Welcome to Birecik, a picturesque town set on a limestone cliff overlooking the Euphrates river in the Şanlıurfa province of Turkey. Known for its fascinating history, stunning geography, and unique geology, Birecik is a destination that should be on every traveler’s radar. Let us take you on a journey through the past and present of this hidden gem.
Birecik’s name derives from the Aramaic word Bīrthā, meaning fortress and the town has a long and rich history dating back to ancient times. It was once identified with the ancient city of Apamea or its suburb Seleucia. However, later discoveries showed that the identification was false. Birtha served as a crossing point on the Euphrates in ancient times, but the main crossing was still at Zeugma. During the medieval times, Birecik was an important crossing of the Euphrates in northern Syria. Birecik became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516, and it already had a dock at the time that was collecting tolls. By 1547 the Ottomans had chosen to make Birecik the site of a major imperial shipyard, the empire’s first in Mesopotamia.
Birecik’s geography makes it unique, and it is situated between Gaziantep to the west and the Urfa plateau to the east. The town is built on a limestone cliff 400 feet high on the left/east bank of the Euphrates, offering stunning views of the river. The area has a Mediterranean climate, with winters being cold and rainy and summers hot and dry. The regions elevation varies between about 400 and 500 meters above sea level, with steep slopes along the banks of the Euphrates. Low-lying areas are used for farming; the higher areas are used for livestock grazing.
Birecik’s geology is worth seeing, with the lowest geological layer in the area being the Gaziantep Formation. It consists of grey, soft to medium-hard chalky limestone, marl, clayey limestone, and limestone. The basalt formation covers a large area between Birecik and Suruç, formed from basalt flows during Pliocene times. The underlying basalt and limestone formations are now covered by more recent alluvial deposits, and there is also an alluvial plain along the Euphrates formed by clay, sand, silt, and gravel deposited during floods.
Birecik is also known for its archaeological treasures, such as the Birecik Dam Cemetery, an Early Bronze Age cemetery near Birecik, used extensively for about 500 years at the beginning of the third millennium BC. More than 300 graves were excavated here in 1997 and 1998. Another important site is Akarçay Tepe and Mezraa Teleilat, two of the oldest known settlements in the Euphrates basin. Excavations started in this area because of the pending construction of a dam.
In conclusion, Birecik is a unique destination worth visiting for its rich history, stunning geography, and unique geology. It is a hidden gem that still is not overrun by tourists, and its beauty and charm still remain untouched by time. Come and explore Birecik and discover the magic for yourself.