Shrine of the Moon God                                          Population:

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If you drive 18 km from Şuayb City you will come to the even more remarkable Soğmater, once the centre of the cult of the moon god Sin. I think of it as one of the most romantic places in Turkey because of its aching sense of great age. 

Soğmater is that very rare thing in Turkey - a village that is virtually unspoilt, the only concrete building being the school. Instead honey-coloured stone houses and the ruins of a castle blend into the background in the gentle way of a village in the Cotswolds in England.

It’s quiet as can be here, with every living thing from the omnipresent sheep to the locals in their unisex lilac-colored headscarves snoozing the day away beneath the sweltering sun.

Like Şuayib City, Soğmater is riddled with caves, most of them used as stables or storerooms.

Ask around and someone will direct you to the amazing Pognon Mağarası (cave), named after the French explorer who first revealed it to the world. Its walls are decorated with life-size carvings of men; then on either side of a central niche which presumably housed an altar you will see twin heads crowned with crescent moons which suggest that this was a site associated with the cult of Sin.sogmasin

Soğmater’s school stands at the foot of what was once the sacred hill associated with the main local god, Mar Alahe. If you climb up it you will find, close to the summit, two carvings, one a full-length figure, the other a bust, which inscriptions etched into the ground on top of the hill suggest are depictions of Sin dating back to the middle of the second century AD.

Further indentations in the surface were probably where sacrifices were made to the other planets which were represented by structures on the surrounding hills; the circular shrine to Venus is the most obvious today. It’s believed that pagan worshippers in Harran, known as Sabians, would have faced towards this hill in the days when the cult was equally strong there.

Soğmater exists today in a world before tourism. There's nowhere to stay, nowhere to buy a meal, and only the most basic of village shops, so much as you might long to linger you will eventually have to press on.

There are two choices. You could return the way you came to the beehive houses of Harran, or you could take the direct road back to Urfa which is a much better idea since it will give you a chance to detour to the extraordinary archaeological site at Göbeklitepe in its eastern outskirts.

Transport info

There's no public transport to get you to Soğmater but tour operators in Urfa including Nomad Tours can organise a visit for you.200 DSC09708400 DSC09705

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