The Assyrians, Arabs, Seljuk Dynasties, Kurdish, Persian, Mongols, and Ottomans have all played a game of rule here. Today, this town of old stone houses that spread out below a cliff ridge in a tumble of labyrinthine alleyways provides plenty of sightseeing opportunities and bucket loads of old-world ambience. With its wealth of historic buildings – some now converted into boutique hotels – Mardın’s timeless allure is attracting a brand new batch of visitors here to soak up the cultural heritage rather than invade and conquer.
5. Mardın Museum
The collection here is small but contains some interesting artifacts from the archaeological sites scattered amid the countryside around Mardın. In particular, the displays of Assyrian and Bronze Age pottery are excellent. Even if you’re not a museum fan, the building the museum is housed in, with its regal colonnades and grand courtyards, is worth the entry price alone. This 19th-century traditional stone villa has been restored to an impressive standard, and walking through the rooms gives you a good idea of the fine style in which local merchants and others high-up in the echelons of Mardın society back then would have lived.
4. Ulu Mosque
Tucked into the eastern edge of the bazaar neighborhood is the Ulu Camii, built in the 11th century by the Artuqid Dynasty. The building suffered badly during a Kurdish uprising in 1832 and has been partially restored. Beneath a prism-shaped dome supported by pillars lies a prayer room divided into three sections. The minaret, with its unique stone carvings, is the highlight of a visit here. The surrounding bazaar neighborhood is a great area to soak up the modern bustle of this ancient town, so be sure to have a wander through the narrow alleyways before or after visiting the mosque.
3. Forty Martyrs Church
This 4th-century church still holds services every Sunday, which tourists are welcome to attend. If you’re not here for the weekend, the church interior can still be visited throughout the rest of the week if you speak to the caretaker (who is usually easily found nearby and has the key). The interior, with its beautiful decoration, is definitely worth seeing. Above the entrance are some intricate carvings commemorating the Christian martyrs of Cappadocia, which the church was renamed in honor of in the 15th century.
2. Kasımiye Medresesi
This 15th-century medrese complex consists of a theological college and domed mosque. The entire complex has a peaceful atmosphere, with its buildings set around graceful courtyards. Upstairs, you can explore the rooms where students once studied and lived while learning the Qur’an. Culture-vulture tourists shouldn’t miss a visit here as this is the best medrese attraction in town to get a real feel for how it would have once functioned. As with the Zinciriye Medresesi, there is some astonishingly elaborate stone carving work on the doorway and another gorgeous vista to admire from the rooftop.
1. Zinciriye Medresesia
This old medrese (theological college) was founded in 1385 by İsa Bey. As one of the best preserved buildings in Mardin, it should be top of your things to do tick list.
The complex is comprised of a domed mosque, a mausoleum, and two tranquil inner-courtyards. The architectural highlight of the building is the intricately decorated and imposing doorway, which is a beautiful example of Islamic artistry. For those not so interested in stonework, don’t miss climbing the stairs to the rooftop, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over the town.