Mardin is a beautiful old town built on a hillside, crowned with a castle, overlooking the vast roasted Mesopotamian plains. Mardin is one of the oldest settlements of Mesopotamia and of the world and, with the marks of all periods in history, it is like a summary of the history of mankind.
The name Mardin means "fortress" in Syriac. Mardin was known as Izalla in the late Bronze Age when it was part of the Hurrian Kingdom of Mittani. It was conquered by the Assyrians and incorporated into their empire. After the Assyrians, it came under Median, Babylonian, Parthian, Seleucid, Roman, and Persian-Sassanian rule. In 442 CE, a plague epidemic devastated the city, after which it became abandoned.
It was rebuilt 100 years later by a Roman-Byzantine general Ursiyanos and incorporated into the Byzantine Empire until it was conquered by the Arabs under Caliph Omar in 640 CE. It was taken by the Seljuks in 1089 and governed by the Artuqid dynasty until the invasion of Timur. After Timur, it was disputed by the Turkmen federations of the Karakoyunlu (with black sheep) and the Akkoyunlu (with white sheep). The latter were defeated by the Safavid Shah Ismail who established a powerful Shiite state. In their campaign against Shah Ismail, the Ottomans under Sultan Selim I the Grim (Yavuz Sultan Selim) took control of the city and castle in 1517. In 1923, it was incorporated into the Turkish Republic as the administrative capital of the like-named province.
Sights & Photos of Mardin
Mardin is famous for its honey-coloured stone houses and its once large Christian community.
The monastery of Mar Hanania, in Arabic Deyrul Zaffaran, meaning Saffron Monastery after the yellowish rock from which it is built, is about 6 km from Mardin. It was once the seat of the Syrian Orthodox patriarchate and is presently used as an orphanage. The monastery was founded in 495 AD. Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still used here in the Syrian Orthodox liturgy.
Just south of Mardin's city centre is the Kasımiye Medresesi or Kasım Pasha Medrese, an Islamic university of the 15th century that has recently been restored.
Travel Information & Travel Tips
Mardin lies 100 km south of Diyarbakır. We visited the city on our 2002 trip to Eastern and Central Anatolia. Since then, the political situation in this part of the Middle East has changed drastically. Hotels are rare, so we took a trip by taxi from Diyarbakır. Total price for a complete day trip, including tip at that time was about € 55. Ask for Mohammed Ali's taxi, he is usually standing opposite the Grand Güler Hotel.