The further I got into Eastern Turkey, the more I heard about the mystical city of Mardin—placed on top of a hill, overlooking the plains of Mesopotamia and once a very important hub for everyone trying to make their way through the Silk Road.
There’s a reason why every tour agency includes Mardin as one of its top destinations, even though it’s so far away from Turkey’s main tourist road and I couldn’t loose the opportunity of discovering the reason why.
Between rock buildings and maze-like streets
Coming from Urfa, I decided to ride one of the many dolmus going towards Mardin and was instantly impressed by the beauty of the Old Town.
Tiny streets packed with cars and pedestrians, rock buildings gilded by the Sun and a general feeling that I was stepping back in time the further I got into the heart of Mardin.
For a person who likes walking and people-watching, this was paradise!
My favorite activity was purposefully getting lost in the alleyway, discovering new corners and tiny sights of what is like to live in such a place.
Kids playing marbles on the edge of the streets or flying kites on top of roofs, the smell of warm food coming from the many restaurants and, of course, stray cats everywhere—something I got used to while in Turkey.
The space available is so small, that everything seems to be stacked on top of each other and yet works perfectly.
In the afternoon, life moves from the streets up to the roofs, where people enjoy a sunset chai while playing okey or backgammon, or by simply admiring the incredible display of beauty right in front of their eyes.
It’s around this time when my absolute favorite routine in Turkey starts: the afternoon call to adhan.
With so many mosques in such a small area, the call to prayer in Mardin is nothing but amazing.
It doesn’t matter where you stand, the sound will come to you from every direction, mesmerising.
A bustling city during the day, Mardin’s a ghost town as soon as the Sun goes down, which offers a perfect scenery for anybody daring to walk through the dark alleys.
I spent several hours taking night pictures around the center and since the drinking laws seem to be a little bit more relaxed here, even got offered some beers by locals sipping beers in the streets.
More than just walking around
If you’re looking for a more concise plan of what to do in Mardin, do not worry! There’s a lot of actual tourist attractions other than the city itself.
Several Medreses(old Muslim schools) are spread around the city—my favorite one being Zinciriye Medrese—mosques, churches, museums, historical buildings, houses and, if you’re a foodie, the local food is delicious!
On top of that, most of the hotels are buildings that have been used for hundreds of years to accommodate travellers coming from distant lands and being able to share the same space is a wonderful feeling.
There’s no question as to why people make their way to Turkey’s far east just to have a small glimpse of Mardin, but if you’re still not convinced, let me show you a little bit more: