"Mardin - Historical, with religious tolerance" Mardin Ili by Caniko

Mardin Ili Travel Guide: 184 reviews and 755 photos

A former family home

Mardin has an old and a new part. This house, from the old part, used to be owned by the Sahtana-family, great-grandparents of one of travelmates. In the old days, three or for generations of the family lived together in the house (which is of the type called "Konak", or mansion).

Today it is used by PTT, the Turkish post service, and there is free access to see it, as well as the wonderful view of the Mesopotamian plains from the building's top. The building is made from the local yellow sandstone and is decorated with very nice, traditional (arabesque-like) stone carvings round the windows and doors. The external stairs, leading up three stories, are very impressive and with classical dimensions, giving the whole building a serene view.

The old city is a maze of narrow streets, with steps going up and down the hillside and alleyways going through buildings. In spite of the weatherworn look of many of the buildings, some of medieval origin, there is nothing decrepit about the impression - rather, one is half expecting an Aladdin to come sprinting past one, sharply followed by traders yelling "Thief, thief". There is a sense of timelessness, yet also of days gone by, about walking in this quarter.

Old Mardin from afar

At the top of the hill-almost-mountain behind the city proper, an impressive castle can be seen guarding this place where the Silk Road in the old days met the Mazidag mountain range. The height, at 1083 m, was almost certainly why Tamerland in his conquest in the 14th century failed to capture this fortress.

Inside the walls a self-sufficient city could be found, complete with mosque, church, bazaar and palace. But the same height that protected the fortress was probably also why tradesmen i later, more secure, times, preferred to stop halfway up the mountain and set up camp there - creating the Mardin we have today.

Where different religions thrive together

Mardin contains both old churches and old mosques, and although it used to be mostly inhabited by Syrian Catholic believers, the majority today is of the Islamic faith (many Christians have left the area for safer and more prosperous parts of the world).

The whole area, a focal point of the Syrian Catholic church, was instrumental in defining the understanding of the nature and work of Jesus as believed by most Christians today, due to its insistence on thinking differently than the rest. Unfortunately, that made life very difficult for the Syriac Christians and they are a small minority today in the Christian world.

There is a sense of tolerance and polite openness in the city towards other inhabitants as well as the curious tourist - possibly because this is still a relatively undiscovered part of the world, in spite of its historical significance.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Colorful, mysterious, tolerant.
  • Cons:You would like to go there again.
  • In a nutshell:Mysterious
  • Last visit to Mardin Ili: Apr 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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