Fun things to do in Mardin Ili

  • The miniature model, Dec 2012
    The miniature model, Dec 2012
    by MM212
  • Temple of Shamash, Dec 2012
    Temple of Shamash, Dec 2012
    by MM212
  • The path, Dec 2012
    The path, Dec 2012
    by MM212

Most Viewed Things to Do in Mardin Ili

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    Hasankeyf

    by MM212 Updated Dec 22, 2013

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    Although Hasankeyf is not considered in the Tur Abdin region, its proximity makes it an obligatory stop when touring this region (it is in fact in the Batman Province, not the Mardin Province where this page is written). Its magical setting on the Tigris, long glorious history, magnificent mediaeval ruins, and precarious future, however, make Hasankeyf a destination unto itself. Its future is in jeopardy because of the downstream Ilısu Dam project, which, if completed, will flood the valley and drown most of the city forever - a huge loss for all of humanity! Hasankeyf was our first stop after leaving Midyat on our tour of the Tur Abdin region.

    For more, check out my Hasankeyf page.

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    Deyrulzafaran Monastery

    by MM212 Updated Dec 9, 2013

    Having served as the seat of the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox church for eight centuries, Deyrulzafaran is one of the most important sites in the Tur Abdin. It is located about 5 kms south-east of Mardin, and stands isolated on the side of the escarpment that forms the south-western end of the Tur Abdin plateau, camouflaged during the dry season by its saffron-coloured stones that match the surrounding hills. From its dramatic location, it enjoys incredible views over the fertile Mesopotamian plain – extending all the way to modern-day Syria and Iraq. It was founded in 493 AD over a Roman fortress and an ancient sun temple, which was incorporated into the monastery’s buildings and is visible to this day. Deyrulzafaran is a pleasant and rewarding excursion from Mardin, and a visit to this area without a stop at Deyrulzafaran would be considered incomplete!

    For more, take a look at my Deyrulzafaran page.

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    Mardin

    by MM212 Updated Apr 2, 2013

    Though most celebrated for its dramatic location and its Islamic monuments, Mardin is nevertheless inextricable from the Tur Abdin, both culturally and historically. It has several ancient churches, and nearby is the Monastery of Deyrulzafaran, one of the most important stops on anyone's itinerary. The city itself lies on the edge of the Tur Abdin plateau, just before the landscape makes a dramatic descent into the flat plains of Mesopotamia, and it hugs the slopes of a mountain as a necklace would the neckline of a woman. From nearly anywhere in Mardin, the views of Mesopotamia are spectacular and extend all the way south to Syria and Iraq. A trip to the Tur Abdin is typically either begun or concluded in this city, which has a much better tourist infrastructure than any other place in this region (albeit pricey).

    For more, take a look at my Mardin page.

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    Mor Gabriel Monastery

    by MM212 Updated Mar 31, 2013

    Located some 20 minutes south-east of Midyat, Mor Gabriel Monastery is one of the primary sites when visiting the region. The remote Suriani (Syriac Orthodox) monastery is one of the oldest still functioning monasteries in the world, founded in 397 AD, and one of the most important to the Suriani church. It is also known by two other names: Deyrulumur (or Deir al-Umur), which in Arabic (دير العمر) means the Monastery of Age, and Qartmin Monastery, which refers to Qartmin, a nearby Suriani village, now called Yayvantepe (Saint Gabriel was known as Gabriel of Qartmin). The monastery was restored to its former glory in recent years and is now fully functional and open to visitors, but the buildings were constructed over many centuries. In its interior are churches and halls that date from the 5th - 6th centuries, including the Church of the Virgin Mary and Theodora's Dome. Mor Gabriel Monastery made headlines recently in its dispute with the Turkish authorities over the ownership of the surrounding land (try Googling it).

    For more, check out the Mor Gabriel Monastery page.

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    Gönüllü (Derdile)

    by MM212 Updated Feb 3, 2013

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    This little village was the first we encountered on the road we took from Hasankeyf to the Tur Abdin region. It is called Gönüllü (in the Batman province) and is situated on the edge of a mountain with breathtaking scenery and terraced farms. Its original name was Derdile, before the Turkish authorities changed the names of the villages in the Tur Abdin area, and it contains the ruins of a church. We were regarded quite suspiciously by the few villagers, who probably go on for weeks without seeing an unfamiliar car drive by this (sometimes volatile?) region. Down the road, we did see two men carrying rifles! We were not threatened in any way, but we probably should have stuck to the main roads...

    For more, click on Gönüllü.

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    Anıtlı (Hah)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 31, 2013

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    Nowadays nothing but a small neglected village amid farms and orchards, Anıtlı, whose original Syriac name is Hah, was historically one of the most important settlements in the Tur Abdin region. It was our main destination in the Tur Abdin on Christmas Eve 2012, specifically for its 3rd century Syriac Orthodox Church of Yoldath Aloho, i.e. Mother of God in Syriac (referred to as Meryemana in Turkish). Considered the most beautiful in the Tur Abdin region, this church is part of a small monastery, which served as the seat of the Bishop of Tur Abdin for a while during its long history. Its importance also stems from a local legend that claims it was founded by the Magi upon their return from Palestine.

    For more on the fascinating history of this village, check out my Anıtlı page.

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    Midyat

    by MM212 Updated Jan 30, 2013

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    Considered the capital of the Tur Abdin region, Midyat is an ancient town where church bell towers still dominate the skyline. Because it had been for centuries a majority Christian town, Old Midyat boasts nine churches, and fewer mosques. Six of these churches come with beautiful bell towers that rise from within the maze of winding alleys and elegant stone mansions. Although Midyat's population is now mostly Kurdish, with a large minority of Moslem Arabs (known as Mhallami or Mhalmoyo), there still is a small community of Syriac Orthodox Christians (Suriani). The Suriani who have remained have recently recently been joined by others returning from the Diaspora, hoping to keep alive and maintain the 1800 years of Christian heritage in Midyat and its surroundings. Midyat makes an excellent starting point from which to explore the villages and monasteries of Tur Abdin, and though still quite provincial, it has the infrastructure to support tourism, including excellent boutique hotels in the old part of town. Midyat is where my tour of the Tur Abdin began.

    For more, take a look at my Midyat page.

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    Altıntaş (Kfarze)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 17, 2013

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    The village of Altıntaş was known by its Syriac (Suriani) name Kfarze before it was renamed by Turkish authorities. In the early 20th century, its population was two thirds Syriac Orthodox Christian and one third Kurdish Yezidis. Much like elsewhere in Tur Abdin, the Christian population is probably extinct, but the town's main church - built in the 6th century and dedicated to Mor Izozoel - seems to have been restored. It is located some 15 kms northeast of Midyat, not too far from Anıtlı (Hah) where the famous Church of the Mother of God (Meryemana) is located.

    For more, check out the page: Altıntaş.

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    Barıştepe (Salah)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 16, 2013

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    One of the most accessible of the Tur Abdin villages, Barıştepe is about 10 kms northeast of Midyat. The village was originally known by its Syriac name, Salah, before the authorities changed the names of villages in the region, and it has a long, important history. During the Seleucid period, the village had a Hellenistic temple dedicated to Heracles, of which some ruins are said to remain. Under the Persians, it had a Zoroastrian temple, which is now thought to be under the Church of Mor Yakub (Saint Jacob). This 4th century church was once part of a larger monastery that served as the seat of the bishop of Tur Abdin after a schism with Deyrulzafarn.

    On our visit to the region on 24th December 2012, we drove past Barıştepe, regrettably, without stopping. I was unable to take a photo of the town, but instead I photographed a large poster of it at Deyrulzafaran Monastery two days later (see attached).

    Click on Barıştepe for more.

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    İzbırak (Zaz)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 15, 2013

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    Located 20 kms north-east of Midyat, just north of the road from Mardin to Dargeçit, İzbırak is one of many villages in the Tur Abdin area crowned by a church. It was the first such village we encountered soon after crossing the border from the Batman to the Mardin province as we drove south. Like other villages in this area, İzbırak is also known by its original Suriani name, Zaz, before Turkish authorities imposed Turkish names on them. Most of the native Suriani (Syriac Orthodox Christian) inhabitants left in past decades only to find Kurds move in and take their place. The village has four churches, including the ancient Mor Dimet, which has a bell tower that dominates the surroundings. Only Mor Dimet is preserved, the other three are in ruins.

    For more, check out the İzbırak page.

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    Eskikale (Qala'et Mara)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 12, 2013

    Located between Mardin and Deyrulzafaran Monastery, the tiny village of Eskikale was once known by its Arabic name of Qala'et Mara (قلعة مرا, also spelt Qaletmara, otherwise Kalıtmara in Turkish). It originally contained three churches, but only one remains: Mar Gergis (Mor Gewargis in Syriac and Cercis in Turkish), which was recently renovated. The village was traditionally mostly an Arab Christian one (with some Syriacs), but its original inhabitants have largely left over the past century and Moslem Kurds or Arabs took their place. There is now a mosque in the town with a slender Ottoman-style minaret. The village's Arabic name means the Fortress of the Lady or the Maiden because of the now ruined hilltop castle that towers above. Its Turkish name, Eskikale, means "Old Fortress". Although technically a separate village, Eskikale is located just outside the Mardin city border and can easily be reached on foot.

    For more, go to the page: Eskikale.

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    Ömerli (Ma'asarte)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 12, 2013

    Due its location halfway on the main road linking Midyat and Mardin, Ömerli has grown over the past decades into a fairly modern town, with a population consisting mainly of Moslem Kurds and Arabs. Although it has always had some sort of a mixed population, the village had been predominantly Syriac and Arab Christian before the many events in the past century that led to the reduction and near elimination of the Christian population of the region. It was originally known by its Arabic name Ma'asarte (معسرتة), equivalent to the Syriac "Masarto," before Turkish authorities renamed most of the villages in this area. The town once had at least two Syriac churches; the first was the Church of Mother of God (Yoldath Aloho in Syriac and Waldet Allah in Arabic), which would otherwise be known in the West as the Church of the Virgin Mary; the second was dedicated to Saint George (Mor Gewargis in Syriac and Mar Gergis in Arabic). The latter is said to have been converted into a Mosque. We did not stop in Ömerli on our way from Midyat to Mardin, but I would have liked to walk around to uncover some of its past... perhaps next time.

    For a few more photos, check out the page: Ömerli.

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    Bağlarbaşı (formerly Arnas)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 12, 2013

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    Located some 9 kms northeast of Midyat, Bağlarbaşı was formerly known by its Syriac (Suriani) name Arnas (sometimes spelt Urdnus). It had a mixed population of Syriac Orthodox Christians, a few Protestant families, and Moslem Kurds. The Christians suffered tremendously in the massacres of early 20th century and since then the Christian population has diminished, though a few families are believed to still remain. Dominating the village is an 8th century church dedicated to Mor Quryaqos.

    For more, take a look at the Bağlarbaşı page.

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    Gökçepınar (Ese)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 12, 2013

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    Gökçepınar is the second sizeable village we encountered en route to the Tur Abdin region from Hasankeyf. The road traversed the outskirts of the town and we did not stop. The village seems ancient with some ruins, but the mosque and its white minaret are definitely new, and the locals are probably Kurdish. Its original name was "Ese" before Turkish authorities changed the names of the towns in the region. Otherwise, I was unable to find any other information on the history of the village, which most likely had a Christian population and a church at some point during its history, especially being in the Tur Abdin region. Gökçepınar is located just north of the border between the Batman and Mardin provinces.

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    Narlı (Ahlah)

    by MM212 Updated Jan 12, 2013

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    Located between Bağlarbaşı (Arnas) and Altıntaş (Kfarze), Narlı is yet another village in the Tur Abdin region with Syriac Christian origins. Although it seemed larger than its two neighbouring villages, I was unable to find the appropriate Narlı here on VT. The village's former Syriac name was Ahlah (sometimes spelt Achlah) and it was originally inhabited by Syriac Christians and a few Moslem Arabs. As the native population fled in past decades, rural Kurds moved in to take their place, and one of the village's main churches (Mor Shimon) was converted into a mosque (it may be the mosque with the slender white minaret, but I'm uncertain). The top of the hill is dominated by a ruined stone structure with vaults (seen in the second photograph), which was, without a doubt, a former church. According to German Wikipedia, the town continues to be home to Arabs and a handful of Syriacs, among a Kurdish majority.

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