further north on the banks of Tigris River is a fantastic village with its cave houses, citadel, and other monuments from Middle Age. You'd better hurry on visiting the place as the whole town might be submerged in as near future as 2013 due to a proposed dam project.
Go next (Hitchhiking)
Mardin lies at the heart of homeland of Syriacs (Süryaniler), an ancient people who trace their origin to Akkadian Empire, established in Mesopotamia around 2200 BC. Syriac is a Semitic language directly related to the native tongue of Jesus Christ, Aramaic. Syriac Orthodoxy was established after the first division in Christianity in 431, much earlier than the Great Schism of 11th century between the churches of Rome and Constantinople. While the Syriac population in Mardin dwindled due to emigration (nowadays Assyrians are more numerous in Sweden than in all of Turkey), they are still very much present in the city, along with more or less all other regional cultures, including Turks, Kurds, and Arabs.
Mardin served as the capital of Turkic Artuqid dynasty between 12th and 15th centuries, which resulted in much of the Islamic heritage (madrasahs and mosques) visible in the city today.
It was effectively closed to tourism throughout the 1990s by the on-going Turkey-PKK conflict in the surrounding countryside, and was omitted from most of the guidebooks to the area). Mardin has started to catch up with tourism, but don't expect hordes of package tourists. It rewards the intrepid traveller who took the effort to go there with a sense of discovery, along with plenty of beautiful architecture and vistas.
The main street of old city, which traverses the town from one end to another through its centre, is called 1. Cadde or Cumhuriyet Caddesi for part of its route. At the eastern end of the old town, it makes a sharp U-turn, and runs along the entire southern edge of city, making another U-turn at the western end of the town and thus completing a loop.
While the maps and aerial photos of old city may look like a labyrinth, it is pretty hard to get lost in narrow alleys—depending on which side of main drag you are on, take downhill or uphill alleys you will come across one by one in a succession, and within 15 minutes at most, you will be back at main street.
The main avenue of the separate northern suburb of Yenişehir is Vali Ozan Bulvarı, which eventually turns into the street zigzaging on the side of the hill while climbing up to old city. You will possibly not spend too much time in Yenişehir (unless you chose to stay at one of the hotels there), but whether coming in from west (Urfa) or northwest (Diyarbakır), Vali Ozan will be the first road you will set foot in Mardin.
Deyrulzafarân Monastery(Mor Hananyo in Syriac)(There is no public transport to the monastery, but you can take a dolmuş to 'Cezaevi' and walk or hitchhike for 4 km to the monastery.),☎ fax: e-mail: email@example.com 09:00-12:00, 13:00-17:00 (The monastery is located 5 km east of Mardin on a hillside overlooking the plains, is a large and intact monastic community. Built on the site of a 4500-year-old pagan temple dedicated to solar worship (Güneş tapınağı, a gallery made of huge rock walls with no use of mortar; still intact and visitable at the underground floors of the monastery) in 5th century, Deyrulzafaran was the seat of patriarchate of all Syriac Orthodoxy until 1932. True to its original purpose, the monastery has 365 rooms in total, each symbolizing a day the Earth spends on its full cycle around the Sun. The impressive complex—which is more like a small village than a stand-alone religious edifice—is open (and indeed, friendly) to visitors (except, of course, its residential and the most sacred sections that are closed to all but monks; a young host will guide you through the open sections in groups, so you may have to wait in the café at the entrance until he returns the preceding group), but as this is actually a religious site, and not a simple tourist sight, respectful clothing (cover your legs and arms; in addition to your head if you are female) is a must. Eating, smoking, speaking loudly, and chattering on a cell phone are also out.6 TL
- Midyat, about 40 min by minibus to north is also known for its stonework architecture, with even more ornaments than Mardin's.
- Beyazsu, or Avaspi in Kurdish (both meaning "white water"), is about one hour away from Mardin on the highway between Midyat and Nusaybin with waterfalls and some greenery, something of a miracle in this arid region, where locals like to visit at weekends.
Go next (Hitchhiking)
If you are hitchhiking toward Urfa, it will be easiest to take an inexpensive dolmus/minibus from the Mardin otogar/bus station to Kiziltepe, a town just south of Mardin. The bus station in Kiziltepe is right near the dusty highway toward Urfa. You may have to walk a bit to get out of town, or just start flagging and try to get a ride to the edge of town (if the ride isn't going the whole way). If you wear a Kurdish kuffiya, you won't have any problems finding a ride and plenty of goodwill.