Mesopotamia. Land between the great fertile valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Often referred to as the Cradle of Civilisation.
We are buzzing, skirting the Syrian border, and eventually we will have crossed both rivers. Aleppo is just 100k away from Urfa. Iraq and Iran are nearby.
Kurds live in this area carved apart by lines drawn on a map somewhere far away, split now between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and at times by their own internal struggles. Some groups are designated as “terrorists”.
“Arabs” are here too and deserted Assyrian churches tell a silent tale. Languages mix in and over each other, as do cultures and histories.
In 1963, an unsuspecting survey of the land near Urfa found a possibly neolithic site, Gobekli Tepe. In 1995, excavations began. Circles of T-shaped stone pillars are slowly being revealed, calculated to date from 9,500 BC. That’s 6000 years earlier than Stonehenge! The site is said to “change everything” in terms of our understanding of human activity at that time.
Not far away lie the ruins of an ancient mosque and “university” at Harran, dating back to the third millenium BC. Harran is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. Mentioned in Genesis in the Bible with Abraham visiting a few years around 1900 BC, scholars here translated texts on astronomy, philosophy, natural sciences, and medicine from Greek to local languages. Mud beehive houses hark back to the past and two camels stand ready for tourist photos.
In the Bazaar, you can watch the bread being kneaded, the copper being patterned, the leather being worked into saddles, … all by hand, in small dark shops under arches of old. All just as it has always been.
Kids play football and tell me their name is “Arsenal”, oblivious to the incredible walls and history around them.
We are all small. We live together. Borders do not limit language, culture, nationhood or hopes for a homeland. The Cradle keeps rocking…
…and wow what a place to visit!
For more photos of Mesopotamia and Harran, click here.