The history of Sanlı Urfa is recorded from the 4th century BC, but may date back to the 12th century BC, when there is ample evidence for the surrounding sites at Duru, Harran and Nevali Cori. It was one of several cities in the Euphrates-Tigris basin, the cradle of the Mesopotamian civilization. According to Turkish Muslim traditions Urfa (its name since Byzantine days) is the biblical city of Ur, due to its proximity to the biblical village of Harran.
Urfa is also identified as the birthplace of Abraham, which is commemorated by a mosque in the city, and as the birthplace of Job. According to the traditional, Nimrod had Abraham immolated on a funeral pyre, but God turned the fire into water and the burning coals into fish. The pool of sacred fish remains to this day.
Urfa was conquered repeatedly throughout history, and has been dominated by many civilizations, including the Ebla, Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites, Hurris, Armenians, Mittannis, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Macedonians, Seleucids, Arameans, Osrhoenes, Romans, Sassanids, Byzantines, Crusaders.
The old town has an ancient bazaar still visited by local people to buy fruit and vegetables, where traditionally dressed and scarfed Arab and Kurdish villagers arrive in the early morning to sell their produce. Much of the old town consists of traditional Middle Eastern houses built around courtyards, invisible from the dusty streets, many of which are impassable to motor vehicles. The old town is in contrast to the modern part of the city.
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