• Beehive Houses

    Harran’s ingenious conical mud-brick structures, whose form may date from biblical times, provided shelter (and natural climate-control) to Harran’s families for generations.

Contemporary Harran is noted for its unique conical dwellings, known as “beehive houses.” From the outside, these clusters of windowless domes appear to be individual units; inside, however, the domes are linked together by vaulted arches, creating a surprisingly spacious (if labyrinthine) living space. This innovative architectural design can accommodate large, multi-generational families within a single structure, while still maintaining built-in partitions (the Kurdish nomadic tents, by contrast, are rectangular and admit very few interior divisions).

A similar type of structure may well have sheltered Abraham and his family in Harran. Although the present examples were built within the last two centuries, some speculate that their design dates from ancient times. Evidence for this theory can be found in the triumphal arch of Septimus Severus in Rome, which depicts scenes from his battles in the East with the Parthians (whose territory reached up to, and at times included, Harran). One scene on the arch portrays a dwelling structure remarkably similar to Harran’s beehive houses, providing evidence that the design may have continued largely unchanged through millennia.

This would make sense because, despite the apparent curiosity of the beehive design, the houses’ architecture is both eminently practical and ecologically sound. The conical design provides enough structure for the mudbrick dwellings that their roofs are stable despite containing no wood (a scarce commodity in the desert). Large stones, culled from the remnants of Harran’s many ancient structures, provide foundational support. The use of mudbrick in conjunction with the vaulted roof design keeps the interior of the houses remarkably cool, providing natural climate control on this sun-baked and shadeless plain. Harran’s beehive houses were inhabited up until the past decade. Today, they are protected as cultural heritage sites, with some converted into museum-like displays or shops.

Along the Abraham Path in the:

HARRAN REGION


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Sites in the Harran Region:

Harran

Deep in the dust of the uninhabited wilderness, a prosperous caravan city rose up, appearing like a mirage to early travelers like Abraham and Sarah. They made their home in Harran, which would become a world-renowned center for religion and learning.

Sogmatar

Deep in the barren hills of Anatolia near a remote village, seven temples adorn seven hilltops with rock carvings and writings dedicated to the sun, moon, and planets.

Jethro’s City

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Jethro’s City (Suayib Sehri), a former Roman town, is revered as the dwelling place of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. It is here that Moses met his wife, Zipporah, and received the staff with which he would part the Red Sea.

Karahan Tepe

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Buried under timeless hills, one of the first religious structures ever built by humans remains almost entirely a mystery.

Bazda

Head underground to probe the innards of a set of enormous caves carved out by a quarrying operation centuries ago.

Great Mosque

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The crumbling tower of Harran’s Great Mosque, visible from a distance, stands vigil over the ruins of one of Turkey’s first mosques and once-illustrious university.

Han al-Barur

A ruined medieval waystation reminds walkers that these quiet plains once hosted a busy trade route heading east from Harran.

Harran University

When the classical academies at Athens and Alexandria were closed down under Christian rule, Harran’s world-famous center of learning became a refuge for scholars from across the ancient world with over 8,000 students gathering here.