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Mardin is a historical city in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. A city situated on the top of a hill, it is known for its fascinating architecture consisting of heavily decorated stonework cascading from the hilltop, although occasionally pierced by new, ugly construction.
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Points of Interest in Mardin
All sights of Mardin are located in old city.
- Church of Forties (Kırklar Kilisesi) (in a side alley; look for the small sign on the main street). A Syriac Orthodox church dating back to 10th century.
- Zinciriye Medresesi (on the hill towards the citadel; look for the sign on the main street). A madrasah (Islamic school) built by the Artuqids, rulers of the area then, in 1385. Rooms surrounding the central courtyard have some beautiful wall and ceiling decorations, having similarities with Seljuq art of central Turkey. Definitely a must-see while in Mardin. Free.
- Citadel (Kale) (on the hill overlooking the old city). While the citadel itself is located inside military zone and thus is closed for visitors, ascent the alleys of the old city to get to as near as possible to have the fascinating view of the Mesopotamian plains lying below. However, never ever try to cross the heavily barbed wire, as it equals to suicide according to locals.
Popular events in Mardin in the near future
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.
Unofficially closed to tourism throughout 90's due to long lasting Turkey-PKK conflict in the surrounding countryside (and that possibly explains why it is omitted from most of the guidebooks to the area), Mardin has recently started to catch up with tourism (still don't expect hordes of package tourists, for sure), and 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 physically almost totally separated 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.
- Walk the alleys of old city to grab more of local atmosphere and architecture.
- Watch the Mesopotamian plains everywhere you can grip a good sight. The plains look as if lying flat till the end of the world.
- Enjoy one of the closest shaves in the Middle East. There are several small barber shops along the main street through the old city centre. Most offers include double shaving, head massage, a good conversation and of course a cup of tea. Though be wary of those that will try to rip you off—the first barbershop on the uphill street from the main square will ask 20 TL for the service, which is a totally unacceptable price in this part of the world.
- There is a traditional hamam (bathhouse) in town, along the main street in the old town. Not sure if it is still popular with locals or if it is taken over by tourists, someone should visit this and update this listing with prices!
- Damak Sofrasi (If you are staying at Bashak Hotel, turn right coming out and it will be not far down the main street in the old town on the left side.). Great cafeteria-style dishes for good prices, ranging from 5-8 TL per dish. They don't mind how long you stay for tea afterwards. The owner is jovial and will probably sit down and talk with you. Good sweet couscous desert. Breakfast of lentil soup for 3 TL. 5-8 TL per dish.
Local tap water is far too chalky to be tasty and may be unsafe to drink. Buy bottled water instead.
- Mezopotamya Cay Bahcesi (on the main street, towards the end of the city, next to a mosque). Open till late (midnight?). An open-air tea garden shaded by trees with a good view of the Mesopotamian plains below (though not as wide as you can see near the citadel because of a neighbouring building). 0.50 TL for a glass of tea.
Several banks have branches on the main street of old city, complete with ATMs on the exterior walls.
There is a big-box type store (Migros) in Yenişehir, right at the beginning of the ascent towards the old city.
Stores in old city are closed by 9-10PM (even those few that are offering alcoholic beverages, which are typically open till late at night in western Turkey), so make sure you have enough supplies of snacks and drinks (especially water!) for the night.
- Colourful keffiyehs (locally known as poşi) can be a good buy while in Mardin. There is a store on the main street of old city where you can get 4 scarves for 10 TL. The red, yellow, and green kuffiya is the traditional and politically loaded colors of the PKK/Kurdish, and will get you lots of friends in the Kurdish areas (but don't wear it in the Turkish areas).
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Mardin on Wikivoyage.