The Shining Light of Mesopotamia
With an architectural heritage that bedecks the steep slopes with elegantly built golden houses, Mardin guides you to a rich cultural and religious diversity unfolding in every corner of the city.
Mardin is an enchanting city demonstrating a cultural wealth and architectural heritage passed down through thousands of years. This timeless poetic city was created by the delicate skill of the mason's hands that gave form to its stones. Revealing the city to be an architectural treasure chest, the golden stone houses, masterfully and elegantly built on the steep slopes, achieve an extraordinary harmony between climate, geography and architecture. The civilizations and culture of thousands of years are reflected in the sloping streets, small squares and the traditional dwellings of the city.
Traces of the first settlements in the region extend back to the Neolithic Age. The Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols, Mamluks, Karakoyunlus, Artuklus, Akkonyunlus, Safevids and Ottomans – all these peoples, states and empires left their mark on Mardin, the city of rocks.
Built by Hamdanis in 975-976, the citadel with its excellent stonework stands on a hill dominating the city. Ulu Mosque is Mardin's oldest mosque built in the time of Artukid ruler, Kutbeddin Ilgaz in 1186. The 15th century Kasım Paşa Madrasah is remarkable for its fine stonework and at the lovely İsa Bey Madrasah from the 14th century you can admire the magnificently carved portal and climb to its roof to enjoy a fantastic view of the Mesopotamian plain.
Mardin is also home to the Monastery of Deyrulzafaran- once the ecumenical seat of the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Congregation dating back to 5th century. It was the most important religious centre of the Syriac Orthodox Christians. It houses 3 places of worship from various periods. One of the largest and most celebrated buildings of the Syriac Orthodoxy is the Monastery of Deyrulumur (Mor Gabriel), located in the nearby Midyat. This lovely district is famous for its silver jewellery known as "telkari", and it has many elegant and historical houses.
48 Hours in Mardin
Mardin is one of the few cities in the world wherein the entire city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is because just about every inch of the city oozes history and culture, and these lands along the Tigris River have been the crossroads of civilizations since the dawn of civilization itself.
But it makes sense, the entire city is essentially an open-air museum. Most of the city’s buildings use beige coloured limestone rock which has been mined for centuries in local quarries.
So when should you go and what should you see? Here’s a few of the sites in Mardin waiting for you when you visit.
Mor Hananyo Monastery
Officially called the Cayro d-Mor Hananyo Monastery, this Syriac Orthodox Monastery is still practicing and is actually located 3 kilometres south of the city in a region known as Tur Abdin. It’s also called the “Saffron Monastery” due to the warm colors of the stone used to build it.
The monastery dates back to the 5th century. It was renovated in the 8th century and its name derives from then. The monastery is massive, with 365 rooms – one for each day of the year (no, they don’t build another room into the monastery for leap years.). The church is famous in part because it is one of the few places on Earth that still uses Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus, as its liturgical tongue. Services are held daily, and the prayer room may date back over 4,000 years.
Mor Gabriel Monastery
Mor Gabriel is another gorgeous 4th century monastery located near Mor Hananyo in Tur Abdin, and it’s the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. It is still practicing today, with monks tending to local gardens and you can even stay within the walls if given permission, though it’s closed after dark every day.
The Ancient City of Dara
This ancient Roman city held a great deal of strategic importance during the Roman era, and it was the focal point of Roman-Persian conflicts well into the 6th century, including the famous Battle of Dara in 530 A.D.
It also holds great religious importance as it’s listed by the Catholic Church as an official titular see, for the Latin and Syriac Catholic Church.
You can walk through most of the ruined city, past the stunning cisterns and rock cut buildings. The history and spirituality of this city is evident every step you take.
The Grand Mosque of Mardin
The most iconic shot of Mardin is that of the minaret of the Grand Mosque of Mardin, reaching up into the sky overlooking the whole city. The mosque was constructed in the 12th century and its round minaret is one of the most striking you’ll ever see. Originally the mosque featured two such minarets, but the other one was destroyed years ago.