Urfa/Sanlıurfa: For Archaeology: Gobekli Tep

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Turkey  , Sanliurfa,
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I returned to Urfa expressly to revisit the archaeological dig site of Göbekli Tepe. My first visit was in May of last year (2008). This was my writing about the first visit:

I was going to come straight to
Mardin yesterday. But another guest at the Lizbon Konuk Evi started
showing me photos he had taken the day before when Aziz had taken him
and another guest to an active archaeological dig site, Göbekli Tepe
(while I went to Harran). I also noted, this late, that I had fairly
recently read about Göbekli in the New York Times (I think) before
leaving home, and had made a note of it on my map of Turkey. So, before
coming to Mardin I decided to have Aziz run my out to Göbekli. The
Australian fellow also decided to go out again. Well, the Wikipedia
entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gobekli_Tepe) says, "It is
currently considered the oldest known shrine or temple complex in the world, and the planet's oldest known example of monumental architecture." And it is
something to see--if you like this stuff. For the dig site is small,
and even from outside the fenced-off dig, one is quite close to these
fresh discoveries. So one can see the artifacts in situ, I
think the term, rather than in a museum. Unfortunately for me (not for
the site) the guard would not permit the Aussie fellow, David, and I to
enter the dig area to take close up pictures of the reliefs--though
David had been able to do so the day before.

The last statement, about seeing actual archaeological elements in place as the earth is removed from around them, still holds true. No work was in progress at this second visit. Because of the summer heat, digging takes place in the spring and fall. But in the intervening year two seasons of work have shown much progress, especially in one central area. It is now much more deeper than in May 2008. (Also, the site's importance to archaeology has increased greatly. A year ago if one Googled Gobekli Tepe only a handful of websites would be listed. At the moment of this writing--let me check--there are 76,400 citations. Two are for articles in American magazines:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/gobekli-tepe.html (November, 2008) and,

http://www.archaeology.org/0811/abstracts/turkey.html (December, 2008)

So, I don't have much to say about the site and its relevance, ectcetera, that isn't said by others elsewhere, and better put. Also, the pictures are much more descriptive than mine (Though mine are more recent, and show the deeper penetration of the main site.) So I'll stay with my experience of getting there. But, I strongly recommend reading one or more of these articles, as  this is just one of the most unique and exciting archaeological digs taking place in the world these days. It has relevance to anyone interested, in the long history of western culture, because, really, it all began here.

Between last year's visit to Urfa and this visit I lost my Lonely Planet guide book, which I mostly use to choose accommodations and learn about transportation issues. My newer publication has different accommodation listings, not now mentioning the place I stayed at a little over a year ago. Not knowing why for the delisting, and a current listing had a hotel much closer to the bus station, I just decided to go to the hotel. The temperature was above 100, so I was all for a shorter walk, and probably better circumstances (except for meeting people).

After checking in and having a shower the trick was to figure out how to get to Göbekli Tepe, which lies outside of the city not really too far, but off the beaten track, so to speak.

Urfa is a very popular touristic desination for Turks. But it has no official tourist information office. Or at least none that I could determine. The LP book mentioned one fellow, a tour guide who speaks English and serves as a source of information. So I went to visit him.

He stated a price of 100TL (about US$65). Well, that was too much for me! After all, the place is just a few miles out of town. One of the above mentioned articles says 6 miles. So I said no thanks, and decided to go off in search of something better.

I went to the two large, fancy hotels and asked if there was a tourist information office. Neither spoke English very well--not that I expect such. But I can't express myself completely enough in Turkish. One fellow told me to go to a location where there was nothing of the kind. At least for a foreigner. The other gave me a lousy map with a location vaguely marked. I'm a pretty good map reader, but I couldn't figure this one out. So, no deal there.

I was perplexed about what I was going to do. I sat on a stone wall in the very lovely park at the Baliki Göl, the huge and heavily populated carp pool. A local fellow started chatting me up. Low and behold, he was a tour guide! Who woudda believed it!

I was spoiled by the two-hour ride from Katha for 12TL. Why would I want to pay so much just to go a few miles out of town? Well, supply and demand, for one thing, dufus. I said I'd like to rent a scooter, as I had in Datça. Well, this isn't that kind of tourist place.

This fellow finally settled on an offer of 65TL. I said I'd think about it, and took his cell phone number. He ambled off, leaving me to ponder my options. Of course I really didn't have any options. I could stay in the hotel another night, and spend the next day stumbling around town in the heat again. Or I could just give him a call and get it over with. Which is what I did.

He showed up the next morning at 9 in an old beater driven by an "associate"--or whatever. He said that the original plan was for himself not to come, but that the driver-guy didn't know where Göbekli was, so he had to come along to point the way. And therefore I was to have him as a guide as well. And, he made a point of mentioning something about skipping out on some family deal for the sake of keeping his word to me about the deal. Hmm, ok.

He asked me  if I wanted to visit another historical site that he mentioned. I had read about it and it looked somewhat interesting. But I didn't really want to take the time for it. It wasn't near Göbekli, but in fact an hour or so in another direction. I had  assumed that the idea was just a "bonus" on the Göbekli trip, but since it went no further, no further discussion was made of it. Remember this.

Once out there on this second visit I realized that though it was relatively close to town I really wouldn't have stood any other chance to make my way out there. So in that sense, our meeting was fortuitous.

We had a leisurely look around. He did have knowledge of the place. I was really impressed with the new, deeper dig in the center of the main site. (I wanted to compare my pictures from last year. But when I went to retrieve them off a CD I discovered that I had failed to "burn" the CD properly. And my pictures of that period were lost off my laptop's hard drive in the hacking attack of last March.)

After we looked around the digging areas we spent a few minutes socializing with a couple of camels that were hanging around, courtesy of a lad who hung around the watchman's shack. And who sought some lira for the priviledge.

Then, I wanted to take my guides picture along with the driver and the car. That's when things started to go a little sour.

Just as I posed them, a Turkish family drove up and got out of a SUV and walked right into my picture frame behind the two guys. And seemed to linger there, for what reason I don't know. I got a bit impatient and said in Turkish, "Git!"  (Go!) They moved on.

I took the picture. And, as usual, I showed it to the guide fellow.  When I zoomed in on him then tried to scroll to the driver, I couldn't, only then discovering that my "scroll to the right" function had been broken when I recently fell with the camera in my hand. So he saw only himself.

Once we were back in the car and on our way he started to quietly get on my case. He told me I had done a very rude thing to command those people to move on. And he was very disturbed about that. Then he was saying something about the picture--which his English wasn't properly getting across. I couldn't understand at first what he was getting at. It was something about my asking the two to pose, then only taking his picture. There was something suspicious about that. He was saying something about trust.

It finally dawned on me that he thought I had lied to pose them both, then take only his picture. Like I wanted it because I didn't trust him, or something. I finally got his point. And I showed him the full picture with the two of them. Still he was upset. And he asked that I erase the two pictures I had taken of him--the other with the camels. I did so, demonstrating to him.

Well, the mood had changed.

We got back into town and he wanted to know where I wanted to go. I said that I needed to stop at a bank to get cash to  pay him, then thought they'd take me to the bus terminal, about a half mile beyond my hotel. Well, no, they would drop me at the hotel but not go to the bus station. I was saying that what's the big deal, since he wanted to take me to another historical site another hour away. So what's the f-ing deal about another half mile to the bus station. No, that was for an additional fee. Well, we hadn't mentioned that. I had assumed it would have been a "bonus." No. But, Ok, to the bus station for 5TL more, the driver demanded. (The city bus would be 1TL from the hotel). No, way, I said. I'll walk, ok? I don't see what the big f-ing deal is.

I got some cash. I handed him a fifty and a twenty. As so often with Turkish business people--after a roll of the eyes--"I don't have change." Wanting to get this over with I said, "Well, I guess with that five I've just bought my ride to the otogar."  We jumped into the car, he had a testy exchange with the driver, and off we went.

He was polite when I got out, pointing the way for the last few yards to the terminal. But, I'll say, that in a year and a half, now, this little incident has been the most uncomfortable one I have had. I guess that's a pretty good deal as these things go.

I retrieved my rolling suitcase from the Emanethane (left luggage. Every city seems to have a different version: Emanet, Emanetçi), and, as far as I can remember, walked right on to a bus about to leave for my next objective, Diyarbakıir.

Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • You must enter a comment
  • You must enter your name
  • You must enter a valid name (" & < > \ / are not accepted).
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


whatsnew on

Comedy of errors:)
Well I know it was not meant to be funny BUT I had to have a little chuckle at this blog. The way you describe it is a bit like a comedy although I am sure you didnt intend it that way :). I had a few altercations due to misunderstandings also in Turkey and realized they were not thinking on the same wave length as myself. In hindsight, it was a bit funny.

geezergal on

You can consider yourself lucky!
I mean when you get in a car with strangers, especially when there are two of them, I think you are lucky to ahve it worked out so well in the end of course. At least that is the way I think. Love Sis

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: