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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrMardin is simply a pleasurable place to have a walk and soak in the atmosphere of the ancient old town. All of Mardin old town is located on the slope, so you will have to walk up and down the uneven staircases quite a bit, racing people, cats, and donkeys. The streets here are so narrow and garbage containers are scarce, so most of the people simply dump their garbage down into the street, and rubbish collectors with donkeys pick it up.
HistoryMardin is a historical city in Southeastern Anatolia, close to the border with Syria. It is known for the remarkable architecture of its old town, with a fortress located on top of the hill, and for being the homeland of Syriacs, ancient inhabitants of Akkadian Empire and earlier Mesopotamia, one of the first people to establish the Orthodox Christian Church. However, nowadays most of Mardin’s population is comprised of people of Turkish, Kurdish, and Arabic origin.
SightseeingThe Citadel towering above the city is within the military zone and thus closed for visitors, although local administration is doing everything to restore the fortress in its touristic capacity.
Zinciriye MedresesiZinciriye Medresesi is a theological college built in 1385 by Isa Bey, comprised of a mausoleum, a mosque, and two inner courtyards. The intricate decorations of the doorways and walls is really something to see, and you also can sit down inside the mosque to enjoy the peace and quiet, or observe the view from the rooftop.
Kasimiye MedresesiThis was once another theological college where students devoted their time to reading the Quran and dedicating themselves to God. From the roof, you can see all of the town.
The Mardin MuseumIf you are traveling to Mardin for history, make sure to see the Mardin Museum, located in a 19th-century villa, containing artifacts from the Bronze age and Assyrian era.
Sakip SabanciVisit the Sakip Sabanci museum that houses photo and art exhibitions of local interest, exploring the history of Mardin through digital technology.
Ulu MosqueThe 11th-century Ulu Mosque beside the Bazaar looks magnificent from outside, with its prism-shaped dome and elegant minarets.
The Mardin SouqMardin has a small market, proportionate to the size of the city. It is located just outside Ulu Mosque, and here you can anything from local coffee, spices, and household objects, to souvenirs and fancy clothes.
Climb on top of the mountain opposite the old town and wait until sunset to see Mardin before your eyes in the twilight. The hike up will take about 30 minutes.
Deyrul Zafaran MonasteryDeyrul Zafaran Monastery is located 5 km east of Mardin and was constructed on top of a pagan temple dedicated to a solar deity. The pagan temple was built around 4,500 years ago, and after Christianity reached these lands the site became, for over a thousand years, the seat of patriarchate of the Syriac orthodoxy. The whole complex is open for visitors, except for some rooms that are used privately by monks. Do not miss the Sanctuary chamber with its floor mosaics and ancient wooden throne. Mind that it is a functioning religious site, so be respectful in what you wear and how you behave. Otherwise, visitors are always welcome here.
MidyatTravel 60 km outside Mardin to see Midyat , the ancient Hurrian town. It is famous for the stonework architecture and fascinating clay-colored buildings. There are nine Syrian orthodox churches you can visit, and to the south of here you will find MorGabriel Monastery, built in the 5th century.
DaraThis Roman city is located 40 km southeast of Mardin. What the archeologists have excavated shows us a complex irrigation system extended through the entire settlement. Dara is not breathtakingly scenic, but a must-see for everyone interested in history.
Tür AbdinLocated east of Mardin, this highland region was once one of the biggest monastic communities in the area. Their decline started during the Crusades, and nowadays you can still visit local small villages of the Syrian Orthodox Christians who have been living here for generations.
HasankeyfAnother historical site outside Mardin is Hasankeyf, with its Medieval citadel, cliff dwellings and the bridge over Tigris river, all built by the Romans as a border post to Persia. You can easily spend a day here enjoying the view. And you better do so as soon as possible, because for many years already the future of Hasankeyf remains undecided: the construction of a dam has been going on and off for a while now, and sooner or later Hasankeyf might end up submerged under the water. But meanwhile, you have access to the mosques, tombs and approximately 4,000 caves to explore.
ShoppingBuy Syriac coffee (Suryani kahvesi) and brew it at home – the coffee has a very pleasurable slightly bitter strong taste.
Try menengiç kahvesi – a local drink made of terebinth berries and milk. Buy a jar to bring with you as a souvenir.
The daily market in old Mardin town sells a lot of carpets, furniture, clothes and what not. Come and sit for a tea with the vendors.
DiningDon’t miss a chance to taste the strong Syriac coffee, or try the local specialty, menengiç kahvesi – a drink prepared with milk and ground terebinth berries (plant related to pistachio).
HotelsWithin the city walls, accommodation is not cheap. Mardin is a popular tourist destination, and there are no hostels in western sense of the word. The good news is you are guaranteed to stay in a nice traditional house. Artuklu Kervansarayi is a good example of good value for your money.
TransportationThe airport is located southwest of Mardin, in Kiziltepe, where you can get by dolmuş (minibus) for 3 TL.
It takes three hours to get to Urfa, and two hours to Diyarbakir by dolmuş. The minibuses arrive to the new part of Mardin, Yenişehir, but most of the guesthouses, hotels and attractions are in the old town about 5km away.
SafetyWalking in the labyrinth of old town in the middle of the night is not fun. You will stumble on sorts of garbage and will get some creepy attention from local youth. There are some conservative families in town who may not be excited about scarcely clad western tourists. It may be hot, but please do not dress like you are on a beach in Antalya.
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Author: wilhelminamurray. Last updated: May 25, 2015