Mardin, which nowadays has become a big city, is divided into Old Mardin and New Mardin. While New Mardin seems like a regular Anatolian city, Old Mardin, which has maintained the fabric of history, is like a city of tales coming from the past.
I began my exploration of Old Mardin from the Kasımiye Madrasa. The madrasa, which was built in 1469 in the era of Kasım Bey, the Emperor of the Ag Qoyunlu, is impressive with its striking architecture. Several ancient medical instruments are exhibited in the courtyard. The unique landscape of the Mesopotamian Plain that suddenly confronts you is breathtaking. The sunset view is particularly gorgeous.
You can also go to the backyard of the Grand Mardin Hotel on the upper side of the Kasımiye Madrasa to see and take a photo of Old Mardin from the top.
Another madrasa to visit in the center of Old Mardin is the Zinciriye (Sultan İsa) Madrasa. The architecture of this madrasa is also fascinating and it also offers more wonderful views of Mardin from the hill.
There are plenty of historical mosques in Mardin, which has hosted Islamic civilization for hundreds of years. While all of these mosques offer beautiful examples of stonemasonry, the Grand Mosque, Abdullatif (Latifiye) Mosque, Şehidiye Mosque, and the Hatuniye Madrasa and Mosque stand out as the most prominent mosques of the old city. The ‘Sakal-ı Şerif’ in the Grand Mosque and the ‘Footprint of Hz. Muhammad’ in the Hatuniye Mosque in particular are must-see attractions.
Mardin is a city where people from different religious beliefs have been living together in peace for hundreds of years. At least 1500 years old and known as ‘Mor Benham,’ Kırklar Church must also be on your visit list. Attracting attention with its impressive architecture, the bell tower and the wooden doors of the church are particularly remarkable. In the evenings you can attend the services in this church, which is considered important not only by the Assyrians, but also throughout the whole of Christendom.
The city sparkles after the sun goes down. Mardin really is well-described by the saying: ‘A place to see during the day; a necklace by night.’ The magnificent scenery of the Mesopotamian Plain during the day gives way to a thousand glittering lights by night.
I started my second day in Mardin by climbing up to Mardin Castle to see the cityscape and the Mesopotamian Plain from the top. As Mardin Castle is a military zone, it is not open to visitors but you can still reach the bottom part of the castle. While walking through the narrow streets between the old houses towards the castle area, you first find yourself in a fairytale before being beguiled by the view from the top.
Early on Sunday morning, I headed out to see the Deyrulzafaran Monastery. This monastery, around 10 minutes away from the old center of Mardin, is one of the primary places to see in the city. The monastery, which was built in the 5th century and used as the patriarchate of the Assyrians until 1932, appears to have remained unchanged over the ages. It is a very peaceful place surrounded only by hills.
Located in a historical building in the old city center, Sakıp Sabancı City Museum not only provides information about the cultural history of the city, but also houses many unique historical artifacts. Dilek Sabancı Art Gallery contains historical photographs taken by western travelers, giving an insight into the late period of the Ottoman Empire.
I allocated the last part of my Mardin tour to exploring the local tastes and for shopping. I complemented the delicious kebap I ate at Kebapçı Rıdo in the old city center with tasty kadayıf and künefe desserts at Sadık Künefe. Then I wandered around the Coppersmiths Bazaar, and after buying plenty of Dibek coffee, the famous coffee of the Mardin region, I concluded my trip and set off for the airport to go back to Istanbul.