Urfa is a city roughly 80 km east of the Euphrates River. The site has been inhabited since prehistoric times, but the ancient city of Edessa was founded in 304 BCE by Seleucus I Nicator. Edessa became the capital of the Nabataeb Abgar dynasty and eventually a Roman client state, and then a Roman Province. The city’s position near a border meant that it was frequently conquered. Urfa was ruled by a succession of dynasties before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516. The city was also home to a small but ancient Jewish community.
A cave to the south of the Ayn Zeliha Lake is said to be the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, and the Balikligöl is legendary Pool of Sacred Fish where Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod. The pool currently lies in the courtyard of the Halil-ur-Rahman mosque. Urfa castle was built in antiquity, but its current walls were built by the Abbasids in 814 CE. The city is also home to a number of beautiful mosques, including the Great Mosque of Urfa (1170 CE) and traditional Turkish baths. Now underwater behind the Atatürk Dam, the Temple of Nevali Çori is part of a Neolithic settlement dating to 8000 BCE.