The bus driver stopped at Gaziantep and I asked him if the bus was going to Sanliurfa, he nodded and I gave him twelve Turkish lira to stay on the bus. A last minute change. Reading the guide, I thought this would be a better place. It's smaller, the bus station is closer to the town centre and it's close to the Syria border.
The name of the city on the map is Şanlıurfa, which means Glorious Urfa. Locals just call it Urfa. In the ancient times it was known as Edessa, a town of northern Mesopotamia. The Turks associate it with Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. Many of the places in the town are linked to this story, like the two pools near the bazaar that are filled with sacred fish. It's said that touching the fish will make one blind.
At first glance, the guide led me to believe that there were a lot of sights to see here, there aren't. I was pretty disappointed when I got to the castle, there's really nothing left of it. It provides a view of the city, which looks much like the surrounding landscape; arid and dry. A huge change from the coastal towns I was very much getting used to.
My first impression of Urfa was a little disappointing, but as I made my way through the town and the local bazaar, that quickly changed. There is a lot more culture here and the people are so interesting and friendly. The town is more rooted in the past. I spent much of my time today browsing the bazaar, taking photos of shops and shop owners. The people seemed happy to be in the photos. The food here is excellent too and there seems to be many choices.
At the hotel I'm staying at I met a student who's learning English. He seemed eager to try speaking to me and offered me some tea and a sit down. I was happy to have someone to chat with. We sat in the lobby and talked for what seemed like an hour or so, often referencing the English-Turkish dictionary. I imagine our conversation would have been shorter had either one of us been fluent in each other's language. Still, it was a pleasant experience.
The guide mentions a touring company in the town, with an owner that speaks very good English. I eagerly made my way to the location and found it closed. Hopefully it'll be open tomorrow. I'd like to see what my possibilities are in terms of visiting the nearby Harran ruins and transportation for crossing the border into Syria.