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Mardin is quite 'off the trail' for most tourists, and typically only packed in as part of a longer itinerary throughout Turkey. In my case, it was part of the Diyarbakir trip. It is quite easy to get to both Diyarbakir and Mardin. Once you're in Istanbul, flights to Diyarbakir are frequent, quick and cheap. Likewise once you're on the ground in Diyarbakir, which is actually a fine base to explore the region from. It's where I stayed in a hotel for about a week, and I was surprised how easy it was to get around both by bus and taxi. I didn't rely on trains at the time, as these were not running due to Covid. In either case, it is not possible to get to Mardin by train, so you'll rely on a bus, taxi (more expensive considering the distance, not necessarily worth it) or an organized tour. Obviously, driving yourself is possible too. You'll just have to adapt to the driving style. In particular in darkness, I don't recommend driving in the area, best drive during daylight hours only. I felt remarkably safe during my whole stay, but I'm just commenting on the possibility of sheep on the road or cars without light, some circumstances you might not anticipate.

Getting a first impression of Mardin through pictures might be misleading. It looks like a city surrounded by only mountains and fields, but there's a whole modern part of the city just besides the center. It is, like every city in Turkey, heavily urbanised outside the center and at no moment whatsoever you'll feel like you're 'off the grid'. The only thing is that the old center has been kept exactly as it was, and that's a great thing. You'll be able to take many pictures without seeing the modern city on your lens, as it is actually right next to the center, but on the other side. Do take a look in Google Maps or with Streetview to catch a good impression of the town. I did a day trip from Diyarbakir and although there's plenty to explore, I felt a full day was enough to get a good glimpse of Mardin. It is, without doubt, one of the highlights of Turkey.

How did I end up here?

In 2020 it was fairly hard to travel, with a lot of restrictions in place and in general many places reducing services. It was quite a challenge to find an adventure for Christmas where I could actually get around and still have a sense of adventure. What I do when I don't know where to go, is look at other travel vloggers for inspiration. As they typically spend more time on researching destinations, with the restrictions in place, I could rely on places being 'accessible' at the time. I saw the travel vlogger Drew Binsky traveling through Turkey and visiting Mardin. I saw a shot of him at the place called Zinciriye Medresesi, and thought: 'That's where I'll go!'. The view over Mardin from this place is spectacular. And, with good weather, you can look into Syria, which is right south. And one week later, I found myself standing in exactly this place. Part of my life philosphy is: if you take one step into the wide universe, the universe will make a step towards you. This means that if you take a first step inside a certain direction, the universe will reach out to you simultaneously, and make it work out for you. And in the end, things are not as hard as they might seem.

About Mardin

The Artuqid Dynasty once ruled Eastern Anatolia, Northern Syria and Northern Iraq. The dynasty was named after its founder, Artuk Bey. This dynasty ruled the area from the eleventh through the thirtheenth Century. The architecture of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Hasankeyf is from this particular era. The dynasty left many mosques, bazaars and bridges of which some are still in use to this very day. The city is from antiquity, has lasted throughout the Roman period, the Kingdom of Osroene, the Byzantine period and even the Mongolian empire has had its influence here. During the medieval period, Mardin was the stronghold for the Syriac Catholic church, the Syriac Orthodox church, the Armenian Catholic church and the Armenian Apostolic church. Even many Jews inhabited the city, which truly goes to show how much of a crossroads of empires and religions the region actually is. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, Mardin was peaceful and relatively stable. This halted when conflict with the Egyptian Khedivate arose, an autonomous tributary state of the Ottoman Empire. Nowadays, the city is inhabited by a significant Arab minority, and Arab is frequently heard in the bazaar of Mardin. It has developed into a metropolitan area, largely because of the modern-day city quarters built outside the old center.

I truly hope the pictures and vlogs inspire you to visit this historical area. Few tourists venture out here, but a visit is a memorable experience. And one with great photo and video opportunities, as you're about to find out below. Enjoy!

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