Ancient Mardin

The Mesopotamian town of Mardin is an architectural masterpiece and impresses with its cultural diversity. In recent centuries, the city has hosted many Etnien and today it is the home of Kurds, Aramaeans, Turks and Arabs who live together on a huge rock.

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If you want to travel the eastern part of the country on your tour of Turkey, you should not hesitate to put Mardin high on the list. The city, first mentioned in the 5th century, is one of the most beautiful cities in the country and has a lot to offer. It was built on a limestone rock, the Tur Abdin (Aramaic for “mountain of the servants”) and points with its old town to the south, where in a few kilometers Syria begins. At the top is the Eagle’s Nest, a castle that houses a 900-year-old mosque within its walls. From the fortress downwards are the historic buildings.

Ulu Camii from the 12th century with a view towards Syria

Ulu Camii from the 12th century with a view towards Syria

I walk and allow myself to be guided by the streets and alleys of the city, even if my feet are instructed to stop every few feet from my eyes. It’s the ornaments that fascinate me. Everywhere the city is decorated with geometric patterns, with drawings of plants, animals and drops of water. Even the Arabic influence with the lettering is always in view and fascinated with its shape and the lines. Occasionally, buildings stand out, with their architecture and archways that look like little palaces. There are also some churches in the city, such as the monastery “Zafaran”, which dates back to the 5th century.

I do not really perceive the people at first because I am so fascinated by the buildings and the many patterns that adorn the city. However, in the streets one quickly realizes that Istanbul is almost twice as far away as Baghdad and that not only the style of different cultures is marked.

The terraces of Mardin

The terraces of Mardin

First and foremost, the language reveals the origin of the people. Although Turkish is the official language, Kurdish is the most spoken language  here. The villagers wear the typical baggy pants and are not afraid to invite you to tea and to learn about you and your background. The Christians in Mardin are Aramaeans who constituted the main part of the population before the expulsion in World War II. Today, only a few of them have stayed behind, offering in their shops next to jewelry from their own craft and red wine from the region. Arabs are also encountered here. In addition to the Turks, they have the greatest privilege to live their language and religion, as Turkey, as an Islamic country, strengthens their backs. Yesidian Kurds existed until a few decades ago in Mardin and surroundings. Due to the political situation, most of them live mostly in Germany today.

Reflection in the water

Reflection in the water

On the streets you realize that the people here are all the same and belong to a whole, namely their homeland. Nothing of the political is shown out here. Rather, they try to show the city of its beautiful side and protect their existence. Because Mardin lives from the small shops and the bazaars, which try to keep afloat in the streets and alleys. Well-known are the shops for their soaps and oils, which are available in various variations and scents. In addition to the everyday needs, there are also some craftsmen who work copper and silver to make bangles and jewelery boxes.

Someone who wants to get up close and personal with culture and diversity should see and experience the city, which was located on the historic Silk Road. The hospitality and friendliness with which I have met will always be remembered next to the architecture.

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