Beautiful and unusual Mardin, sprawls over a hill only 20 miles from the Syrian border and 120 miles from the Iraqi border. Historically, Mardin was linked to northern Syria and northern Iraq through the Artuqid dynasty which ruled the territory from the 11th to 13th century.
The population is Arab, Kurdish and Syriac. Undamaged by the earthquake of February 2023, the town opened its doors to Syrian refugees as well as other dispossessed people from the region. The stunning 12th-century Artuqid architecture qualified it for its denomination as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Looming over it all is a fortress
Whatever I ate the night before did not agree with me one single bit. I slept poorly and had to run to the bathroom numerous times. I meant to get up early to say goodbye to Klaus and Martin as they were on their way to do the same tour of Gobleki and Karahan tepe but I overslept.
Desperate to leave the dreadful Grand Babil Hotel I dragged myself to the bus station and boarded a bus to Mardin. Klaus and Martin raved about Mardin so I changed my plans and decided to visit it.
The only problem was actually getting there. Klaus and Martin warned me that the bus does not actually go directly to Mardin but I couldn’t quite piece together what I was supposed to do. As it turned out I got kicked off the bus in Kisiltepe along with most everyone else.
In about 30 seconds my bag was moved from the bus to a waiting taxi and I was herded inside along with a black-robed old lady. I pulled out my Google translate app to try to figure out what was going on but it was clear that the old lady couldn’t read. She passed the phone to the taxi driver and I gradually figured out that the taxi ride was included and was going to the actual bus station of Mardin. For a few extra Turkish lira he brought me to the lovely Hotel Raymar.
It was late in the day and my stomach was a mess and I was exhausted so I was just happy to crash in the small but very comfortable room. They were so kind and wished me a happy birthday and even sent a fruit plate up to my room which I couldn’t touch.
I got a late start the following day after having a little bit of breakfast that included mostly bread and pastries because my stomach was still very tender. Although a comfortable four-star hotel, it was not located in the heart of the Old Town but a taxi ride was fairly inexpensive.
Mardin is a major destination for Turkish tourists. The main drag, I Caddesi was jammed with shoppers swarming around jewelry shops, tea boutiques, shops selling beans, herbs, spices, nuts, sweets and scarves.
Notice how the products come out of big sacks with nary a plastic container in sight? We could learn.
There were also restaurants with rooftop terraces overlooking the Mesopotamian plains to Syria.
Knowing that the Mardin Museum was going to be closed the following day, I decided to tackle it right away. Located in a restored late 19th-century mansion, the museum was beautiful to stroll through and gave a good overview of Mesopotamian civilization. The five exhibition halls were organized according to the themes of Belief, Trade, Life, Food Defense and Ornamentation.
I was glad I had most of the following day to look around more before my overnight bus to Konya. It was a pleasure to wander the ancient streets.
And of course I had to take a look at the extensive bazaar.
Mardin is conservative but nowhere near as devout as Sanliurfa as it attracts Turks from around the country including cosmopolitan Istanbul. My headscarf was in no way necessary but it did keep my head cool!