Mardin

With historic stone houses clinging to a citadel-topped mountain that overlooks a vast plain below, Mardin is a magical setting. The city was hit hard by the violence of the 1980s and ’90s, and since it’s populated largely by Arabs, but on the edge of the Kurdish zone, it slid off Turkey's tourist map. The return of calm to the region in the early 2000s meant that travelers began to rediscover this enchanting city's mazelike old town, intricately decorated homes, and lively bazaars. Mardin also featured in several popular Turkish TV drama series, and became popular with tourists from Istanbul and other western Turkish cities, fostering a growth in quality restaurants, hotels, and even a film festival. However, with its proximity to the current conflict in Syria and the escalation in violence between the PKK and the Turkish state in 2015, tourism has slowed considerably. Consult the State Department's travel warnings before planning a trip to the area.

Located on top of a hill that offers sweeping views of the wide plain below, Mardin is a wonderful place to wander. The narrow streets are lined with old stone homes, gorgeous mosques, and a bazaar where donkeys still carry most of the goods. Spend the day walking around, then relax in the evening at the terrace of one of the local restaurants and take in the view of the plains below and the stars above. Although there are some ugly cement homes that have been built in recent years, the local authorities are actively demolishing them and the remaining historic homes 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. The building that houses the post office (PTT) on Birinci Cad. is one of the finest examples of local architecture in town, designed by Armenian architect Sarkiz Lole in the 19th century. A short distance outside the city is the still-active Syriac Monastery of Deyrul Zaferan, parts of which date back to the 5th century.

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