Visiting Turkey and (NOT) Gobeklitepe

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. © Flickr/Pedro Szekely

Fred and Sharon spent a week in Turkey on this latest trip.

Sharon Loved Jewelry Shopping.

Luckily we had easily obtained online visas some time before the current low point in relations between our two countries.  The political impasse means that Turkey had stopped airport and online visas, thus hindering touristic travel.  We can only hope that both countries come to their senses, because we have many Turkish friends and love traveling to this fascinating ancient land.

An expectant Fred in Urfa

This time in Istanbul there were no cruise ships in port and no tour buses filled with western tourists.  Tourism hasn’t totally dried up, however.  We saw many Arab and Russian visitors, and even more Chinese groups.

Still, many of our friends are not doing well.  Well-known and respected carpet stores are empty of customers, and some places are already bankrupt and closed.  Further, although we felt totally safe, the political atmosphere is as highly charged as in the U.S. with “fake news” affecting people’s political views…just like here.

The Site We Didn’t See.


We bought lots of neat stuff for our shop during our stay, and made many new friends.

While Sharon managed the shopping, Fred was determined to travel to see an archeological site we had missed during our last trip–the 12,000 year-old temple at Gobeklitepe near Urfa in southeast Turkey.

We were last in Urfa, near the Syrian border, five years ago.  We had visited a number of ancient sites, including the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world.  We had then heard about excavations at another site where a farmer plowing a field had pulled up a tall

A Highway Reproduction.

thin rock that had damaged his plow…only to find it was covered with animal carvings.  Scientists had uncovered a temple complex there which, according to initial reports, was four or five thousand years old, like many in Turkey.  We skipped it.

A short while after returning home, we picked up a National Geographic to find the cover story explained that revised carbon dating had proved that the temple site we skipped, Gobeklitepe, was now confirmed to have been constructed about 10,000 B.C.  !!!  This new time-frame so pre-dates any known settlements in the world that its very existence has thrown all theories of how humans used religion to moved from hunter-gatherers to settled life out the window.

It Was Supposed To Be Open.

Fred wasn’t going to miss this again, so he set off on a trip to the area with our best Turkish friend, Ali, who was coincidentally from the Urfa area.  They flew down to the region where every tourist-related business and rental car company bragged that Urfa was the “Gateway to Gobeklitepe.”  A new museum was to have been built in 2016, along with a large roof to protect the temple.

After some trial and error, the two adventurers arrived at the site full of excitement and expectation.

As Close As We Were Allowed To Get.

It was closed.  A watchman with big ferocious dogs would not even allow them to approach the site.  Whaaaat ????   The museum and roof, which were to have been finished by July 2017, remained unfinished, and the complex was deserted… closed to visitors.  Devastated and disappointed, they drove back to town and then noticed a small sign in Turkish that said the site was closed.  An even smaller sign in English cited the construction project of June 2016-July 2017.

The Sacred Pool Where The Prophet Abraham Fell To Earth

No one anywhere, either in Istanbul or Urfa, had told us it this.  Later in the day, we told local tourist-related people and they were amazed.  Apparently none had been there,  and no one seemed aware it was closed.

So the closest Fred got to photographing those temple carvings was photographing cement copies of the carvings in the roundabout on the highway leading up to the site.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul. © Flickr/Pedro Szekely




7 Responses to “Visiting Turkey and (NOT) Gobeklitepe”

  1. Muriel Youmans

    I really enjoy your newsletters and photos. I’ve been to Morocco twice and loved it. I spend an inordinate amount of time on your photos of the textiles and jewelry in your store, wishing I could be there! Time for another visit up north, I guess!

  2. richard hayes

    Thanks to your suggestion, after our plans for Georgia and Azerbaijan petered out, we traveled to Turkey in 2011. After Istanbul we went across water & got a bus to Bursa. From there, we traveled by train to Ankara & stayed in the Citadel district.

    We again traveled by bus to Cappadocia where we rented an auto to get around. Then we flew to Izmir, rented another vehicle & headed up the Aegean coast. We visited the Acropolis of Pergamum before moving on to Assos with its Acropolis, stopping for lunch in the pleasant town of Ayvalik.

    We then crossed the Dardanelles to Gallipoli & returned to Istanbul through Thrace. All the people we met were friendly and helpful as we struggled with our meager knowledge of Turkish. I am sure things would not be that way now.

  3. Christopher "HatDoc" Hull

    Sharon and Fred
    Ice story and so disappointing!! We are so used to access that it is a surprise to be turned away. Sorry to hear their tourism from the West is so depressed. Just received two turban hats of India and the qeleshe wither round top fez of Albania!!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
    HatDoc Chris

  4. Ellen Saunders

    Well, Fred, Sometimes the real adventure is in the attempt, in the journey…not necessarily the destination. Btw….I owe you a report about my wonderful trip to Morocco…..and I mean wonderful.

  5. Chuck Fields

    I LOVE your travels and your newsletters! Just wish I were taking the same trips!
    Also, I LOVE your shop in Langley and go there every time I’m on Whidbey, which is 2-3 times a year. Your shop, chock full of wonderful rugs and so many other items, is an unbelievable treasure!
    I always hope to find one of you there, because you take time to visit and share your vast knowledge of the places you go and the special people you meet and items you bring back.
    You two and your shop are amazing! I wish everyone in the Pacific NW would discover you!

  6. Dan Lundahl

    10,000 yrs old and it was closed?
    Damn the bad luck !!
    At least Sharon was having fun shopping. 🙂

  7. Judyth Reichenberg

    Another fabulous blog, you two!!! I never cease to be amazed by your upbeat (and dogged) traveling spirit! As you know, Turkey is probably our favorite country of all to visit. I am so sorry about the current political atmosphere there. And to hear that rug shops are going bankrupt!

    We, in contrast, are enjoying the gorgeous and enchanting spring of southern Chile. We look forward to swapping travel tales back home in the spring. We’re teaching a homeopathy seminar in Prague in March and are piggy-backing on that journey two weeks in Andalucía!
    judyth (and bob)


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>