Suayib Sehri, the City of Jethro, holds the stark ruins of a Roman town, tucked among the modest dwellings of Ozkent village. This was evidently once a large and impressive settlement– the site is littered with enormous cut rocks from earlier walls and structures, although most are fallen and weathered, several great stone arches remain standing. Located 30km east of Harran, the site belonged to the well-travelled routes linking Han al Barrur and Sogmatar. These ancient paths have long vanished, and today the ruins of Suayb Sehri stand in remote forlornness. Yet the legend that associates this place with Jethro, considered a Prophet of Islam, is far from forgotten. Among the marble ruins are various small caves, one of which holds a shrine devoted to the prophet Jethro. In this cave-shrine are much-used ritual objects: prayer rugs, tespih beads, hand-sewn talismans in colorful fabrics, and Islamic prayer calendars still maintained up to date.

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, plays an important supporting role in the story of Exodus. The Hebrew Bible records that Moses, after fleeing Egypt, spent 40 years in the desert working as a shepherd for Jethro (foreshadowing of the 40 years he would spend leading the Israelites through the desert to Canaan). During this time he met Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah, at a well. She became the wife of Moses and the mother of his two sons. Local legend also holds that at Suayib Sehri, Jethro gave Moses the rod that he would later use to part the Red Sea.

Although the origins of the myth linking Jethro to Urfa are hazy, the story holds suggestive thematic resonances with Urfa’s other prophetic legends. For instance, the legend is one of several tales that link Urfa to Biblical genealogy through marriage (and through betrothals that take place at wells, such as Jacob’s Well). Furthermore, the site’s association with Moses’s rod recalls stories of other holy artifacts that are said to either originate in or pass by way of Urfa (such as the Mandylion of Christ and the Cross of Varak).

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.

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.

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.

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.