Mardin is a museum and a city at the same time. It is a museum with its stone houses – showing in so many ways how stone can be shaped by human hand – its history, cultural structure, social patterns and religious beliefs. The old city centre, even when looked at from a distance, has a striking effect. When you get closer it grabs you and when you enter its narrow streets and wander between the stone buildings it wraps enchantingly around you. In fact, the city is divided in two parts, new and old Mardin. At the end of the 1960s, the whole city was placed under a protection order. The construction of new buildings was banned and city’s needs for expansion were met through allocating new settlement areas. In order to feel the poetry of the stone and belief you have to travel on foot through the old city. As it is, many of the narrow streets are inaccessible to cars. Even the municipal rubbish collection service uses donkeys instead of trucks. While wandering through old Mardin houses, past world heritage listed houses made from local stone and amidst the stalls of the bazaar you feel as if you are on a trip back through the centuries, back in history. The entrance, positioning and human relationship of the shops of the Dellallar, Kazancılar, Marangozlar, Hasan Ammar, Sokulbakar, Bezzazlar and Babisor marketplaces take you back centuries. Those making wooden sandals with adzes, shop sewing saddles for animals and, even though fewer in number than in the past, the hammers making music shaping copper creates an enchantment. When going to the Attarlar Bazaar do not forget to taste some of the roasted chickpea made before your eyes. The silver work of Mardin has been long famed. You can see examples of the local silver smiths in the Kuyumcular (Jewellery) Bazaar in city’s centre and in the shops of jewellers Midyat. You can buy some wonderfully fine works of filigree silver here.

The poetry and music of stone

A stone mason, while working on the pattern of the stone would also express his feelings onto the stone; his loves, separations, pains and joys. In one of the local legends the story is told of a master stone mason who spent ten years adoring a stone house as it were a piece of fine jewellery to be able to win his loved one. Whenever he could meet the girl he was in love with he would make patterns of pigeons, bunches of grape and flowers. When he missed her he would decorate the stone with the motif of her plaited hair. Those who tried to prevent their meeting and wanted to separate them would appear as snakes in his work. He laboured non-stop for ten years, with each of the stones of the house being worked by his hand. As soon as he got the chance to marry his lover, he put the roof on his house and they moved in. They say that if their separation had lasted another ten years the house would not have completed for another decade. Let us first look at the streets, houses, churches and old Ottoman universities of Mardin before we start visiting the city’s surroundings. There is the 12th century Ulu Cami (Great Mosque) with its thin, long and decorated minaret; the Zinciriye Medresesi (University), dated to 1385; and Mardin’s south gate, considered a master piece of stone work. Among the other buildings in the Islamic style there are Lütfiye, Şehidiye, Deyrülzafaran Şeyh Zırrar, Emineddin mosques and the Kasımiye Medresesi. The Kırklar Kilisesi (Forties Church) is in the city’s centre, and the Mar Mihail Church in the south.

The Deyrulzafaran monastery

What the Vatican represents for the Catholic religion, the Deyrulzafaran Monastery until relatively recently used to be for those of the Syrian Orthodox Church or Suryanis. The monastery, five km from Mardin, was home to the Patriarchate of the Syrian Orthodox Church until 1937, when it was relocated to Syria. However, it is still a place of pilgrimage for many Suryanis living in Turkey or abroad and receives many visitors. The monastery was built by the Suryani brothers Tenedori and Tehdari, both architects, in 493. The name of the monastery comes from the saffron flower grown locally and which was used in the mortar of the building. The monastery has a special holiness since it has a stone erected in the name of the Suryani Apostle Petrus. It is said that this stone was erected to commemorate the words of Christ, who told Petrus, “You are the foundation stone on which your church will be erected.”
Within the monastery there is also a temple for the worshippers of the sun, long predating Christianity.


You get to Dara from the Nusaybin road heading towards Syria. Dara took its name from the Great Persian Emperor Darius. It used to be an important transit trade centre in Mesopotamia. Among the ancient relics there are the great cisterns that held the water supply of the town’s fortress and below the ruins, locally described as a palace there is a great cellar and other monuments.


Midyat, a town within the province of Mardin, is another of the region’s city museums. Midyat is like a town from the Middle Ages with its stone mansions, houses, arched passages and the high bell towers of the Suryani churches. Midyat’s buildings are the best examples of filigree stonework in Turkey and there are still a few master craftsmen practising this art in the town’s marketplace.

Deyr-Ul Umur Monastery

This monastery near Midyat is also known as Mor Gabriel and was built in 379. Inside it there are chapels named for the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, the Forty Martyrs, Mar Sumuel. It is used as a bishopric by the Suryanis.


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Mardin used to be an important center of the Western Asia for both its strategic location and commercial richness. Excavations in Girnavaz Tumulus at the crossing point of Assyrian royal roads indicate that the place was continuously settled from 4000 to 700 BC. Yielding many finds including potteries, bottles, ceramic sculptures, cylinder shaped bulla as well as architectural remains from the late Assyrian period, Girnavaz reflects all characteristics pertinent to the upper Mesopotamian culture. The tumulus is believed to be the place where genies live together and visited for heal to those with mental problems.


Mardin was once a very important center for Christianity. Architectural structures belonging to different epochs have reached out time in a unique architectural integrity. One can find unique Mardin houses; churches of Kırklar, Mar Mihail, Behrimiz, Virgin Mary, Mar Yusuf and Mar Bitris; medresses of Kasımiye, Zinciriye and Marufiye; monasteries of Deyr’ul Zafaran and Deyr’ul Umur; mosques of Ulu, Çubuk and Molla Hari and the castle as important buildings in this integrity.


Extending over a territory of 12,760 km2, the province of Mardin lies between the Southeastern Taurus Range to the north and the Arabian Platform to the south. Most of this territory covers the area known as “Mardin-Midyat Threshold.”


The population of the province is 705,098 (Census of 2000). Dargeçit, Derik, Kiziltepe, Mazidagi, Midyat, Nusaybin, Ömerli, Savur and Yesilli are Mardin’s districts in the periphery.


The culture of Mardin bears the imprint of various antique civilizations flourishing in the area. Mardin has an enormous historical, cultural and architectural richness. It is apparent that this richness has the potential of contributing much to the development of the province and national tourism if mobilized and managed properly.


Mardin enjoys a privileged status in the sense that it is able to make people live the past and to present what is old and valuable to present generations. Mardin’s cultural diversity is further enriched by the deep-rooted culture of various communities including the oldest Christian community, the Suryani. Who can refuse to see a city of tolerance where ezan from mosques lives in brotherhood with church bells?


In recent years Mardin has become a center of attraction for many people from different parts of the world. It is a candidate for UNESCO’s List of ‘Cities of World Heritage.’ Submitting, protecting and transferring cultural richness for the next generations require a big importance. In our city and its provinces we have 665 buildings registered by protection of culture and nature values committee directorate.

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