Along with the Tigris, the Euphrates defines the region of Mesopotamia – one of the cradles of agriculture, city-building, writing, and other hallmarks of human civilization. The river’s shores have been inhabited since the earliest days of humanity. Together with iconic early cities like Eridu and Ur, a number of ancient kingdoms arose along the Euphrates: Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and many more.
The river flows out of the northern mountains past the Nemrut and Urfa regions and continues onto the broad desert plains of Mesopotamia, where it makes its way over a thousand miles more before joining with the Tigris to flow into the Persian Gulf. While its highland headwaters receive rain and snow that feed the river’s flow, its lower reaches are arid; here, the river creates a green ribbon through the dry plains. It was this water source that allowed agriculture and cities to arise along the Euphrates millennia ago; even today, the river is a key source of drinking and irrigation water, essential to life in the region.
Dividing Mt. Nemrut from the Urfa region is a massive lake formed on the Euphrates River by the Ataturk Dam, a construction intended to collect water for irrigation and generate hydroelectric power. On the Abraham Path’s route through the Harran Region, one can see the infrastructure in place to accomplish these goals – a dense network of canals bringing water into the Harran Valley and the surrounding hills to irrigate cotton fields and other agricultural areas.
The creation of the lake drastically altered the landscape and required the relocation of thousands of people. The rising waters also submerged numerous historical sites, including Samosata, the former capital of the Commagene Kingdom.