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The mosque built on the site where prophet Abraham is believed to have been born.
Şanlıurfa is located in Turkey
Location of Şanlıurfa within Turkey.
Coordinates: 37°09′N 38°48′E
Region Southeastern Anatolia
Mayor Ahmet Eşref Fakıbaba (SP)
Governor Celalettin Güvenç
Elevation 518 m (1,699 ft)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 63x xx
Area code(s) 0414
Licence plate 63
Şanlıurfa, pronounced [ʃanˈlɯuɾfa], often simply known as Urfa in daily language (Kurdish Riha, Arabic الرها Ar-Ruhā, Syriac ܐܘܪܗ Urhoy, Armenian Ուռհա Or'ha), in ancient times Edessa, is a city with 482,323 inhabitants (2009 estimate) in south-eastern Turkey, and the capital of Şanlıurfa Province. It is a city with a mixed Kurdish, Turkish and Arab population. Urfa is situated on a plain about eighty kilometres east of the Euphrates River. Urfa's climate features extremely hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters.
The city has been known by many names in history: Ուռհա Or'ha in Armenian, ܐܘܪܗܝ Urhai in Syriac, ره, الرها, Ar-Ruhā in Arabic and Ορρα, Orrha in Greek (also Ορροα, Orrhoa). For a while it was named Callirrhoe or Antiochia on the Callirhoe (Ancient Greek: Αντιόχεια η επί Καλλιρρόης). During Byzantine rule it was named Justinopolis. Prior to Turkish rule, it was often best known by the name given it by the Seleucids, Εδεσσα, Edessa.
Şanlı (from Arabic shan (شأن) "dignity" + Turkish adjectival suffix -lı) means "great, glorious, dignified" in Turkish, and Urfa was officially renamed Şanlıurfa (Urfa the Glorious) by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1984, in recognition of the local resistance in the Turkish War of Independence. The title was achieved following repeated requests by the city's members of parliament, desirous to earn a title similar to those of neighbouring cities 'Gazi' (veteran) Antep and 'Kahraman' (Heroic) Maraş.
The history of Şanlıurfa is recorded from the 4th century BC, but may date back to 9000 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 of the Chaldees, due to its proximity to the biblical village of Harran. However, some historians and archaeologists claim the city of Ur is in southern Iraq, and the true birthplace of Abraham is still in question. Urfa is also known as the birthplace of Job.
According to tradition, 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, Armenians, Hurri-Mitannis (Armeno-Aryans), Assyrians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Macedonians (under Alexander the Great), Seleucids, Arameans, Osrhoenes, Romans, Sassanids, Byzantines, and Crusaders.
The city of Edessa
Main article: Edessa, Mesopotamia
In the Byzantine period Edessa was a powerful regional centre with churches, schools and monasteries.
The age of Islam
Islam first arrived in Urfa around 638 C.E., when the Rashidun army conquered the region without a fight. Islam was then established permanently in Urfa by the empires of the Ayyubids (see: Saladin Ayubbi), Seljuks and Ottoman Turks. In March of 1098, the Crusader Baldwin of Boulogne established the County of Edessa. The city remained in Christian hands until 1144, when it was captured by the Turk Zengui who had most of its inhabitants slaughtered together with the Latin archbishop (see Siege of Edessa). By the end December of 1145, a Second Crusade was launched to recapture the city, but failed in this objective. Subsequently, Urfa was ruled by Zengids, Ayyubids, Sultanate of Rum, Ilkhanids, Memluks, Akkoyunlu and Safavids before Ottoman conquest in 1516.
Under the Ottomans Urfa was a centre of trade in cotton, leather, and jewellery. There were three Christian communities: Assyrians, Armenian, and Latin. According to Lord Kinross, 8,000 Armenians were massacred in Urfa in 1895. The last Syrian Christians left in 1924 and went to Aleppo (where they settled down in a place that was later called Hay al-Suryan "The Syriac Quarter").
The First World War and after
In 1914 Urfa was estimated to have 75,000 inhabitants: 45,000 Muslims, 25,000 Armenians and 5,000 Syrian Christians. There was also a Jewish presence in the town, most of whom fled to Istanbul, Egypt and other countries.
While the Ottoman Empire was engaged with the German and Austro-Hungarian empires in a battle against the British and tsarist Russians, Urfa was hit by the Young Turks' Armenian Genocide and Assyrian Genocide in 1915 and 1916, after 1915 Armenian uprisings favouring the anti-Ottoman Russian Empire. Over 40 % of Urfa's population, mostly massacred Christians but also Kurdish and Arab Sunni Muslims and Turkish soldiers, was lost. At the end of World War I, with the Ottoman Empire defeated, and European armies attempting to take over various parts of Anatolia, first the British and then the French occupied Urfa for incorporation into the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon. They found the town nearly without any Christian pre-war inhabitant left alive. The British occupation of the city of Urfa started de facto on 7 March 1919 and officially de jure as of 24 March 1919, and lasted until 30 October 1919. French forces took over the next day and their uncomfortable presence, met by outbursts of resistance, lasted until 11 April 1920, when they were defeated by local resistance forces (the new Turkish government in Ankara not being established, with the National Assembly declared on 23 April 1920).
The French retreat from the city of Urfa was conducted under an agreement reached between the occupying forces and the representatives of the local forces, commanded by Captain Ali Saip Bey assigned from Ankara. The withdrawal was meant to take place peacefully, but was disrupted by an ambush on the French units by irregular Turkish and Kurdish Muslim forces at the Şebeke Pass on the way to Syria, leading to 296 casualties among the French, and even more among the ambushers.