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Visiting Harran and Making New Friends

Traveling around Turkey by car, you get to see so much more than you would from a tour bus, but driving in Turkey isn’t for everyone. On our trip south we had visited Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, and now were excited to visit the small ancient village of Harran.

We drove about one hour south of Sanliurfa, and very close to the Syrian border. Harran is well-known for its beehive houses, which have been inhabited for somewhere between 100-200 years. 

The City of Beehive Houses

Made out of mud and hay, the houses have a conical-shaped roof that does look quite different than any other Turkish home. Walking into the village from our parking area, we passed some fenced in ruins. 

Beehive Houses with trailer.
There are many inhabited houses in Harran.

The informational sign told us that we were stumbling past the oldest Islamic University in history, complete with the first mosque and its square tower. Harran’s landscape consisted of the same sandy soil, the almost barren countryside with a wealth of sheep and goats that wandered the hillsides.  We also noticed turkeys and donkeys, and children, lots of children. 

Once we entered it, we were surrounded by these enigmatic dwellings and the curious people who live in them. According to the guide books, Harran is full of touts, and sure enough, we had just entered the town and there were some boys trying to direct us and others that tried to be our guides. 

Men sitting in front of museum offering guiding services.
Men sitting in front of museum offering guiding services.
Children play in an iron stand.
Children play in an iron stand. These stands protect the children and keep them off of the dusty ground.

To Get a Guide or Not

They kept telling us that it was at least a one kilometer walk, but they knew the way to drive and we should follow them.  In their defense, though, once I told them we were not interested (in a somewhat stern voice), they thanked us and went on their way. 

Touts they were, persistent…not so much. Of course, they were just the beginning, after we started walking there were plenty of children with good luck hangings to sell, and they were even more as we made our way to the castle that wanted to be our guide. 

A local woman with tribal tattoos on her face.
A local woman with tribal tattoos on her face.

An Invitation for Tea

Again they were not very persistent and the one little girl, Herece, could speak enough of about five languages to tell us a little about the castle and the town.  Even though I persisted that I would not give them any money, she and a bunch of others followed us all around and finally even invited us to her house for Turkish tea.

One Turkish woman cleaning a rug.
Laundry and house cleaning is arduous work.

When we got there, though, we realized that her parents were not at home.  Her sister (16) made the tea for us on a one burner propane burner.  It took forever for the water to boil and meantime we were being entertained by Herece’s little brother.

When the water finally boiled, we realized that magically some cay glasses had appeared. I think they borrowed them from their “aunts” that showed up a few minutes later all gussied up and ready to have their photos taken.  

Little girl coming into her house.
One of the girls in the family that invited us into their house for tea.
Young Turkish woman making tea.
Young Turkish woman making tea.

We enjoyed the cay and the conversation and took some wonderful photos.  Like many tourists before us, we went to see the beehive houses, but ended up having a wonderful cultural experience instead.

At one point, the little boy named Muhettin offered a rose to one of our friends.  It was too cute.  Of course we made lots of noises and he got tons of attention, so once it started to wan a little, he took the rose from her and gave it to Jim.  We all had a good laugh, and we promised we would visit again bearing the photos from this visit.

Woman with purple scarf.
A local woman who invited us in for tea.

What to do

  • Harran Kültür Evi – a model beehive home
  • Kale (fortress)
  • 8th Century Mosque

How to Get to Harran

Leaving Sanliurfa, take route 99 south. It is a main road into Syria, but you won’t be going quite that far. Drive 30 kilometers and you will seen the sign to turn to Harran (Altınbaşak). It’s another 8 km. to the village. You can enter the village and park anywhere. There are no fees.

Where to Stay

There really is nowhere to stay near the village. Instead, plan to stay in Sanliurfa for a couple of nights and make Harran a day trip.


We did return to Harran as we promised with photos in hand. This time Herece’s mother and father were home. As before. we were welcomed in and offered tea. They were thrilled to have photos of their family and of course we had to take even more. Don’t be afraid to be open when people invite you to do things. It will be a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.