular place for photo ops.  Surprisingly, no one in our group stood in that spot to have their photo taken.

There was a man feeding the fish.  I guess that's not against the rules.

  He caused a momentary feeding frenzy.

Another view of Rizvaniye Mosque.

We walked alongside one end of the pool and made our way to a park.  

I took a few seconds to take some photos.  Call to prayer was happening.  I had to capture a snippet of it on video.

It was getting dark really quick.  Walking on the path that ran through the park, I really wished we had been here earlier in the day because we really couldn't see much of the green space.

Thanks to the site being lit up, we could see the two Corinthian columns that mark the ruins of an ancient fortress, high up on a hill overlooking the city.  We didn't have time to visit the fortress but I can imagine one would have a splendid view of the mosques and pool from that higher vantage point.

The walkway through the park was pretty dimly lit but Denis knew his way to take us to Mevlid-I Hali Mosque.  Adjacent to the mosque is the cave where Abraham was supposedly born.

Ablution fountain outside the mosque.
Entry to the mosque complex.

There was a prayer being called out over the loud speaker but I don't believer it was the call to prayer as that had been sounded out a short time back.  Every village, town, city has a specific monthly timetable for when the call to prayer takes place each so there is very little deviation between mosques call out.  Whatever it was that the man was singing felt, it made me feel like we were being welcomed inside.

The place was pretty empty as I presumed devotees were inside the mosque.  So for us, it was a nice time to be visiting the cave except of course, not a good time to be taking photos.  I don't like to use flash and I don't have a tripod with me so night photography is especially difficult for me.  

On the grounds of the mosque was a place called the Mevlid-I Halil Magarasi.  This is the structure that surrounds the cave.  The posted plaque told the story.

Sign above the entry to the cave.  If not for this, you wouldn't know where to go as the entrance is very discreet.

The small, discreet entrance to Mevlid-I Halil Magarasi is tucked away into the side of the courtyard.  Very modest for someone of Ibrahim's statue in Islam. The actual entrance is so low that you have to stoop to enter inside.

I believe this was deliberately done as a way to force pilgrims (or in our case, curious visitors) to essentially bow out of respect as they enter.  Once inside, men and women are divided into two lines with women on the left side and men on the right.  We had to take our shoes off before entering any further and for women, don headscarves.  I had brought my own along.

A lone woman in quiet prayer.

We entered into a small cavernous space.  From my perspective, this is what I saw.  A small pool of water with an indentation on the cave wall.  I'm guessing that's the cave where the birth took place??

Bro's view of the cave was very different - he had a more *head on* view.

After visiting the cave, we left for the hotel. I captured a few more photos of the Mosque on my way out. 

While I'm glad we managed to find the time to come to see the pool and the mosques and the cave, I really would have enjoyed exploring this place in daylight as so much of it was obscured by the dark. Perhaps a reason to come back one day!