Visiting the Cave of the Prophet Ibrahim and the Mevlid-I Halil Mosque

Coming from a Christian background, but living in a Muslim country, has enabled me to learn of many similarities between the two religions.

One such example is the prophet Ibrahim, known in the Bible as Abraham. He was born in Mesopotamia, in an area called Edessa that is current day Sanliurfa, although the Bible lists the same region as “Ur.”

He is mentioned frequently in the book of Islam, but very few online guidebooks for Sanliurfa, recommend the cave, which is his suspected birthplace and open to the public. I stumbled upon it purely by accident, when walking away from Baliklgol.

Mevlid-I Halil Camii - Sanliurfa

Called the Mevlid-I Halil Magarasi, the entrance was through the courtyard of a large and impressive mosque with the same name. Apart from a few locals, there was no one around and it was eerily quiet.

Cave of the Prophet Ibrahim and the Mevlid-I Halil Mosque

As I walked past the entrance to the mosque, I stared inside. It seemed to have an elaborate high ceiling and a plush carpet. I was desperate to see it however, this seasoned traveller, had made a stupid mistake. I was in one of the most religious cities of Turkey, yet had no headscarf in my bag.  The outside architecture still captivated me though  and I spent some time exploring before heading to the cave.

Cave of the Prophet Ibrahim Urfa Turkey

The Cave of the Prophet Ibrahim

The small, discreet entrance tucked away into the side of the courtyard, is not representative of how much impact, Ibrahim has in Islam. After all, this is the man whose mother gave birth in a cave and hid her child there for seven years, because the evil king Nimrod wanted to kill all newborn males who could threaten his reign, topple him from his throne, and change the Pagan religion of the time. He was also the prophet, who was prepared to sacrifice his son.

Cave of the Prophet Ibrahim Sanliurfa

Taking advantage of the headscarves on loans for a small donation, I expected a grander appearance inside and walked past a room separated with glass. Inside were various items and ancient books but I had no way of telling if they were relics.

Cave of the Prophet Ibrahim Urfa

The next entrance was so low; I had to stoop to enter inside. From there, I was in the heart of the cave.

Cave of the Prophet Ibrahim Turkey

Two women, praying on their knees were in front of another section separated with glass. They looked up and down at me, one of them seemed to snarl with her lips, and they returned to their prayer.

I felt uncomfortable. So uncomfortable and left immediately but was puzzled.

Had it been my loose headscarf showing tufts of hair that caused the tense atmosphere?

I had been very quiet and my dress sense was conservative; no flesh was showing. My shoes were removed and I had placed my camera away to prevent causing offence or showing disrespect. I had used the entrance for women and not men.

I am still puzzled now about what I did wrong that day. I know that some Muslims when entering a mosque perform a sign of respect and say a quiet blessing but I have never been in a mosque where non-Islamic visitors were required to do this.

Maybe, the women felt I was interrupting their prayer. Maybe they are not used to seeing tourists in there however; there were headscarves at the entrance for non-Islamic visitors.  Maybe they just did not like my face.

Either way, it was not the highlight of my visit and being a non-religious person, it is impossible for me to recognize the significance of this cave. It was one of those occasions when I felt I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Natalie

Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an eccentric,Internet addict with a passion for history.

I really shouldn't travel because I can not read maps and always lose my way! But hey, that never stops me and it is part of the fun! Leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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Comments

  1. Jennifer says

    I have been there and there were a group of women praying there on that day also. They did not look too happy to see us either. I am Christian so I felt I had every right to be there as Abraham was the father of all religions, I ignored the women but I did leave the cave very soon after because of them. We went on from there to Harran to see where Abrahan lived out his years, that was spectacular. Hope you managed to get there also

    • says

      Harran is one of my favourite places Jennifer – marvellous houses

  2. says

    I missed the cave :( But the pool and mosque in Sanliurfa remains one of my favorite memories of Turkey.

    • Hazel says

      I had a rather strange experience in Abraham’s cave. I definitely felt wrong to be there and felt rather bad about discretely taking one photo. When I next went to use the camera I was horrified to find that about 300 photos had mysteriously been deleted. Luckily I was able to go to a photograpic expert on my return to UK who was able to retrieve them for me. I was told that it was because I had not re formatted the camera but I still feel that there was a greater force at work.

      • says

        That is strange Hazel. I felt like it was wrong to be there as well

  3. says

    . . interesting reaction when you consider the usual welcome and kindness from Turks regardless of their religious convictions.

    • Nat says

      That is why I was so surprised Alan – Never had that reaction before

    • Nat says

      Still perplexes me Jennifer and others have said the same as well

  4. says

    Interesting experience. I suspect it’s because the region is more conservative, the Turkish are for the most part very hospitable. I’m Muslim but I don’t look Turkish at all, I wonder if I would have got the same reaction..
    Red wrote about..Because every blog needs cats

    • Nat says

      That is why I was very surprised Red because never had that reaction before

  5. Shanley says

    I am surprised by that reaction. We visited there in 2012 and were not made to feel unwelcome at all.

    • says

      I like to think that because it was only a few people that it was not the opinion of the masses Shanley.

  6. Bob says

    We just returned to US 3 weeks ago.

    Overall, Urfa was the most interesting place that we visited in Turkey. We were able to travel all over the country

    It was obvious that we were “different” while walking through the cave of Abraham. Many people stared at us. I only noticed one person that was obvious in his displeasure at our presence.

    • Nat says

      It has a certain vibe around the town doesn’t it Bob? Glad you got to see the rest of the country as well

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