Mardin Things to Do

  • Courtyard by night, Dec 2012
    Courtyard by night, Dec 2012
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  • Restaurant, Dec 2012
    Restaurant, Dec 2012
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  • Surur Hani, Dec 2012
    Surur Hani, Dec 2012
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Most Recent Things to Do in Mardin

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    Mediaeval City Walls

    by MM212 Updated Feb 9, 2015

    Most of Mardin's mediaeval city walls have disappeared, but a small section has survived in the south-eastern (lower) part of the city. Attached are photos I took while driving by it on Yeni Yol Caddesi.

    Mardin's leftover walls, Dec 2012 The wall, Dec 2012
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    The Mardin Castle

    by MM212 Updated Feb 5, 2015

    Perched on top of the flat summit of a 1300m mountain, the Mardin Citadel can be seen from a great distance as one approaches the city. Its strategic position, some 600 metres above the Mesopotamian plains, made it of great importance in a region that often found itself at the frontiers of many warring empires. It is said that the Mardin Castle is the only one in Turkey to never be conquered by an invading army, not even Tamerlane's! The castle is the site of the original settlement of Mardin, which traces its roots back at least to 4500 BC, and over time the town just below developed into the Old Mardin we see today. Although it had probably always been used as a defensive position, our first records of an actual castle built on the site was during the Roman period. Since then, it's been added to and modified in various periods, and today much of it lies in ruins. The Turkish Army laid claim to it during the 20th century and continues to use it as a base, which is why it is not open to visitors. I have read online that there are efforts to restore some its structures and to partially open the castle to visitors. Let's hope...

    Seen from the road to Midyat, Dec 2012 Citadel's Mosque & Watch Tower, Dec 2012 Dec 2012 Dec 2012 Dominating Old Mardin, Dec 2012
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    Savour the views over Mesopotamia

    by MM212 Updated Feb 5, 2015

    Anyone visiting Mardin would agree that one of its most unforgettable memories is seeing the incredible view over the Mesopotamian plain. One immediately understands why this site has been an important defensive position for millennia - and continues to be so for the Turkish military which has a base on the ancient citadel to the present day! From this altitude, some several hundred metres above the plains, any invading army would be spotted a great distance before it reached the city and plenty of preparation could occur in the meantime. And when the invaders did reach the city, they would be faced with a formidable citadel seemingly suspended high in the sky, which has allowed Mardin to hold up against invading armies far longer than any nearby city. For us modern visitors, we are able to savour these views from nearly every window and opening between the houses and streets, and the (now-volatile) Syrian border, though approximately 40 minutes away by car, seems to be within arm's reach. On a clear day, the Iraqi Sinjar Mountains (which were in the news in 2014 surrounding the Yazidis) could even be seen. I visited in late December 2012 when Autumn rains had just begun to turn the fields into a lush green, but in photos I saw of the summer season, the plains were a scorched yellow.

    For more photos of the views, take a look at the travelogue: Views over Mesopotamia and Mardin's Minarets & Domes.

    Grand Mosque Minaret against Mesopotamia, Dec 2012 The plains behind, Dec 2012 Looking down from Mardin, Dec 2012 Dec 2012

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    Catch the views over Mardin

    by MM212 Updated Feb 4, 2015

    When in Mardin, one must not forget that the view of Mardin is as incredible as the view from Mardin. The city, which consists of stacked stone mansions interspersed by cylindrical minarets and ribbed domes, is built around the slope of a mountain whose summit is crowned by a citadel overlooking the flat plains of Mesopotamia. There are two places where the view of Mardin could be admired with no obstruction: the first is on the road to Deyrulzafaran Monastery and the other is on the road to Kiziltepe. Make sure to stop for photos at one or both of these spots (see attached). Note that anyone flying into the Mardin (MQM) airport during the day is likely to catch the latter view.

    Mardin from the road to Deyrulzafaran, Dec 2012 Mardin, Dec 2012 Mardin from the road to Kiziltepe, Dec 2012

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    Reyhaniye Mosque

    by MM212 Updated Feb 3, 2015

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    Hidden within the souks of Mardin, just below Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Reyhaniye Camii is one of the city's largest mosques. I did not have a chance to enter it, but could tell that consisted of two floors, with shops on the ground floor, from the income is probably used to upkeep the mosque itself. It was built in the 15th century and heavily restored in the 18th or 19th century, which gave the structure a newer look. The octagonal minaret, however, is clearly from the original construction.

    Minaret of Reyhaniye Mosque, Dec 2012 Reyhaniye Camii, Dec 2012 Dome of Reyhaniye Mosque, Dec 2012
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    Grand Mosque - Interior

    by MM212 Updated Feb 3, 2015

    The main prayer hall of the Grand Mosque of Mardin is similar in size to the courtyard, though slightly longer (measuring 51m x 13m). It was originally accessed from the courtyard via four doorways, but two have been blocked. The interior of the prayer hall consists of a domed transept containing the mihrab (Mecca-facing prayer niche) flanked by two 3-aisled wings with arches, vaulted ceilings, and stone pillars. It is unusually asymmetric in that the domed transept is not at the centre of the prayer hall, but rather a little to the east and south. Only modest decorations are used giving the interior a very austere look. Displayed in a glass ball within the mosque is a hair said to belong to the Prophet Mohammed.

    Mihrab and minbar of the Grand Mosque, Dec 2012 Grand Mosque of Mardin, Dec 2012 Interior of the Grand Mosque, Dec 2012 Grand Mosque of Mardin, Dec 2012 Prophet Mohammed's hair, Dec 2012
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    Grand Mosque - Minaret

    by MM212 Updated Feb 3, 2015

    The primary symbol of the city, the cylindrical minaret of the Grand Mosque of Mardin is often a postcard picture against the Mesopotamian plain in the background. It is said that when the mosque was first built between the Seljuk and Artukid periods it had two minarets, one where the existing minaret stands and another on the opposite (north-western) corner of the courtyard, but the latter was destroyed during Timur's (Tamerlane's) invasion and was never rebuilt. The base of the existing minaret is Seljuk (11th century) and the section above it is Artukid (12th century), but the upper half is from a reconstruction in 1892. Unfortunately, the original was destroyed in a Kurdish rebellion in the 1820s. The minaret is entered from the courtyard, up a flight of stairs, and its entrance is decorated with motifs replicated directly from the Great Mosque of Diyarbakir, which was renovated also during the Artukid period (see travelogue for a photo of the entrance). The Minaret is divided into four sections, each with its own unique decorations of blind arches, teardrops, and circles. A balcony lies on the upper most section, which is crowned by a ribbed dome.

    For more photos, take a look at the travelogue Grand Mosque Minaret.

    Grand Mosque of Mardin & Mesopotamia, Dec 2012 Minaret seen from the courtyard, Dec 2012 Minaret with Syria in the background, Dec 2012 Minaret seen from the streets of Mardin, Dec 2012 Minaret of the Grand Mosque of Mardin, Dec 2012
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    The Grand Mosque of Mardin

    by MM212 Updated Feb 3, 2015

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    Referred to as al-Jameh al-Kabir in Arabic and Ulu Camii in Turkish, the Grand Mosque of Mardin dates from the 11th century Seljuk period. However, construction continued well into the Artukid period for according to an inscription on the base of the minaret, the mosque was completed in 1176 CE. Although it is believed to have been constructed from scratch, it likely replaced an older ruined mosque structure from a previous era (Omayyad?), but historians know little about its predecessors. It is also believed by local Christians that a cathedral dedicated to Saint Joseph once stood on the site, though no archaeological or historical proof has yet been found. Whether or not it was Saint Joseph, it is highly plausible that an older church did exist here and was probably converted or reconfigured at some point into a mosque, and the church in turn had perhaps replaced a pagan temple. This very commonly occurred in this region of Greater Syria and Mesopotamia, with Damascus being the most famous example. The Grand Mosque is the largest in Mardin and its minaret is one of the symbols of the city. It is located in the centre of Old Mardin around the souk area, and consists of a narrow rectangular partially-arcaded courtyard (45m x 13m), with an ablution fountain at its centre, and a long rectangular prayer hall only slightly larger than the courtyard, topped by a ribbed dome. Parts of the mosque, including the minaret, were rebuilt in the 19th century after damage during an 1820s Kurdish rebellion. The minaret and the interior of the Grand Mosque are described in separate tips on this page.

    For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: Grand Mosque Architecture.

    The ribbed dome of Ulu Camii, Dec 2012 Ulu Camii, seen from Sultan Isa Madrass, Dec 2012 Courtyard, dome, and Minaret, Dec 2012 The courtyard & ablution fountain, Dec 2012 Entrance, Dec 2012

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    Artukid Caravanserai

    by MM212 Updated Jan 30, 2015

    As its name indicates, this caravanserai was built during the Artukid period, in 1275. After it was abandoned a few centuries later, it was purchased by the Mungan family and reconfigured into a mansion. It changed hands after that and then served multiple non-residential functions until 2003 when it was converted into a hotel called Artuklu Kervanarayi. It is a good option to consider staying here on a visit to Mardin. See hotel website below for photos (website is in Turkish).

    Artukid Caravanserai, Dec 2012 Artukid Caravanserai, Dec 2012
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    Sultan Isa Madrassa (Zinciriye) - Grand Portal

    by MM212 Updated Jan 27, 2015

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    It is difficult not to stand in awe in front of the incredibly stunning grand portal of the Sultan Isa Madrassa. Beautiful geometric motifs frame the portal, and within this frame is a trilobed arch, almost Gothic, supported by modified Corinthian pilasters, which in turn frame the doorway. Within the trilobed arch is a half-dome decorated with complex stalactite (muqarnas) carvings, as well as some Koranic verses that run across the walls. When I visited in December 2012, this entrance was closed, and access into the structure was from another entrance (into the major courtyard).

    For more photos of the Sultan Isa Madrassa, take a look at the travelogues: Sultan Isa Madrassa and Sultan Isa Madrassa: Architecture.

    Grand Portal of Sultan Isa Madrassa, Dec 2012 Sultan Isa Madrassa, Dec 2012 Sultan Isa Madrassa, Dec 2012 Sultan Isa Madrassa, Dec 2012 Sultan Isa Madrassa, Dec 2012
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    Latifiye Mosque

    by MM212 Updated Jan 27, 2015

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    Named after the Artukid Sultan Abdullatif who built it, this mosque dates from 1371. It is one of Mardin's largest mosques and, though austere in style, it is also one of its most beautiful. The double portals that lead into the main rectangular courtyard are intricately carved with exquisite muqarnas (stalactite) decorations and other geometric motifs. The tall cylindrical minaret was only built in 1845 but in a style faithful to local tradition. For photos of the interior, see the next tip.

    And for detailed photos, check out the travelogue: "Latifiye Mosque Architecture."

    Latifiye Camii, Dec 2012 Second portal, Dec 2012 The minaret, Dec 2012 First portal, Dec 2012 Inner portal, Dec 2012
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    Sultan Isa Madrassa (Zinciriye Medrese)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 27, 2015

    One of Mardin’s finest buildings, Sultan Isa Madrassa is a theological school built in 1385 by the last Artukid Sultan, Melik Nejmeddin Isa bin Muzaffer, on one of the highest levels in Mardin, overlooking the city and the plains beneath. He was generally nicknamed as Sultan Isa, hence the official name of the school, which is otherwise known as Zinjiriye Madrassa (المدرسة الزنجرية in Arabic and Zinciriye Medrese in Turkish). The edifice is entered through a magnificently decorated portal (see separate tip) and its interior consists of two courtyards, a mausoleum, a mosque, and study chambers (also described further in separate tips). The structure is recognisable by its double ribbed domes visible from other parts of landscape - one covers the mosque and the other covers a mausoleum. Though austere, its architectural style – typical of Mardin – exudes beauty and elegance, and is considered the most astounding of the Artukid period. Zinciriye Medrese is one of Mardin’s primary sites, but is said to be secondary in terms of beauty to the Kasimiye Madrassa (15th century) in Mardin which I did not get to visit.

    For more photos, take a look at the travelogues: Sultan Isa Madrassa and Sultan Isa Madrassa: Architecture.

    Double ribbed domes, Sultan Isa Madrassa, Dec 2012 Mausoleum Building, Dec 2012 Porticoes beneath the Citadel, Dec 2012 View over Mesopotamia from courtyard, Dec 2012 Double domes seen from a distance, Dec 2012
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    Sultan Isa (Zinciriye) Madrassa - Interior

    by MM212 Updated Jan 27, 2015

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    The interior of Sultan Isa Madrassa consists of two courtyards (major and minor), a mausoleum, a mosque, and study chambers. Nowadays, visitors enter via the major courtyard, rather than the magnificent portal. The layout of this madrassa is unlike the traditional ones of Cairo and Damascus. Normally, study chambers surround the courtyard on the same level, but here they are on the upper level of the major courtyard (behind the arches of the second level). This is likely the result of the steep terrain of Mardin which necessitated some innovation. The major courtyard itself is a very serene place, with an arched portico on the southern side overlooking Mardin and the Mesopotamian plain, and a large single iwan portico on the northern side, above which is the porticoed terrace with the study chambers. The Mausoleum lies at the western end with the tomb of Sultan Isa, while the prayer hall lies at the eastern end (see separate tip), and their entrances are decorated with noteworthy stalactite (muqarnas) decorations. The pool that lies in the middle of this courtyard would be fed with water running through a channel along the floor from a fountain within the iwan portico, but unfortunately, it wasn't running when I visited in Dec 2012. The second (minor) courtyard is attached to the main building containing the Grand Portal and the Mosque. It sits on higher ground than the Major Courtyard and is thus surrounded by a single storey containing arched porticoes. There are no plants or fountains and is thus less interesting, but from here one could access the roof of the building for views over Mardin. Unfortunately, when I visited in Dec 2012, access to the roof was closed.

    For more photos, take a look at the travelogues: Sultan Isa Madrassa and Sultan Isa Madrassa: Architecture.

    The Major Courtyard & Mausoleum,  Dec 2012 Minor courtyard, Dec 2012 Iwan & Study Chambers, Dec 2012 The Mosque from the Major Courtyard, Dec 2012 The Iwan, Dec 2012
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    The Souk of Mardin

    by MM212 Updated Jan 26, 2015

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    Though once a merchant town on the Asian trade routes, Mardin's souk is certainly nothing like Aleppo's or Istanbul's. It is less extensive and fragmented, rather than being one big covered souk. It lies within the alleys just below the centre of Cumhurriyet Caddesi, in the area around Ulu Camii, the Grand Mosque. Most of it caters to the locals, selling anything from farm produce to spices and from household items to cheap clothing. With increased tourism in Mardin, certain sections (particularly the renovated caravanserais) are now catering to tourists by selling local artefacts, including rugs and hand made silver items. It is still a pleasure to wander around the local souk and observe unchanged daily life.

    For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: The Souk of Mardin.

    Mardin's souk, Dec 2012 Souk Scene, Dec 2012 Local's shops in the souk, Dec 2012 Dec 2012 Spices and nuts, Dec 2012

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    Sultan Isa Madrassa (Zinciriye) - Mosque

    by MM212 Updated Jan 26, 2015

    Much like the rest of Zinciriye Medrese, the prayer hall is austere yet stunning. It is relatively small and consists of a domed transept flanked by two wings with vaulted ceilings. The transept contains the entrance as well as the mihrab (prayer niche) and the minbar (pulpit). The entire structure is built using the multi-hued yellow limestone of Mardin and is accentuated with black basalt stone to create very subtle ablaq (alternating colour) decorations. These are seen in the frames of the entrance and the mihrab as well as the four corners of the dome. Stalactite muqarnas carvings decorate the four corners of the dome and the arch above the entrance. The elegant geometric and floral motifs in the frames of the door and the mihrab are badly eroded in certain parts, but still show the skilful techniques of its masons. Overall, this mosque is similar in style to Latifiye Mosque in Mardin.

    For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: Sultan Isa Madrassa - Mosque Architecture.

    The Dome, Dec 2012 Prayer Hall, Dec 2012 Mihrab and Dome, Dec 2012 Entrance, Dec 2012 Mihrab, Dec 2012
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