Mardin refers to the town to be admired in all languages. It includes all the sounds echoed from its worldly-wise history; Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac, Persian, Armenian, Hebrew… And the magic of the town appears only when all of them come together. Mardin and its inhabitants have faced towards the south, to the Mesopotamia Plateau where they glanced at from the hill. The mosques and churches, monastries and medrassahs all salute this sea of fertiliy of Southeastern Anatolia.
The mountains covered with limestones and lavas are the mines of Mardin. The materials of the houses in Mardin is the limestones. The stones of the city which have the limitless tones of the color yellow, the inheritance of ashlar stonework all make Mardin a real Mardin. The color of the town is yellow while its scent is so obvious. Visit Baharatçılar Çarşısı (the Spice Bazaar) and dream that how lively those places were once upon a time when the caravans marched through this town which Silk Road passed. The caravans used to go to Mediterranean ports carrying the spices and silk they took from India and Iran. Nowadays, the items sold narrow and intermeshing streets are not limited with only spices. There are remarks of an olfashioned but long-established life. When the back-streets are accessed after crossing the ugly signboards of the country; a scent of spices pervade, chickpeas are roasted in cavernous stores, donkeys climb up and down the stairs, the copper is swaged, the rhythmic sound of sewing machines is heard, wireworks shine, sea biscuits are roasted in the bakeries, the last felt maker and the last saddle maker seem to have agreed on saying ‘ah!’, the dice is loaded in the Marangozcular Kahvesi (the Coffehouse for Carpenters)…
Mardin Museum, the starting point
Begin scrolling the town at the Cumhuriyet Square where Mardin Museum is located. In the museum which is located over the car park in the square and which is an old mansion, the artifacts which date back between 4.000 BC and 7.000 BC are exhibited. In this rather impressive building, there are two halls which one of them is archeological and the other is ethnographic. Meryem Ana Kilisesi (the Church of Mother Mary), the biggest church of Mardin, is right next to the museum. In order to see the arches, the portraits of saints and eikon of Mother Mary on its walls; you may enter into that partly demolished church. There are two other small churches around Meryem Ana Kilisesi. One of them is Kırklar Kilisesi (Kırklar Church) (Mor Behnam) which dates back to 5.th century in Şar District, namely, current Mardin Metropolitan Church. About 5 pm in the afternoon, the Syrian Orthodox people perform their religious rituals. It is free to watch the prayers. Wooden altar door of 400 yeard old, printed textile curtains of 1500 years old made of madder, stone carving and the bell tower in the courtyard are all worth seeing.
One of the best protected buildings in Mardin is Latifiye (Abdullatif) Mosque which is one of the specific samples of Seljukian woodworking and which draws alltge attentions with its crown gate on the east. The mosque on the south of Cumhuriyet Square was built in 1371 by Abdullatig who was in charge during the period of the Artuklu sultan period. Just glance inside the church to see the mimbar and its gathering place.
The main street of the town is the 1.st Street… On this street, there is a beautiful mansion with facade of three arches and Zinciriye (Sultan İsa) Medressah which dattes back to 1385 in the north of Medrese District a few hundred metres away from here. In the medressah with two storeys and two courtyards, Melik İsa who had fought againts Timur and his army was prisoned here. The stonemasonry in its entrance and its and cusped domes are attractive. There is Mausoleum of Sultan İsa and numerous antique epigraphs in the medressah. Climb up and watch Syria beyond Mardin or go down the narrow streets of Şar District and take a walk under the abbaras.
The Mardin Castle which is 1000 metres above the plateau and partly located on cliffs was also called as ‘the Eagle Nest’. According to one myth, the sick son of Persian emperor is brought here and got well. For that reason, this town was called as ‘Merdo’ which is the name of the prince. The name Mardin is presumed to come from the word ‘Marde’ which means ‘castles’ in Syriac due to the numerous castles around it. The castle which was been surrounded many times is famous for its resistances which infuriated even Timur. The soundness of the six gates of the town, water cisterns and the prosperity of their storehouses.
Kasımiye Medressah is so stunning
The Ulu Cami is the oldest mosque which was built in 12.th century by Artukoğlu’s. Its minaret and flutted dome which was restorated previously draw the attentions at first sight. The bazaars of the town between Latifiye Mosque and Ulu Cami are rather alive. There are antique dealers, nut sellers and coffe house with the view of Mesopotamian plateau. One of the most beautiful places to observe sunset in the town is the Kasım Paşa (Kasımiye) Medressah of the 15.th century belonging the period of Artukoğulları. It is one of the most striking buildings of the town with its open courtyard including a pool, its iwan with running water in the middle of it, its architecture which employed face stones and bricks are used together.
Deyrulzafaran takes its name from the saffron flower
Deyrulzafaran Monastery which was open for prayers for 1000 years and has a specific place in the Christian world is located on the southeast of the town with a distance of 4 km and has great importance for this region which is the homeland of Assyrians. Deyrulzafaran takes both its name and its color from the flower saffron. According to a myth related to the monastery with the saffron yellow walls; the saffron flowers which grew around during that time were used in the plaster of the walls. Deyrulzafaran which is one of the first churches of Christian world in Anatolia is the most important church among the Assyrian Churches in the Southeastern Anatolia. In the monastery, there are graves of 36 Assyrian metropolits and patriachs over the first section which the believers of heliolatry used as their temple; it explains the significance given to it. The monastery was built on the one of the first temples of Mesopotamia. About 1600 years ago, the sun worshippers wanted both to see Mesopotamian Plateau in front of them and hide the temple among the mountains. It was accepted as the center of all the patriarchies between the years of 1116 and 1932.
WHEN TO GO?
At the end of April or throughout the month May or from mid-September until the end of October.
ORGANIZE YOUR OWN TOUR
Talay brothers (0535 544 74 30, 0535 239 27 23) from Diyarbakır, who know the region very well, is a professional and sympathetic family company.
A BREAK FOR PHOTOS
Watch the sunset over the Syrian Plateau from Kasımiye Medressah.
WHEN YOU GO THERE
See Midyat 70 km away from here. Pepper and fruits are dried, chattings are carried out on the throns in the evenings and sleeping is done under stars in hot summer evenings.
Erdoba Konakları (www.erdoba.com.tr) and Artuklu Kervansarayı (www.artuklu.com) which was transformed a caravanserai of 800 years old from Artuklu’s are the most beautiful stone mansions in the town.
A BREAK FOR TASTE
When the tastes of Mardin are mentioned, Bağdadi Restaurant (www.mardinbagdadi.com/Bagdadi) and Cercis Murat Konağı (www.cercismurat.com) are the legend options.
A BREAK FOR PHOTOS
You will be honestly welcomed at downstairs of Mesopotamia Otantik Cafe’nin (2.Cad. opposite to Ulu Camii No:3) full of antiques or in the terrace during sunset. Another option with scenery is Seyr-i Merdin Restaurant- Cafe (www.seyrimerdin.com).
Mehmet Yüksel (2.Cadde No:152) is almost a magician on soap making. Although Bittim soap is famous in the region, lots of surprises are waiting for you in his shop.
When handcrafts in Mardin and Midyat are mentioned, the first thing to remember is the wirework which is the art of processing silver having a history of 2500 years besides stone masonry.