In Search of Prophet Abraham – the Damlacik Hill

Turkey > Urfa

February 2013

After the long walk in the maze of the bazaars, we take a lane out, which goes uphill to the top of Damlacik Hill, where Urfa Castle is. Before that we actually took a wrong turn and ended up in the shanty-town just behind the hill. It was quite an experience walking among decrepit homes of poor people, but that’s another tale.

Atop the rocky hill of Damlacik, lies the ancient castle or fortress of Urfa, first built thousands of years ago. Rebuilt by the Greeks, Romans and Christians, the present walls are remnants of the Abbasids’ renovations in early 9th century.

There’s also an old cemetery next to the castle, with typical tall tombstones favoured by these people.

From this vantage point, one can have a commanding view of Urfa — the market and Old Urfa down below — and further into the horizon to the east, the parched landscape which leads to a tributary of the famed Euphrates River.

This is the view northwards. Right below the hill, the religious precinct associated with Prophet Abraham, with his cave somewhere underneath the spot we are standing right now. Next to the cave, the 15th c. Hasan Padisah Mosque, whose minarets are very prominent, and whose wailing azan (call to prayer) is bewitching.

The old quarter of Urfa stretches away from the foot of Damlacik, to be replaced with more modern structures of the newer Urfa further afield. This is the Land of the Prophets — locals claim close associations with at least eight of them: Noah (Nuh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Jacob (Ya’akub), Job (Ayub), Joseph (Yusuf), Lot (Lut), Elyasa (Ilyasa’), Jesus (Isa).

They have turned this spot into a very pleasant and scenic recreational area. You can even bring your dog here, and yes, these ancient Muslims are not averse to dogs at all. 🙂

It is said that Prophet Abraham was thrown from atop this hill by a catapult or something, into the huge raging bonfire down below. As the legend goes, he landed where the Fish Lake is now, and that’s somewhere near the minaret of Rizvaniye Mosque, seen here hundreds of metres away, right between the rocket-like minarets of Hassan Padisah. Are the people during Abraham’s time some sort of giants?

To the west Urfa ends at the foothills. The city radiates northwards from here, and behind the hill, there is a shanty-town, which we actually explored before reaching this hilltop — not a pleasant area. 🙂

In the afternoon in winter, the sun is behind the hill, so it’s a pleasant stroll down the hill via the well-laid footpath.

We get closer to the impressive dome of Hasan Padisah, built late 15th century during the White Sheep Turkomans rule (1378-1501).

Much to our delight, the descent is full of alfresco coffee and shisha shops. Pretty good life they have here!

The mosque loudly belts out the azan for Asar prayer, but the hip crowd just keep on with their merry-making.

The restaurants are embedded inside the numerous caves lining the path — the same cave system as Abraham’s I guess.

The path ends at the beautiful garden between the mosque and the Fish Lake.

Another close-up view of Hasan Padisah Mosque, pre-Ottoman era.

At the bottom I gaze up at the castle cum fortress. What a delightful stroll it has been.

The gardens and lawns around the mosque are full of picnickers.

Large drains carry water from somewhere to Zeliha and Fish Lakes. Fresh clear water with fish, not sacred ones I suppose.

Just past the mosque, a more modern bazaar, connected to the old bazaars we explored earlier.

Colourful headwear for the ladies is one very popular merchandise.

We return to the hotel, and as the sun sets I return to Hasan Padisah for the Maghrib prayer.

It’s not really a quiet sunset as hundreds of birds are busily flapping around finding their homes for the night.

They say there are almost 40 historical mosques in the Urfa area, dating from the 7th century: most built as mosques, others converted from churches and temples. Hasan Padisah was built in the 15th c. by White Sheep Sultan Uzun Hasan. The White Sheep Turks ruled Urfa before the Ottoman took over in early 1500s. The White Sheep Turks were said to be fanatical Sunni Muslims, and spoke Azerbaijani.

The entrance to the mosque is flanked with wooden lockers for your shoes. Make sure you remember your number.

The interior is decidedly Ottoman, who ruled Urfa for more than 400 years from the early 1500s.

The arches supporting the cupola of the dome is very much typical of Ottoman’s design.

Intricate artwork of the cupola.

The minbar is a bit smallish.

The congregation builds up and we soon do our Maghrib prayer. These people are Sunnis and their prayer is very similar to the style adopted by Malays.

I leave the mosque and return to the hotel. We still have another mission outstanding before we call it a day.

Sabariah has been reading about this Urfa dessert called ‘sillik’– it’s an identity of Urfa and is normally prepared for special occasions — so we just have to have it! After a few phone calls by our ever-obliging front desk guys, they found a restaurant just down the road with sillik on the menu. We stroll to the restaurant, and present ourselves at the appointed time.

And in no time, we have our silik — it doesn’t look great but the taste is totally divine!

We totally agree with somebody’s description — “crepe-like, filled with walnuts, rolled and then doused in sugar water and pistachios”. It is totally awesome! If you ever get to Urfa, do search for sillik, you won’t regret it, this “Special Sanliurfa’s Pastery”.

After the sillik experience, we walk back to the hotel, past the familiar sights of Rizvaniye Mosque, the Castle, Hasan Padisah Mosque and everything in between. It has been a wondrous and memorable day here in Old Urfa, with a huge dose of spirituality and thousands of years of real history thrown in.





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