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Flamin’ Abe and the Urfa Fish Story

fish in golbesi
The fish that blind you

Among many things I like about Middle Eastern cities is that you can get dropped off four miles from the city center at 3:30am with all your belongings and not worry about getting mugged on your walk into town.

I reached a few hotels in Sanliurfa, Turkey at about 4:30 and nobody was up yet, so I hit the tourist area in the very center of town to get a few dawn photos, including the one at top of Golbasi.

It was here that Abraham—the triple-crown prophet of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—reputedly went about smashing pagan gods when the local Assyrian king, Nimrod (it’s got to be difficult to be taken seriously, even as king, with that name) threw him on a burning funeral pyre. But God was having none of it and turned the fire into water and the coals into fish.

Golbasi is a recreation of this story. Don’t try to eat the fish though, as allegedly this, like masturbation, will make you blind. In the photo you can see the 13th Century Rizvaniye Vakfi Camii and medressa, built where Abraham supposedly landed after the fire and fish incident somehow catapulted him like a circus performer from the castle high above.

Incidentally, story goes Abe was also born in a cave here, and the cave where Job went to sulk is also in Sanliurfa. More on cave people tomorrow.

In any case, when daylight had settled in, a little after 5am, I sat down at a street tea house. By 5:30 it was 85 degrees and every table was taken, with more than 20 men seated for their morning chai. So, here’s what you may have learned today: Urfans get up early.

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