Where in the World Is Harran From "Dying Light"?
Is Harran in Brazil?
Harran is a beautiful city set in a lush tropical setting and also happens to be a zombie enthusiast's dream destination. With luscious views, beautiful architecture, and zombies coming out the wazoo, there seems to be only a singular question: Where in the world is this city?
Many want to know, and Techland is remaining tightlipped about the real-world whereabouts of the fictional location, preferring to keep it ambiguous. Even on the promotional Harran City website, there is not even the slightest bit of information hinting at the city's location. Hope is not lost though, as there are clues throughout the game and early development that point to the city's location: Brazil.
A theory has been going around the internet recently—people are claiming the that Harran is based in Turkey. This misconception comes from people missing the "This is a work of fiction, any correlation to anything in the real world is purely coincidental" disclaimer at the beginning of the game, along with brief Google searches yielding the city of Harran, Turkey.
Why Not Harran, Turkey?
There are several problems that arise with this theory, the largest being that Harran, Turkey, is a landlocked town in the middle of a Mesopotamia, a desert. Moreover, nothing about Harran, Turkey, remotely fits Dying Light's Harran. Its culture, people, and architecture do not resemble what is present in the game. When this is discussed on Reddit, people from Turkey say the city looks nothing like anything in Turkey.
The Argument for Rio de Janeiro
Where, then, is the city? Our first clue comes from the early development of the game where it was announced to be set in South America, but of course, things change as development goes on, so do we have any evidence that this remained true up until launch? A close comparison of Rio de Janeiro to the city of Hannan both in topography and appearance bears remarkable similarities.
One large criticism of the Rio de Janeiro theory proposed by those who believe that Harran is based in Turkey comes with the Islamic Architecture and Arab/Muslim population found in Dying Light. Here is where it gets interesting, South America has a significant Arab population. They are a minority, but they are present in South America with certain cities hosting large populations of them. Brazil has seen 11 million immigrants from Lebanon and Syria (mostly Christians) over the years. Most live in the São Paulo region, but a significant number of Arabs live in Rio De Janeiro as well. Before immigration, Brazil had a large population of African Muslims as well.
Arabs have had a large impact on Brazil. Textiles in the country have a significant Arab influence, and there are even mosques dotting the São Paulo. Rio de Janeiro hosts a couple of mosques as well. Habib's, a food chain that serves Arab food, is the second-largest food chain in Brazil. It is no wonder that when designing the city of Harran, there would be a significant Arab influence in its design given the significant influence Arabs have in Brazil today.
The climate and topography of Harran in Dying Light are unique and closely mirror the beautiful landscapes of Rio de Janeiro. For the city to be in Turkey, it would have to be in one of the country's Mediterranean Climates, which the city of Harran, Turkey, is not. Harran is fictitious, so the location of the city might be on the coast of Turkey, but this theory falls apart when one takes into account the beautiful foliage that sadly does not grow in Turkey.
Characters in Dying Light can be typically seen in garb with a South American feel. T-Shirts are common, jeans come in camo, cargo shorts are not uncommon, and what little Arab garb there is is only worn by a minority of characters on par with the percentage of Arabs in Brazil. Now, Turkey is a modern nation, but the difference in fabrics and clothing choices leans toward a South American over Euro-Asian influence in terms of design.
In-game, there are a few hints to the city's inspiration. Harran has played host to major sporting events, including the Harran Games. Rio de Janeiro is similarly famous for hosting several sporting events including the 2007 Pan American Games, the 2011 Military Games, Rio's Champion Cup (a tennis Championship), and the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Both cities have a pension for sports, but there is one more hint in the game.
When you undertake the Searchlights mission in Dying Light, you have to venture to Chaos Bridge to retrieve large UV lightbulbs from a failed project. As Crane and Aflie are discussing the mission, they talk about the early days of Harran's Quarantine and the project on the bridge. The UV lights were referred to as the largest in the Western Hemisphere. This rules out Turkey, which is in the Eastern Hemisphere.
After all the research into the fictional city of Harran, I can only come to the conclusion that the city is inspired by Rio de Janeiro and that the city in Dying Light is located on the Brazilian Coast. One last interesting tidbit about Brazil: it's Ministry of Defense—like the Dying Light equivalent—does control the nation's entire military and would be the ones handling the Harran outbreak and containment.