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Coat of arms of Şanlıurfa
Şanlıurfa (Turkey)
Red pog.svg
Basic data
Province (il) : Şanlıurfa
Coordinates : 37 ° 9 '  N , 38 ° 48'  E Coordinates: 37 ° 9 '30 "  N , 38 ° 47' 30"  E
Height : 477  m
Residents : 2,073,614 (2019)
Telephone code : (+90) 414
Postal code : 63,000
License plate : 63
Structure and administration (as of 2019)
Mayor : Zeynel Abidin Beyazgül ( AKP )
Template: Infobox Location in Turkey / Maintenance / District Without Inhabitants Or Area

Şanlıurfa [ ʃanˈlɯuɾfa ], also simply called Urfa ( Arabic الرها ar-Ruhā , Armenian Ուռհա Urha , Kurdish رها Riha , Aramaic ܐܘܪܗܝ Urhoy ) and known by its ancient name Edessa , is the provincial capital of the Turkish province of Şanlıurfa with over 2 million inhabitants. Since the last territorial reform, the city has been a Büyükşehir Belediyesi (city municipality) and is therefore identical to the province in terms of area and population. The city is called Peygamberler şehri Şanlıurfa ("glorious city of the prophets Urfa").


In Syriac the city was called ܐܘܪܗܝ / Urhoy . The Seleucid ruler Seleukos Nikator renamed the place in Hellenism in Édessa, after the Macedonian city ​​of the same name ; his descendant Antiochus IV. Epiphanes called them Antioch Kallirhoe, but this name did not prevail. As a Roman colony it was officially called colonia Antoniana Aurelia Alexandria (under Macrinus temporarily colonia Opellia Macriana ) and received the rank of metropolis, but the name Edessa remained much more common in Greek and Latin sources. Even in the Middle Ages , Urfa was known as Edéssa by the Franks , while Syrian authors continue to call Urhay or Orhay. The Ottomans also adopted this name .

In 1983 the city as well as the province, which until then were only called Urfa, were given the title şanlı (in German “glorious”). According to the official interpretation, the name affix is ​​intended to remind of the region's resistance to the French occupation in the Turkish war of liberation . As a result, the last remnants of the Christian population (Armenians and Arameans) in the province disappeared. However, apart from official documents, the name Urfa is still more common today.


Şanlıurfa is located in southeastern Turkey and is the capital of the province of the same name. Geographically and historically, the city belongs to northern Mesopotamia . Its population has grown significantly since the beginning of the 21st century.

Urfa is located around 80 km from the Euphrates and around 40 km from the Turkish-Syrian border in the northwest of a fertile plain that is surrounded by mountains in the west, north and east. To the southeast lies the Harran Plain . Three brooks flow through the city, Karakoyun, Dschalzak and Siren, whereby the course of the Karakoyun must have already experienced a reallocation in Roman times, as can be seen from the city maps by Carsten Niebuhr from 1766 and Helmuth von Moltke from 1838. The bazaar in Urfa is well worth seeing and is considered the largest in the Middle East after that of Aleppo .

Urfa lies at the crossroads of old trade routes. An east-west connection ran from Persia and Nisibis to a ford on the Euphrates near Samsat and the Mediterranean coast, a north-south connection went from the Anatolian highlands and Diyarbakır to Harran and Syria . The city has its own airport , which is served by Turkish Airlines , among others , and connects Urfa with Ankara and Istanbul. The nearest national airport is Diyarbakır Airport, around 180 kilometers northeast .

Climate table

Şanlıurfa, Eyyübiye (550 m)
Climate diagram
J F. M. A. M. J J A. S. O N D.
Temperature in ° Cprecipitation in mm
Source: State Meteorological Office of the Turkish Republic, normal period 1981-2010 ; wetterkontor.de (humidity)
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Şanlıurfa, Eyyübiye (550 m)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 10.3 11.8 16.7 22.6 29.0 35.1 39.0 38.5 34.1 27.0 18.2 12.1 O 24.6
Min. Temperature (° C) 2.5 3.0 6.4 10.9 16.0 21.3 24.9 24.4 20.4 15.1 8.4 4.3 O 13.2
Temperature (° C) 5.9 6.9 11.1 16.4 22.5 28.5 32.2 31.4 26.9 20.4 12.6 7.5 O 18.6
Precipitation ( mm ) 76.7 70.3 63.9 40.9 26.2 4.2 0.9 1.2 4.1 27.7 50.2 67.5 Σ 433.8
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 4.0 4.9 6.2 7.6 9.8 11.9 12.0 11.1 9.6 7.5 5.5 3.9 O 7.8
Rainy days ( d ) 11.4 11.0 10.5 9.6 6.6 1.7 0.3 0.3 1.0 5.3 8.7 10.4 Σ 76.8
Humidity ( % ) 71 66 60 53 43 31 27 29 33 41 58 67 O 48.2
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec



Near the city is the Göbekli Tepe with presumably sacred Neolithic rock formations from around 10,000 BC. Chr. ( PPNA and PPNB ). Their discovery in the 1990s was an archaeological sensation; The German Archaeological Institute is currently digging here. Finds of similar age come from the city of Urfa itself. It is unclear when there was continuous settlement.

In the Urfa bazaar

The oldest part of the city is located in the Yeni Mahalle district north of the famous Balıklıgöl . During road construction work in 1997, several layers of settlement were exposed here. During rescue excavations by the universities of Şanlıurfa and Harran, the oldest layer was identified as pre-ceramic Neolithic .


It is believed that Urfa is identical to the Hurrian Urschu, which dates back to 2000 BC. Is mentioned in Sumerian, Akkadian and later in Hittite cuneiform texts. Ephrem the Syrians keeps the legend that King Nimrod founded the city. According to Islamic tradition, the city was also the birthplace of Abraham , who, according to biblical tradition, was born in neighboring Harran . 1370 Urschu was by the Hittites under Suppiluliuma I. conquered. After the end of the Hittite Empire, Urschu belonged to Karkemish .

The city was conquered by Alexander . For reasons of power politics, Seleucus I established a new foundation under the Macedonian name of Édessa. The founding date is usually 303 BC. Chr. Indicated. The city had a right-angled street network with square walls and gates that were oriented towards the cardinal points. The castle hill was only partially within the city walls.

After the fall of the Seleucid Empire , the independent small kingdom of Osrhoene emerged around Edessa , which later became the world's first Christian empire due to the alleged baptism of King Abgar by the apostle Thaddäus . The (partly unhistorical) list of kings can be found in the chronicle of the Syrian Archbishop Dionysius of Tell Mahre . The vast majority of researchers today consider the reports about the very early Christianization of Edessa to be a legend that originated in late antiquity . Edessa became known at that time through the allegedly first Christian King Abgar V, who, according to legend, corresponded with Jesus Christ through his secretary Hannan and is associated with the first Christian icon, an image with the radiant face of Jesus . This (unhistorical) legend originated in the 4th century and became very popular. For the first time in the 6th century the variant is documented that Jesus not only sent Abgar a holy image of himself, but also a letter in which he guaranteed the king that Edessa would never be conquered by enemies. Bardesanes von Edessa, the first philosopher who wrote in the Syrian language and also mentions Buddha, lived at the court of Abgar. His coins show him with the tiara; on the reverse the image of the Roman emperor. It can be assumed that under him Christianity began to play a role; In 201 the first Christian church was destroyed in a flood; the heyday of the Edessa school soon began, and towards the end of the 4th century, the pilgrim Egeria described the churches in the city where the “mandylion”, the “portrait of Christ” was kept.

Under Roman domination, the city initially retained its independence. Pompey confirmed Abgar (II.) Of Edessa after 67 BC. In his office. According to Plutarch , this then seems to play an important role in the defeat of Crassus in 53 BC. To have played. After that, Edessa and the Osrhoene became a dependent Parthian client kingdom under their own princes. In 49 AD Abgar (V) is mentioned in Tacitus (Annals XI, 12) as "King of the Arabs".

When Emperor Trajan was in Antioch in 114 , the King of Edessa, also named Abgar, brought him gifts, including over 200 horses. But as early as 116 Abgar fell away from the Romans and the city was destroyed. Trajan's successor Hadrian had to vacate the area again and installed a Parthian prince as ruler over Edessa in 117. A little later the Osrhoene belonged again firmly to the Parthian sphere of power. In 123 a local dynasty came to power under Manu (VII.). Up to 160 there were no coins that could be used to prove a "Kingdom of Edessa". The oldest coins are from King Wael bar Sahru (163–165), who was used by the Parthians. A coin has survived from King Manu VIII (139–163, 165–176 / 9) showing him with the tiara. In 165, during a renewed Roman-Parthian war, the city rebelled against the Parthians and opened the gates to Roman troops, the ruler became a Roman client king; but the emperors still refrained from annexation.

Edessa had long competed with the cult of the moon god Sin in nearby Harran . The worship of the goddess Taratha was significant . Another code of law from the Bar Daisan school from the 3rd century reports that men in Edessa were castrated in honor of Taratha. On the other hand, under the tolerant King Abgar VIII (176 / 9–212), of whom a large number of coins have been preserved, the first Christian churches are said to have been built. According to later tradition, the alleged bones of St. Thomas (Mar Tuma) were brought into the city around 233 AD and buried in the main church.

In 194 Edessa rebelled against the Romans and was then subjugated by Emperor Septimius Severus . Abgar IX. (212–214) followed his predecessor to the throne for a short time. However, the new emperor Caracalla had him deposed and killed, ended the rule of the Edessen kings and made the city of 214 the Roman colonia and the capital of the Roman province of Osrhoene . However, there also seem to have continued to exist local princes; so an Edessen phylarch named Abgar moved to Rome with his family in 243. Abgar (X.) minted the last coins under Emperor Gordian with the Greek legend Abgaros Basileus ("King Abgar").

In 260 the Romans under Valerian were defeated by the Persian Sassanids under Shapur I near Edessa , the emperor was taken prisoner.

Late antiquity

Late antique Edessa was still the seat of the Roman governor, owned a mint, had a cosmopolitan upper class and was a center for long-distance caravan trade in luxury goods. Trade relations between Edessa and India have existed since ancient times. Therefore, cultural contacts between the Orient and Occident took place to a great extent, and the heavily fortified city also flourished economically.

During the late antiquity was Edessa an important religious and intellectual center for the Syrian-Roman East, even if the " Persian School of Edessa " 489 to pressure the Roman emperor Zenon was closed (the lecturers migrated into the Persian Sassanid Empire lies Nisibis off). Especially in the 6th century the city was fought over between the Eastern Romans and the Persians; During this time, the Abgar legend, which Eusebius of Caesarea had mentioned 200 years earlier , was developed and the alleged image of Christ protecting the city was first mentioned (see above). In 544 a large-scale siege by the Persian Sassanid king Chosrau I failed . As early as 525, large parts of the city had been destroyed when the Daisan River overflowed its banks. The emperors Justin I and Justinian I had extensive construction work carried out, which is why the heavily fortified city, now called Iustinopolis , was often able to withstand the Persians before it was finally conquered under Chosrau II around 608.

middle Ages


In 630 the Persians returned Edessa to the Eastern Romans. But in 638 the city fell into the hands of the Arab Muslims , despite the promises of the Abgar legend . so ended the ancient history of the place. Edessa fell back to Byzantium in 1052. But after 1071, the Armenian adventurer Michael Apokapes took control. He was followed - after a brief interlude by Leon Diabatenos - in 1078 by his son Basileios , who took the city on behalf of the former Byzantine Kuropalate Philaretos Brachamios . Thoros , an officer of Philaretos Brachamios, succeeded him around 1090. This was able to withstand attacks by the Seljuks , but in 1097 crusaders of the First Crusade called for help and finally adopted their Count Baldwin of Boulogne . When Thoros was assassinated in 1098, the Crusaders took control and made the city the capital of County Edessa . The Armenian monk Matthias von Edessa, who was living in Edessa at the time, reported in detail on this .

In 1144 Edessa was conquered by the Seljuk Atabeg Zengi from Aleppo , most of the civilian population was killed. This marked the end of Edessa's great time. The smashing of the crusader state Edessa should be the reason for the ultimately unsuccessful Second Crusade .

In the following centuries the city was conquered by the Mongols and finally by the Mamelukes .

Modern times

In 1637 Edessa was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and renamed Urfa. At that time the city was a trading center for cotton , leather and jewelery . In 1830 the city came briefly under the control of the Egyptian governor Muhammad Ali Pasha .

In 1895 there were pogroms against Armenians and Syrian Christians by special units of the Sultan Abdülhamid II (the so-called Hamidiye ) in the south and east of Anatolia. According to the British consul Fitzmaurice stationed there, over 3,000 people who had sought refuge in the Armenian cathedral were burned alive in Urfa . The religious note of the pogroms in Urfa was particularly pronounced when a sheikh, citing his religion, killed around 100 male small children. Depending on the estimate, between 5,000 and over 8,000 people were murdered in Urfa.

Johannes Lepsius set up several charitable institutions in the city for the survivors of the pogroms. From 1903 they were led by the Danish missionary Karen Jeppe , who made a name for herself as the savior of numerous Armenian refugee children from the genocide during the First World War , when several hundred thousand Armenians were driven through Urfa on death marches into the Mesopotamian desert in 1915/16 . In 1917 Jeppe left Turkey due to illness and continued her work in 1921 as the official representative of the League of Nations in neighboring Syria . As early as 1915, the city's Armenian quarter was destroyed by Ottoman artillery, with officers from the German Reich, which was allied with Turkey, instructing the gunners. It came to Urfa Resistance .

The British occupation of Urfa in March 1919 brought six months of peaceful and rapid reconstruction. Their replacement by French troops, however, was already accompanied by expressions of disapproval from the Muslims. The French were subsequently driven out of the area by the Turkish nationalist forces.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, Urfa has been able to benefit greatly from the economic upswing that was triggered in particular by the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) in south-east Turkey.

In the course of the Syrian civil war from 2011 onwards, Şanlıurfa developed into a transit station for jihadists from all over the world who are smuggled across the border into Syria. At the same time, the place became the target of around 350,000 war refugees from Syria.

Founding myths

As the founder of the city, Ephraim the Syrian , who equates Orhay with the biblical Erech , names the Assyrian king Nimrod . This is taken up by Isidore of Seville , among others . Jacob of Edessa then equated Nimrod with Ninos , the son of Belos , who is mentioned by Diodorus as the founder of Nineveh . Two 17-meter-high columns with Corinthian capitals on the Citadel Mount Urfas are popularly called the Throne of Nimrod . Bar Hebraeus names Enoch , "whom the Greeks call Hermes Trismegistus ", as the founder of the city. According to another Syrian tradition, Urfa was founded by Orhay, the son of the snake (Hewya).


Pond of Abraham with sacred carp at the Halil Rahman Mosque
Mevlid-i Halil Mosque

Şanlıurfa is the fifth holiest site in Islam and an important place of pilgrimage, as Abraham (Ibrahim) and Job (Eyyub) are said to have lived here. In accordance with ancient oriental Christian and later Islamic tradition, Abraham was born here, his presumed birth cave is venerated and is an important pilgrimage site. So Şanlıurfa is also associated with the Old Testament city ​​of Ur .

A central site of the Islamic pilgrimage site Şanlıurfa is the Halil Rahman Mosque and the pond of Abraham with sacred and inviolable carp, which is part of the complex . Legend has it that God saved Abraham, who was about to be burned at a stake , by turning fire into water and lumps of embers into carp.

The Christian community of Edessa has always claimed to be particularly old and venerable. After the (historically very questionable) baptism of King Abgar V. Ukama and many residents of his kingdom, it is said that the first Christian churches were built in Edessa. Abgar V is also said to have ordered that anyone who castrated himself in honor of Taratha should have his hand cut off, whereupon this custom became extinct. The mandylion is said to come from this time , a cloth that shows an image of Christ and, according to legend, was sent to the king by Jesus himself. This image, which first became historically tangible in the 6th century and was brought to Constantinople at that time, is considered by some to be the first Christian icon . According to another Christian tradition, the Apostle Thomas , one of Jesus' disciples, was the founder of the Syrian Church in Edessa. According to this tradition, his bones were transferred from Parthia or India to Edessa and buried there. Ibas von Edessa had a church built for his relics.

Edessa School

The first significant Christian author in Syriac-Aramaic was Bardesanes of Edessa at the turn of the second century, to whom the book of the laws of the countries goes back. Edessa developed early into a center of theological learning in particular . In particular, Syrian or Aramaic Christianity had an important center in this city with its famous theological school. One of many famous teachers was Ephrem the Syrians , and the East Aamean dialect of Edessa soon became the language of Syrian literature. The city was a center for Melkite (Chalcedonian), Jacobite (Monophysite) and Nestorian (East Syrian) Christians, in which several bishops officiated side by side at times. One of the most famous was the historian Jakob von Edessa († 708); Melkit Theodor Abū Qurra († around 830), one of the earliest Christian thinkers in the Arabic language , was also born here .

The late antique Edessa was then a center of Christian as well as non-Christian learning. In the 4th and 5th centuries Edessa was an important center of Nestorian Christianity and then passed through Mar Ephrem the Syrian to the beliefs and teachings of the Syrian Church. The Christian school of Edessa flourished since the later 4th century, so that many well-known teachers of the Syrian churches learned and taught there, such as the well-known poets Jacob von Serugh , Mar Narsai and the bishop and poet Mar Rabbula . In the fifth century, Edessa was the seat of the famous Christian school under Bishop Ibas of Edessa († 457), which was then closed under Emperor Zeno in 489. As a result, many of the teachers emigrated to the neighboring Sassanid Empire and founded the school of Nisibis there .


The Şanlıurfa Archaeological Museum on Çamlık Caddesi displays a rich collection of archaeological finds from the area, including from Harran , Göbekli Tepe and Nevalı Çori . It is involved in the excavations of the German Archaeological Institute in Göbekli Tepe.

Transport and infrastructure

In addition to the existing bus network, a network of trolleybuses is being set up. A total of four lines with a total length of 78 km are to be built. The first section was opened in autumn 2018. It is 7.7 km long, but only has overhead lines on half of the route, the double articulated buses have batteries for the overhead line-free sections.


See also


  • Jakob Künzler : In the land of blood and tears. Experiences in Mesopotamia during the World War (1914–1918) . 2nd Edition. Chronos, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-905313-06-5 (eyewitness report on the Armenian genocide by the Swiss lay missionary and head of a hospital in Urfa, who worked in Urfa from 1899–1922).
  • JB Segal: Edessa. The Blessed City . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1970, 2005, ISBN 1-59333-193-2 .
  • Wilhelm Baum: King Abgar bar Manu (approx. 177–212) and the question of the “Christian” state of Edessa, in: The Christian Orient and its environment. Ges. Studies in honor of J. Tubach (= Studies in Oriental Religions 56). Wiesbaden 2007, pp. 99-116

Web links

Commons : Şanlıurfa  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Sanliurfa  - travel guide

Individual evidence

  1. Şanlıurfa Nüfusu. nufusu.com, accessed April 13, 2020 (Turkish).
  2. Bahattin Çelik: An Early Neolithic Settlement in the Center of Şanlıurfa, Turkey in NEO-LITHICS 2 + 3/00 - The Newsletter of Southwest Asian Neolithic Research
  3. Segal doubts this representation.
  4. Thomas S. Asbridge: The Crusades . 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , pp. 215 .
  5. Deborah Mayersen: On the Path to Genocide: Armenia and Rwanda Reexamined . Berghahn, New York / Oxford 2014, ISBN 978-1-78238-284-3 , pp. 45 ( google.at ).
  6. Hans-Lukas Kieser: The missed peace: Mission, ethnicity and state in the eastern provinces of Turkey 1839-1938 . Chronos Verlag, Zurich 2000, ISBN 978-3-905313-49-9 , p. 233 .
  7. Hans-Lukas Kieser: The missed peace: Mission, ethnicity and state in the eastern provinces of Turkey 1839-1938 . Chronos Verlag, Zurich 2000, ISBN 978-3-905313-49-9 , p. 234 .
  8. David Gaunt: Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I . Gorgias Press, Piscataway (New Jersey) 2006. ISBN 1-59333-301-3 , p. 267
  9. Alfred Hackensberger: Schleusersystem: How jihadists get into the land of terror. In: The world . January 14, 2014, accessed March 10, 2018 .
  10. [1] metro-report.com from October 19, 2018 (English) accessed on October 26, 2018