Where to Visit in Sanliurfa

Sanliurfa Province or simply Urfa Province is a province in southeastern Turkey. The city of Sanliurfa is the capital of the province which bears its name. The area of the province is 18,584 km2 and its population was officially estimated at 2,143,020 as at 31 December 2021. The province is considered part of Turkish Kurdistan and has a Kurdish majority with a significant  Arab and Turkish minority.

Sanliurfa province is divided into 13 districts (capital district in bold), listed below with their populations as at 31 December 2021 according to the official government estimates: Urfa (The former Central district, which in 2014 was split into three districts: Eyyübiye (386,852), Haliliye (392,661) and Karaköprü (252,151)). Akçakale (120,834), Birecik (94,608), Bozova  (53,878), Ceylanpınar (89,871), Halfeti (41,663), Harran (94,207), Hilvan (42,766), Siverek (266,971), Suruç (101,178), Viranşehir (205,380)

Area 18,584 km2 (7,173 sq. miles), the largest province of Southeast Anatolia with: Adıyaman Province to the north, Syria to the south, Mardin Province and Diyarbakır Province to the east, Gaziantep Province to the west. Sanliurfa includes several major components of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (in Turkish Güneydogu Anadolu Projesi (GAP)) designed to: exploit the hydropower potential of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; dramatically expand irrigation for agriculture; and develop the economy of the region.

This very large-scale, state-sponsored development project involved the damming, redirecting, hydroelectric tapping and other use of rivers in this broad, semi-arid region. (The rivers then flow into Syria and Iraq). The GAP includes 22 dams and water supply for 1.8 million hectares for agricultural areas.

Sanlirfa region is characterized by a semi-arid Mediterranean climate. Rainfall mostly comes in winter, when the temperature is mildest; summers are very hot and dry. Annual mean precipitation is 458.1 mm.: 192  The annual mean temperature is 18.5° C. The coldest month is January, which has an average temperature of 2.7° C, while the hottest month is July, with an average temperature of 39°C. The dry season typically begins around April, peaks in intensity around July, and ends around October. Wind typically blows from the northwest, with west-northwest winds being the strongest.

The area around Urfa and Viranşehir, and continuing towards Mardin further east, is the driest part of a “desert-like steppe” region in southeastern Anatolia.This area is characterized by vast plains as well as “low and broad hills [that] come [one] after another”. As one approaches the Syrian border in the south, the climate gets drier due to less rainfall and it becomes more desert-like. In some areas, however, water from karstic sources makes things greener.

The plant life of this southeastern steppe region is less diverse than the steppes of central and eastern Anatolia because the dry season is longer here. Perennial xerophytes like AstragalusVerbascumPhlomisCentaurea, and Cirsium predominate. In some sheltered valleys, though, pockets of Mediterranean flora still exist – remnants of what was once a more widespread distribution prior to a climactic shift in the region sometime in the past.

Most of Sanliurfa province consists of Cenozoic formations. Calcareous formations are predominant on the Fatik plateau, west of the Urfa-Harran plain, and in the Tektek Mountains to the east of the plain. Among these are vast Eocene deposits north and west of Urfa, as well as younger Oligocene-Miocene deposits on the Tektek and lower Fatik plateaus. There are also basalt deposits, dating from the Pliocene-Quaternary periods, just north of the city of Urfa itself. These are associated with the Karacadağ Formation. These basalt deposits are generally covered by just 5 to 10 cm of soil deposits; in some places, though, there is thick enough topsoil for agriculture. On the Harran plain, more recent alluvial deposits from the Quaternary period predominate.

Agriculture is the largest economic sector in Şanlıurfa province. As of 2000, 43% of the province’s GDP is in agriculture, 40% service, 11% industry, and 6% in construction. The total GDP is $1.85 billion USD.

As of 2000, the province has a population growth rate of 30.9%, which is well above the national rate of 14.9%. Average household size in the province is 6.87 people, which is above the national average of 4.5. About 42% of the province’s population lives in rural areas and 58% in urban areas – a somewhat lower rate of urbanization than the country as a whole, which is 65% urban. The average per capita income is $1,300 USD annually. The province has a low literacy rate – especially among women, who are only 52% literate in the province compared to 80% nationwide. The province also has high out-migration.

Şanlıurfa province has the highest population of Syrian refugees in Turkey. There are an estimated 350,000 to 400,000 Syrian refugees in the province, including some 80,000 living in 4 refugee camps. The presence of large Kurdish and Arab populations in the province means that there is less of a language barrier for Syrians in Şanlıurfa province than in other parts of Turkey, and the similar cultural and religious values make the province a more comfortable setting for many migrants as well. As a result, tensions between locals and refugees are somewhat lower in Şanlıurfa province than elsewhere.

Employment for Syrians is concentrated most heavily in the construction, retail and wholesale, and agricultural sectors.Syrian labor is desirable for many employers because they are willing to work for lower wages than locals. For example, while mechanized cotton harvesting is an option for farmers, it is cheaper for them to hire Syrian workers to pick cotton by hand. Competition between Syrian and local seasonal farm workers has contributed to tension between the two groups, as the influx of Syrian labor has driven local farm workers to migrate to other provinces for seasonal farm work.

Şanlıurfa province has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Turkey. According to TÜİK, there were 955 marriages of girls under the age of 18 in Şanlıurfa province in 2021, which was the second-highest in the country behind Gaziantep.

The famous çiğ köfte belongs to the culinary traditions of the city and was unknown to the rural population until 1980s.   Tırşik is a traditional dish of the rural population within the province.

The province is famous for its Abrahamic sites such as Balıklıgöl, where Prophet Abraham was cast by Nimrod into fire that is believed to have turned to water. Also the Mevlid-i Halil Mosque, where Abraham is believed to be born in the cave next to the mosque is well known. Within the province, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa, is the pre-historic site of Göbekli Tepe, where continuing excavations have unearthed 12,000-year-old sanctuaries dating from the early Neolithic period, considered to be the oldest temples in the world, predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years. The following tombs and sacred spots are located within the province: Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham)’s birthplace, Prophet Ayyub  (Job)’s cave and tomb, Prophet Alyasa (Elisha)’s Tomb, Imam Bakir’s Tomb, Shaykh Hayat al-Harrani’s Tomb, The first burial place of Said Nursi, Rahma Hatun’s Tomb, Neolithic Temple at Göbekli Tepe, Neolithic Settlement at Nevalı Çori.

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Harran, located in the Sanliurfa Province, the ruins of the ancient city of Harran date back to the 3rd millennium BCE when the area was a cultural, religious, and commercial center. From the Early Bronze Age to the Early Christian period, get to know the fascinating story of this ancient city that continues to stun […]


Gobeklitepe, THE TEMPLE THAT CHANGED THE TIMELINE OF CIVILIZATION: SANiIURFA GOBEKLITEPE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE, THE STARTING POINT IN HISTORY Gobeklitepe, which is not used as a settlement and serves only as a temple, entered the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018 with its amazing monumental architecture. Year 2019 was announced as “2109 Göbeklitepe Year” in Turkey. Even […]

Sanliurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum

Sanliurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum or Sanliurfa Museum (Turkish: Şanlıurfa Müzesi) are located in the south-eastern city of Şanlıurfa (also known as Urfa), Turkey. The museums contain remains of Şanlıurfa (known as Edessa in antiquity), Göbekli Tepe, Karahan Tepe, Harran (another ancient city which lies 44 kilometres (27 mi) southeast of Şanlıurfa), findings from the Southeastern Anatolia Project and ruins found in the hydroelectric dam reservoirs of Atatürk Dam, Birecik Dam and Karkamış Dam. Both museums […]

Balikligol – Pools of Abraham

Balikligol – Pools of Abraham, Halil-Ür Rahman Lake, is a pool in the southwest of the city center of Sanliurfa, Turkey known in Jewish and Islamic legends as the place where Nimrod threw Abraham into a fire. Balikligol – Pools of Abraham and neighbouring Aynzeliha pools are among the most visited places in Sanliurfa. Balikligol – Pools of […]