MARDIN

Turkey 2013 | TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: MARDIN

Having passed through the annals of time, Mardin today is a relic of past empires and a key stop on the southeast Turkey tourist trail.

Mardin is a Turkish city located in the southeast of the country, originally built on a rocky hill near the Tigris River. It is one of the oldest settlements in the upper Mesopotamia region, with remains dating back to 4000 BC discovered in the area. The town, known for its Artukid architecture, has fallen under the rule of many empires over its long history, including the Subarians, the Hurrians, the Elamites, the Babylonians, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Romans, and the Byzantines. Islam was introduced to the city in 692 AD by the Ummayads, changing hands several more times, and even being indirectly ruled by the Mongols, until it was annexed by Ottoman Yavuz Sultan Selim, known as Selim the Grim in the West, in 1517. Today, Mardin is the administrative capital of Mardin Province and has a population of around 100,000. The city is a popular destination on tourist trails, drawing in visitors with its limestone architecture and multitude of historic mosques, churches, and madresas.

The Great Mosque is by far the most impressive of the city's mosques, and was built in the 12th century by the Artukid Turks. The mosque also claims to contain a piece of the beard of the prophet Abraham. Visitors should also not miss the Deyr ul-Zafaran Monastery, a Syriac Orthodox monastery just outside the city. Also known as the “Saffron Monastery," it was the seat of the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church until it relocated to Damascus in 1932.

Beware that the temperature can rise to 40°C in summer, while snow is not uncommon between December and March. Also be sure to check out Mardin's traditional carpets, pottery, leatherwear, gold jewelry, and silverware, for which the city's artisans are famous.