The Beehive Houses of Harran

I had always assumed the beehive houses of Harran were small and lacking in comfort but when I saw them, I realized I was wrong. The beehive domes are connected by arched passageways to form one big house around a courtyard.

Harran beehive houses

Luxury is not a word to describe them, but they are not meant to be a poor man’s house either. Made from bricks and mud, they were also cleverly designed to be cool in summer and warm in winter.

A beehive houses in Harran

The prophet Ibraham is believed to have lived in Harran but it is unsure whether beehive domes or nomadic tents were used at that time.  Either way, this type of housing is not specific to Turkey. They have been found all over the world and some date from 2000BC.

The ones in Harran are estimated to be two hundred years old and of course with any major attraction, locals have a money making opportunity so they opened culture houses and I opted for a tour of one.

Bedroom of a beehive house

Each section of the beehive house had separate storage rooms for food, kitchens, a sitting area and bedrooms. The rooms of the culture house had also been filled with old items and utensils.

Traditional method of storing food so vermin will not get to it

Traditional method of storing food so vermin will not get to it

After the tour, I dressed up in local clothing and lounged out on floor cushions. Overall it was a typically touristic experience but current events nearby were always at the back of my mind.

A beehive house

Where are the beehive houses of Harran?

They are in southeastern Turkey, near the large city of Urfa and the Turkish / Syrian border.  My idea to visit Harran disturbed many of my Turkish friends living on the Western coast. They told me not to go because the week before, locals from a nearby village called Akçakale had died when mortar bombs came from Syria into Turkey.

THe beehive houses of harran

I still went though because Harran is not on the border; it is roughly about twenty minutes away. I assumed if there were any problems, roadside stop points would be enforced and the hotel receptionist also said it was safe.

So we drove twenty-four miles southeast towards the border, then turned left instead of continuing. Once we got to Harran, I couldn’t help but associate a few things with what was happening nearby.

On a small hill, army lads were putting up a big flag. The massive size of it made me wonder if Turkey was sending a message because surely anyone could see it from miles away.

Turkish flag

On one occasion, I also heard an extremely loud bang. I thought it might be a bomb but didn’t panic because my instinct told me it was far away. Nobody showed a reaction either so maybe it was paranoia on my part or locals are now used to it.

The circumstances surrounding my visit to Harran made it seem so surreal. I was being a typical tourist while just a short distance away, there was and still is a devastating civil war.

It is not until now as I write about my visit, that I think about the significance of that border. For me, it just defined a no-go area but for others, that border and what was happening on the other side was changing their lives whether they were Syrian or Turkish.

Harran beehive houses in southeastern Turkey

The locals of Harran were not happy because tourism had mainly dried up. Before the civil war in Syria, they used to get hundreds of visitors  weekly but now are lucky if  a few people arrive each day.

Nobody knew what tomorrow would bring and there was a sense of apprehension.  Everyone just wanted to get back to normality. When will that happen? Unfortunately they don’t know.

Inside of a beehive house

How to get to Harran Beehive Houses

Buses leave daily from Urfa city Centre but there is not a direct route. Instead, catch the Akçakale bus but get off at the left turn to Harran. From there, it is a very long walk but no one could give us details on connecting buses.

For this reason, we hired a car for the day and also went to Gobeklitepe in the afternoon. I recommend doing the same if you are not on a guided tour.

Readers Question: Could you live in a beehive house?

Beehive houses of Harran

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. raky villaflores says

    another very informative and very nice one Natalie.

  2. says

    Never heard of Harran before, thanks for sharing! Could I live in a beehive house…there’d have to be WiFi, but if it’s cool in summer and warm in winter, then why not!

    Sad about tourism drying up in the area, but understandable given the current situation. Hope that the Syrian conflict can come to a quick (and democratic) solution, but right now, it doesn’t look likely.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom wrote about..What To Do In Yeosu: Five Ideas

  3. says

    . . the guy who runs this set up is a brilliant guide for those places that are a little out of the way – you’d need a car and a day to get around them. I guess we also got to wear the same local dressing-up clothes :-)
    Alan wrote about..Socialism For The 21st Century

    • says

      He was telling us about them Alan. All places that don’t appear in any guide books but he showed us pictures etc. Unfortunately we did not have time but that gives me another reason to go back
      Natalie wrote about..The Telkari Master of Beypazari

  4. phil + Di marina gateway says

    nice read again natalie thanks for sharing and
    fantastic photos

  5. says

    I love Harran and have been there numerous times. The villagers always invite you in for tea, and we’ve made friends that we visit each time we return. I feel for their livelihoods as tourism is a big part of their income. Thanks Natalie.
    Corinne wrote about..Turkish Food – Three Variations of Börek Recipe

    • says

      I think it is the helplessness more than anything Corinne. Everything is out of their control. If it was something within their control that was affecting their income, they probably would not feel so down about it because they could change it. With luck, hopefully it will change soon
      Natalie wrote about..No Men Allowed : Ladies Day at the Local Turkish Bath

  6. Matthew says

    I *could* live in a beehive home, which actually look more like breasts in my opinion, but I wouldn’t.

  7. says

    To the best of my knowledge there isn’t a connecting bus from Akçakale. In the past I always had to rely on a lift from the road junction.

  8. says

    I think I could live in a Beehive house. They look comfortable and cool. I only worry that it might be damp. Is it humid inside? I’m never a fan of the concrete feel that makes it cold and damp in the winter and most and humid in the summer. But they certainly look awesome. That one house is fabulous all souped up with the playground.
    Deb wrote about..Moroccan Food: A Feast for the Senses

    • Nat says

      The sun was shining when we went however I feel that during rain, it could get quite miserable.

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