Agriculture, Rural Life & Water

Şanlıurfa is the place where the first agricultural activities were recorded about 10,000 years ago. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors learned and start to collect seeds from the vegetation, preserve and plant them on the steppes of Şanlıurfa for the first time. Einkorn wheat –the wild ancestor of modern wheat that it is used to make our bread today- still grows on the plains of Karacadağ in its wild form.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors first settled on these lands to engage in agriculture: wheat, chickpea, and lentil were first cultivated and started the history of civilisation in Şanlıurfa and its region.

Agriculture has been the main economic activity in Şanlıurfa for about 12,000 years. Even today, it is the main source of income. On the vast plains of Şanlıurfa, Harran and Ceylanpınar, wheat, barley, corn, chickpea, cotton, local red pepper (isot), and pistachio are grown. The fields surrounding Bozova, Birecik and Halfeti are full of decars (1.000 sq.m.)of pistachio farms. Ceylanpınar State Production Farm, established in the 1940’s to meet the nutritional needs of the inhabitants and of the army: with its area of 1 million 764 thousand decars, is one of the largest farms of arable land in the world.

Due to its extremely hot and arid climate with long and dry summer months when temperature raises as high as about 50°C, water has always been a problem in Şanlıurfa for ages. Farmers have always settled close to water sources such as Balıklı Lake, Birecik, or Halfeti. That is why, until the last 50 years, dry farming had been practised in Şanlıurfa, except for the alluvial lands near the Euphrates river.

With the construction of the Atatürk Dam and the Şanlıurfa water tunnels in the early 1990’s, irrigated farming activities have been introduced: the waters of Euphrates, that is 60 kilometers away, reached Harran Plain on the 9th November 1994, enabling the meeting of the waters of the sacred River Euphrates with the fertile lands of Harran.

With the introduction of irrigated farming, the range of products have enriched: among others, cotton is the most commonly grown crop in Harran Plain.

A great variety of vegetables and fruits are grown on the banks of the Euphrates river: thanks to the micro climate of the Eufhrates Valley, even Mediterranean species such as lemon, orange are growning in Halfeti. Birecik is the largest area in the region, for the production of vegetables, particularly for eggplants and peppers. Eggplants grown here are used as the main ingredient in the eggplant kebab which is highly consumed across the region.
Many fruit species such as plums, green almonds and apricots are grown in Birecik and Halfeti and in spring months are used for traditional recipes and in meat dishes.

Sheep and goat breeding is also highly developed as much as agriculture: sheeps are grazed on steppes and non-arable arid lands, to not interphere with the farmers: uncultivated steppes and the presence of sheep are complementary to each other.
Sheep meat and milk, rich in fat, represent one of the key ingredients of the local cuisine: kebabs are often made of sheep meat seasoned with sheep fat. Tail fat, widely used in the local cuisine, is a sort of fuel reserve for sheeps, developed by evolution to survive the harsh steppe conditions: the fat mass, of 8-10 kilograms, is consumed by the sheeps in harsh winter conditions, when food is difficult to find.

Water is believed to be sacred and a blessing for the city: Prophet Eyyub, Prophet Moses, Prophet Yakup and Prophet Abraham are in fact always associated with water.
The reason why civilisation emerged in the Şanlıurfa region amid the arid plains of the Upper Mesopotamia, is the abundance of water resources in the city: the sacred Balıklı Lake, healing water coming from the cave which is believed to be where Prophet Abraham was born, the streams of Karakoyun (Dayşan) and Cavsak, the springs of Açıksu, Direkli, Devteşti and Bamyasuyu as well as the wells found in the courtyards of almost every historical Urfa houses are the life-blood for Şanlıurfa. In many religious books, particularly in Torah, the Euphrates river s referred to as the “River from the Garden of Eden”.