This site is an outcome of the Comenius 2008-2010 multilateral project "European Journey Through Legends".

"Becoming more European does not mean forgetting our national cultural heritage, but sharing it with other European nation".

The Legends from Urfa


With its millennia-old past, its traditional fabric and its living traces of ancient legends, Urfa is a city that represents the history of civilization...

“More than three thousand years ago, far away in the distant east, in Mesopotamia, God spoke to a man who was living with his flocks: ‘Leave your land, your father and your family and go to the land that I will show you” . So begins the story of Abraham, Father of Prophets, in the book of Genesis. Abraham, of the lineage of Noah, who came with his father Terah from the city of Ur to settle in Harran, set out from here for the ‘Promised Land’ of Canaan.


Ur, one of the earliest cities of Mesopotamian civilization, is situated near Basra at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. But it harbors in its history several more cities of the same name. The place in northern Mesopotamia known to the Aramaic tribes as Urhai, in other words today’s Sanliurfa, also appears in certain sources as the ‘Ur’ of ancient times. While it is not known to which place the Ur in Genesis refers, one thing is certain: Urfa is a very old city, touched and hallowed by many prophets, with living traces of ancient legends, a vital traditional fabric, and a history stretching back thousands of years, a city that has opened its arms to a wide variety of cultures. And religions, too, of  course...

The celebrated 17th century Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi describes the city as follows in 1650: “Urfa is one of the oldest cities to have been founded since the time of Noah and the Great Flood, the work of a ruler by the name of Rohai from the tribe of Semud (Semito-Aramaic). It was in this city that Nimrod tossed the Prophet Abraham into the fire. During Roman rule, Jesus came here and descended on a church, which they therefore they call the Church of the Messiah.” Together with the many holy places visited by Muslims, Christians and Jews along the pilgrimage route that has run since the oldest times to Mecca and Jerusalem, Urfa is truly, as is claimed, a ‘City of Prophets’.

There are lots of legends about Sanlıurfa as it is in every historical city. According to inhabitants of the city, all these legends are as true as history itself. Besides, Lives of the prophets that are believed to have lived in that area has become the subject of many legends. According to these legends, Harran plateau was the first place Adam and Eve first stepped on earth. Prophet Abraham also was born here and broke the idols of the false Gods and because of this he was thrown to fire. Prophet Job showed his patience towards his illness in this area and was buried also here after he died. The holy handkerchief of Prophet Jesus Christ was also kept in here. It is also the hometown of prophet Moses, suayb, Jacob and Elyesa. Lastly, Urfa is blessed by Jesus Christ, that’s why Sanlıurfa is called as City of Prophets.

Legends from Sanlıurfa

King Nimrod

Long times ago there lived a king named Nimrod. He was really cruel against people and disobedient to God.He was thinking himself superior to God. Because of this, God informs him that he will send him mosquitoes which are the weakest animals on earth to prove him how weak he is also. Even if Nimrod tries to fight with his big army, the mosquitoes defeats all of them by entering the eyes, ears and noses of soldiers and animals. Nimrod hardly closes himself to his room and hides by closing the door, the chimney and all the holes to prevent mosquitoes entering the room.

Upon beg of a lame mosquito as “My God, I couldn’t come for fight on time because of my lame leg. God tells him “Don’t worry, I will give you the honor of defeating Nimrod, go find him”, then this mosquito finds Nimrod and attacks him by entering the room through the key hole. Entering Nimrod’s nose it starts to eat his brain. Nimrod tries to find remedies to get rid of the mosquito. He first orders his men to hit his head with a sledge hammer which is made of felt, when it’s not enough he orders them to hit with wooden ones, as a result he dies.

Halil-Ür Rahman and Aynzeliha Lake

Nimrod is a very cruel ruler. One day he has a dream and asks for its interpretation. When he learns that one of the boys who will be born at that year kill him, he orders all the kids who will be born to be killed. Nimrod’s soldiers start to kill all the kids, however Abraham’s mother Sara escapes and hides in a cave, when Abraham is born she leaves him there and turns to her house. A female deer feeds him there. One day Nimrod’s soldiers find him in the cave and bring him to Nimrod. Nimrod who hasn’t got a son likes him and takes care of him. When Abraham sees Nimrod’s cruelty and his forcing the people worshiping to false Gods, he says these idols that are made of human cannot be God and share his ideas with people; however the people cannot say anything with the fear of Nimrod. In a ceremony day, when everybody leaves for it, he takes an axe and crashes all the idols except the biggest one, and put the axe in front of the biggest idol. When he was asked who is responsible from this, he says “as you can see the axe is in the hands of the biggest idol, that must be him who is responsible”. Upon hearing Abraham’s words, Nimrod shouts as “how can a piece of Stone do it” Then Abraham says “That’s what I want to tell you, if they even cannot protect themselves, how can it possible them to protect you from bad things.

The King decides to throw Abraham into the fire to show everybody how he punishes the ones who are against the authority of him. But on the day of execution, when Abraham was thrown from the castle, the fire turns into water and the woods burning turns into fish. Once more, the one who is right wins the fight.

Since then, the Pool of Abraham and the carp that live in it have been considered sacred; the Pool of Aynı-Zeliha is said to have been formed by Zeliha's  zears and it is said that anyone who eats them will be struck blind.


The past of “Çiğköfte” goes back to Abraham’s period. According to the legend, when Nimrod ordered his man to collect all the woods and forbade lighting a fire even for cooking, the inhabitants thought what to do. A wife of a hunter made a meal called çiğköfte by mixing some meat, bulghur and isot ( special kind of vey hot pepper) Her husband likes this meal which is prepared by not cooking the meat and it comes to our very day.


The houses, which are entirely closed off to the outside world behind high walls, also determine the character of the narrow streets, where legend continues to light the way in an urban texture that exudes a medieval atmosphere. Such as, for example, the legend of the cave where the Prophet Job lay ill for seven years and the well where he was finally restored to health. One of the most fascinating sites from the legends recounted in the ancient sources is the Ulu Cami or Great Mosque dating to the 1170s in the Zangid period.

This mosque, where the tomb of Seyh Ebubekir, a celebrated saint of the 17th century, is also located, was built over the former Church of Saint Stephan, known as ‘the red church’ for its red marble columns. This church, conspicuous with its columns and bell tower, today a minaret, is synonymous with the legend of ‘Black Abgar’, the first king to recognize Christianity after receiving Christ’s handkerchief. According to the story, which is well known in the Christian world, Abgar V  (ruled 13-50 A.D.) from the dynasty of the Aramaic kingdom known as Osrhoene which was founded in Urfa between 132 B.C. and 244 A.D., was suffering from leprosy; he hears that Jesus can heal people, so he writes a letter to Jesus, inviting him to Urfa. Sanctifying the king and Urfa, Jesus sends him a handkerchief with which he had blotted his face. Imprinted with Jesus’s visage, this sacred textile fragment heals the king.


We arrived in Mardin in the afternoon. We stood in front of the city. I looked amazedly at the stone houses lining in front of the castle. I was in front of a city completely different from all I have seen before. It was as if every lane and piece of marble had a legend. Past and present became one. Legends are everywhere in Mardin.

There are many renowned shrines in Mardin. Apart from the inimical Ulu Cami (The Great Mosque ) there are monasteries for Assyrians. Deyrulzafa-ran, Mort Gabriel in Midyat and many important monasteries and chapels in villages are all unique specimens of marble work. Ulu Mosque and also Zinciriye Madrash are magnificent buildings...

Ulu Mosque’s minaret is the symbol of the city... It is right in your eye at every point... Zinciriye Madrasah on the top, Ulu Mosque at the bottom. When tying the symbols in your mind to each other, an ancient legend appears in front of you... Years ago, there had been a chain between Zinciriye Madrasah and Ulu Mosque. The two holy buildings were tied to each other. Why were they tied to each other? Their holiness strengthened each other. This tie protected the city. This tie really had a charm. It protected the city from malice. Especially the humans... The snakes, scorpions scattered in the city under the summer   heat collided this charm and fell down. No scorpion bit any human being. The scorpions of Mesopotamia are as big as a human hand. Their poison makes the human being turn black and die. When this chain broke, the charm also broke and the scorpions became very happy.

Another impressing legend is about Kasımiye Madrasah; Sultan Kasım who has such a great masterpiece is executed by Timur. His sister in great distress takes the blood on the ground and scattered it all over the walls. Even if scientists tell that it’s henna rather than blood, people prefer to believe that it is blood of Sultan Kasım and symbolizes the grief in the heart of the sister

Another legend is about the prince of Babylon, as the story goes, he falls in love with the princess living in Mardin. He elopes the princess from Mardin to Babylon. However, the princess was unable to keep her mind away from Mardin. She was not able to forget the pieces of grapes and their unimaginable green hue...She was unable to taste neither grapes nor wines any longer. The princess became ever more pallid and unwell with each passing day because of her yearning beyond any measure. The prince pining at this morbid state of affairs then decides to have the same grapevines in Mardin to be planted in Babylon also. The princess was not being satisfied with the newly grown vineyards, since she had a yearning for the grapes and juice of Mardin. Finally, the prince had earthen pipes laid from Mardin to Babylon. Thereupon the grape juice of Mardin began to flow to Babylon.

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