In Search of Prophet Abraham – the Cave

Turkey > Sanliurfa

February 2013

It’s a beautiful start to an exciting day here in historical Urfa, located in southeastern Turkey, just 50km from the Syrian border …

… and we are in search of Abraham, a major prophet revered in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He’s said to be the father of the Arabs and the Jews, born out of his two wives.

From our balcony I can discern our query for today — the cave where Prophet Abraham was believed to have been born some 4,000 years ago. They say it’s somewhere at the bottom of that rocky hill in the middle of the picture. Of course I have heard of two other places as contenders for his birthplace — in present-day Iraq and Iran — but I believe Urfa has the best claim to this honour!

A typical breakfast of the locals — breads, potatos, veggies, eggs, and of course glorious olives — washed down with thick tea.

We exit the hotel, cross a rather busy street, and slightly to the right, the grand entrance to a major mosque with a beautiful forecourt.

The towering minaret of the mosque looms above me.

And yes, this is the ancient Hasan Padisah Mosque, built in the 15th century, on a site of an older mosque built a hundred years before.

We pass through the main entrance to the courtyard of Hasan Padisah Mosque.

It’s a beautiful cool morning, and I spot a grand-looking door across the courtyard. Could that be Abraham’s spot?

But I am in no hurry, as I gaze at this wonderful courtyard. There’s no crowd yet, and the birds outnumber the humans. The golden door seems to lead to a passageway that goes into the rocky hill.

I move closer, and sure enough, Abraham’s Cave!

I enter the beautiful wooden door, and see a low entrance straight ahead and a normal one to the right. I’m pretty sure the sacred cave is right ahead, but I need to check out what the right entrance is for.

Well, it’s a prayer hall, attached to the cave.

I retreat and enter the small door, to find Abraham’s Cave, protected by a tough glass wall. At first I thought I was looking at an aquarium, until I discern cave structures beyond the glass. There’s a man cleansing himself for prayer.

I stand at the corner and watch, as the Turks come, do a short prayer, and leave. They seem to like to pray in this confined space, which they believe is sacred. So this is where, some 4000 years ago, Abraham was born while his mother was hiding from the pagan King Nimrod … or so they believe.

Soon more people arrive and the cramped cave gets crowded, so I decide to leave and stand outside, still watching the pilgrims. There are two doors, to separate men and women. Legend has it that evil King Nimrod dreamed a boy born here would end his reign, so he ordered all male babies born that year to be killed.

Abraham’s mother managed to hide her pregrancy and fled to this rocky hill where she found a cave to give birth to him in secret. Only when Abraham was seven years old, did the mother leave the cave to live in the village.

Again we spend more time in the pleasant courtyard, reflecting on the legend of Abraham’s Cave, which figures strongly in all the major faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In all these faiths, the theses of the stories remain the same, though the specifics might differ: Abraham against evil pagan ruler Nimrod, who tried to burn him to death.

I take a better look at Hasan Padisah. Almost 600 years old and still looking great. Most of these structures can last a very long time … as long as there’re no bad earthquakes, the bane of ancient buildings.

One final view of the courtyard before we leave. The weather has indeed been glorious, which is great for photography.

We exit via a secondary gate and out into the garden.

A bit of orientation helps — our next destination, the sacred Balikligol, the Fish Lake, another popular item related to Abraham and Nimrod. The sign also says ‘Ayinzeliha Lake’ — the lake of Zeliha, daughter of Nimrod, but that’s another story.

Beautifully-manicured gardens grace this complex of historical cum religious sites in Urfa. Definitely the stuff legends are made of, or stuff of real historical facts — it’s difficult to say … especially for events which happened thousands of years ago, but then that’s why it’s called faith. Just believe!



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