Excursions to the Far East and Black Sea Coast: Places to Explore

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Mardin

With historic stone houses clinging to a citadel-topped mountain that overlooks a vast plain below, Mardin has a magical setting. It was hit hard by the violence of the 1980s and'90s, and the city, which is populated by a mix of Arabic and Kurdish speakers, slid off Turkey's tourist map, but the return of calm to the region has meant that travelers are rediscovering this enchanted city's maze-like old town, intricately decorated homes, and lively bazaars. Mardin also now has two of the nicer hotels in the region, as well as one of the area's best restaurants.

Mardin was once the seat of a local dynasty, the Artukids, who ruled the area between the 13th and 14th centuries and left the city with several notable mosques and medreses (Islamic schools). The best of these are the Lâtifiye Camii (Lâtifiye Mosque, 1371) and the Sultan İsa Medrese (Sultan İsa Seminary, 1385), the latter renowned for its exquisite stone carvings. The Seljuk Ulu Cami (Seljuk Ulu Mosque), which dates from the 12th century and has a ribbed dome that looks like an intricate lemon squeezer, is also worth a visit.

One of the big pleasures in Mardin is simply walking the old town's narrow cobblestone lanes and seeing what you come across. Although there are many ugly cement homes that have been built in recent years, there are enough historic homes remaining to give the city a great deal of charm. The stone used to build the old homes is the color of golden sand and looks especially beautiful at sunset.

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