Khabur River

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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Khabur or Khaboor River (Arabic: الخابور‎ al-khābūr, Kurdish: Xabûr, Syriac: ܚܒܘܪ ḥābur/khābur, Turkish: Habur) is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory.


Although the Khabur originates in Turkey, the karstic springs around Ra's al-'Ayn are the river's main source of water. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating what is known as the Khabur Triangle, or Upper Khabur area. From north to south, annual rainfall in the Khabur basin decreases from over 400 mm to less than 200 mm, making the river a vital water source for agriculture throughout history. The Khabur joins the Euphrates near the town of Busayrah.

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The tributaries to the Khabur are listed from east to west. Most of these wadis only carry water for part of the year.


Since the 1930s, numerous archaeological excavations and surveys have been carried out in the Khabur Valley, indicating that the region has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic period.[1]

Important sites that have been excavated include Tell Halaf, Tell Brak, Tell Leilan, Tell Mashnaqa, Tell Mozan and Tell Barri.

The region has given its name to a distinctive painted ware found in northern Mesopotamia and Syria in the early 2nd millennium BCE, called Khabur ware. The region of the Khabur River is also associated with the rise of the Kingdom of the Mitanni that flourished c.1500-1300 BC.

The Khabur River is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:26 in the Hebrew Bible: "Tiglath-Pileser ... took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh into exile. He took them to Halah, Habor (Khabur), Hara and the River Gozan, where they are to this day". (NIV) The identification of the Khabur with the Habor is not contested.

The Khabur river was sometimes identified with the Chebar or Kebar, the location of Tel Abib and setting of several important scenes of the book of Ezekiel. However, recent scholarship identifies the Chebar as the ka-ba-ru waterway mentioned among the 5th century BCE Murushu archives from Nippur, close to Nippur and the Shatt el-Nil, a silted up canal toward the east of Babylon.[2]


  1. Nishiaki, Y. (1992). "Preliminary results of the prehistoric survey in the Khabur Basin, Syria: 1990–91 seasons". Paléorient 18 (1): 97–102. doi:10.3406/paleo.1992.4566
  2. Thompson, Henry O. (1992). "Chebar," in ABD. Vol 1: Doubleday. p. 893. ISBN 0-385-19351-3.