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Best Preserved City of Upper Mesopotamia

Mardin is one of the oldest known settled areas in Upper Mesopotamia and also one of the best preserved. Excavations carried out in the 1920s discovered remains that date back to 4000 BC. The first known inhabitants were the Subarians followed over the centuries by the Hurrians, Elamites, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Romans and Byzantines.

By the end of the 6th century the Muslim Ummayds had arrived and introduced Islam. It changed hands many times over the centuries between by factions of the Seljuk Turks. It was finally taken by the Artukids, a Turkish Dynasty. During this period many of Mardin’s historic buildings were constructed including Mosques, palaces, Maddrassas, and trading Hans.

The Mongols arrived in the mid 1200s but it continued to be ruled by the Artukids who the Mongols considered to be allies. As a result they were rewarded with more lands until it passed to the Akkoyunla, a federation of Turkic tribes that controlled lands all the way to the Caspian Sea.

In 1915 Mardin came under the control of the Ottomans under Selim the Grim. It 1924 with the founding of the Republic of Turkey Mardin was made the administrative capital of the province named after it. As part of its ancient Roman history, it was a Titular See of the Christian Church.

The town later became the centre for Episcopal Sees of Armenian, Chaldean and Syriac Christians. Mardin has been at the crossroads of different religions co-existing peacefully with each other. The city has been home to many civilisations over the millenia each one leaving it’s mark on this fascinating South-Eastern city!

In modern times unemployment is a serious problem and there has been much migration to west and south Turkey. However with new projects and the reduced political tensions and new improvements to highways, things are starting to improve. The recent GAP Project where 100,000 hectares of land was been brought under irrigation to grow cotton and grapes. Mardin also now has its own free trade zone. These initiatives are showing improvements for the population of this city after the completion.


What to See

There are many churches and monasteries in the region such as St Meryemana Church, Mor Behnam Church 569 AD, Mor Yusuf, Syrian Orthodox Saffron Monastery (439AD), Mor Mihail and Mor Semune Churches, Mor Petrus and Pavlus and Mor Cercis Church and Mor Efraim Monastery.

Historically significant Islamic buildings are Kasimiye Madrasseö Ulu Mosque (Great Mosque – 12CAD), Melik Mahmut and its tomb (14CAD), Rehaniye Mosque, Adbullatif Mosqueö Sehidiyre Medresse and Mosque. The Sitti Radviyye Maddresse 12CAD contains a footprint believed to be that of Mohammed.

The Mardin Museum houses many valuable artifacts ranging from the Old Bronze Age to the Ottoman era. The archeology and ethnography sections of the museum exhibit valuable collections of precious artifacts and are definitely worth a visit.

What to Buy

The bazzaars of Revlaki and Kayseriyye are fascinating and were famous for their filigree work and beautiful silver carvings. To this day Syrian Orthodox gold and silver smiths still practice their craft. Famous throughout Turkey they work side by side with Muslim coppersmiths.

Hopefully this work will be preserved along with the buildings in the bazaar. The colour Keffiyes are a good buy and there is a store in the main street in the old city were you can buy scarfs cheaply in many colours.

What to Eat

Local cuisine specialties include sugar almonds, cevizli sucuk (walnuts dipped in grape molasses), leblebi (roasted chickpeas), Kaburge Dolmasi, Icli Kofte (fried meatballs) and perdili pilav to name a few.

A couple of good spots to eat are Mezopotamya Cay Bashcesi, with it’s open air tea garden and a view of the plains below. Another one is Damak Sofrasi with food at good prices and a nice sweet couscous dessert.


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