Mardin: Witnessing Mesopotamia
Call me an old soul. I even sometimes think that I was probably born in the wrong era. There are some particular period of time that I wish I could have experienced. I love antique stuffs, museum, roman ruins, you name it. When I visited the new city in the foreign land, the old town is always on the top of the list. There is particular pleasant that I could not describe by words when I got lost in the middle of never ending alleys. When I passed through the narrow streets, my thoughts flew away with every step I took. I imagined my self to walk at the same place hundreds or even thousand years ago. I tried to picture how people dressed those days. How they did trading. Was money already exist or exchange goods was applied among people.
Back to my stories, in the last winter break, I decided to visit Mardin, the capital of Mardin Province, located on the southeast of Turkey. This city had drew my attention due to its historical background. Mardin is special city, located on the northern Mesopotamia and known as the cradle of civilization. The city was ruled under the influence of diverse cultures since more than seven thousand years ago. Who was not familiar with Mesopotamia? The region as the birthplace of many tools and systems, philosophies and religions. Nothing could make me happier than imagining myself to get lost in the alley to witness the birthplace of civilization.
I was in Ankara, and the most convenient way to reach Mardin was by bus. There was no suitable flight schedule that I could find, since most of flights had to transit in Istanbul before continuing their flights to Mardin. Even if I could find the direct flight, the cost could afford the half price I spent for my whole winter trip. So, I headed to Ankara bus station, got one ticket for myself, and ended sitting on the bus for the next fourteen hours.
I used eighty percent of my time on the bus by sleeping and hoping that my back pain would not visit me during the trip. When I woke up, the sun start to rise on the horizon. The mountain ice that we passed once we left Ankara had been changed into the large desert and mountain rocks. Gosh, that must be so hot during summer.
I arrived in Mardin at 10 o’clock in the morning. I did not understand how it started, the bus taking me to Mardin stopped in one city, around 12 km from the center of Mardin. Later, the rest passengers, including me, were transferred to one minibus to take us to Mardin city center. When we arrived in Mardin, the driver informed passengers that it was the last stop. No one looked confused but me, and I did not see any sign of the old town of Mardin.
I was confused and worried. I asked the driver in English, “Excuse me, Sir. Where is the old city?”
“Inglizce, anlamiyorum,” Mr. Driver answered shortly.
“Well, this is why I should learn Turkish,” I cursed myself.
“Hmm. eski sehir. Nerede?” I asked again with my limited Turkish.
And Mr. Driver said again, “Taxi”
I lifted my hand, gave a code to a taxi parked across the street. There was no meter system, so I had to lean on my bargaining skill. After reaching agreement about the price, and the taxi driver finally successfully convinced me that he was one hundred percent sure where my hotel is located, we then headed to the old town.
We arrived less than 15 minutes. But the taxi driver did not drop me in front of my hotel. Instead, in the middle of market. When I started to complain, he just said, “no car inside. one minute,” and I was left in the middle of the crowd.
I was super exhausted. The old town of Mardin is not flat, and it was doubled hard when I had to walk through the stone road with a big suitcase. I encouraged myself to ask the bread seller who was busy to sell his bread on the corner of the street.
“Stone Hotel,” I asked him. He answered with a language that I did not understand. I presumed that it was Kurdish.
“No Kurdish,” I said again and ensured to make my face as sad as possible. The bread seller called his friend, and his friend tried to give me instruction in Turkish. They probably thought if I don’t understand Kurdish, then I must understand Turkish. Finally, they showed me an alley, I followed their instruction (only if I could interpret what they said correctly), and walked through the alleys desperately.
I arrived in front of an old building. It looked like hotel from the outside. But then I realized it was a wine house. Lucky me, a young man walked out the gate and asked my destination with his limited English. He even walked with me to find my hotel, and left me after we finally found the alley where my hotel is located. God send me the savior through this man.
I arrived at my hotel. A super cute receptionist was there, sat at the lobby counter. He did not speak English, but thanks to technology, we were able to manage to communicate by using google translate. That was my lucky day. I booked a single room for myself. But the cute receptionist upgraded my booking and gave me the double room with the size twice larger. Another bless of the day.
As its name, this hotel was constructed by using stone as its main structure. It has thick walls, around 50 cm, three times thicker of normal walls. I presumed, this wall probably could be functioned as a buffer to prevent the extreme weather and temperature coming from outside.
I spent five days in Mardin. For some people, it could be so boring. For me, every day was like a new adventure. There were always something new to discover in every corner of the street. In one adventure, I met a Syrian girl, named Rukan, that had lived in Mardin for almost five years. She speaks English fluently, then I spent one fine afternoon with her, exchanged stories with some cups of tea.
Overlooking the endless Mesopotamia, Mardin is home for many religions. Through thousand of years, Mardin is fascinating by exhibiting cultural and architecture heritages. The area was controlled by different rulers, from the the Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines until the Ottomans. Throughout this history, Mardin became place where people from different religions such as Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Syriac, and Yazidi were socially interacted and became friends. Here, I could hear the adzan (praying call) of mosques and bell sounds of churches mixed to one another. The old city was established on the rocky hill with traditional houses built by using the yellow limestone. Normally, it has small window to adjust with the weather condition. The houses do not have roof, instead it has flat tops which could be used as bedroom during the hot summer.
The streets in Mardin are narrow and steepy. The streets are known as abbara. The car could not enter abbara. Instead, donkey is playing the important role to accommodate transportation system inside the alleys. For architecture and history lovers, Mardin is another heaven with a lot of options that could be done to spend the days. I could gaze the Mesopotamian valley for hours, with Grand Mosque and its beautiful minaret standing as the main landmark of the city. Not far from there, important churches and monasteries are located to discover. Museums are available to satisfy visitors with knowledges of the traces of Mesopotamian culture. While the bazar of Mardin is similar to most of traditional bazar I found in Turkey, that spoils the visitors with stuffs from the sixteen century.
Sunset is another beauty that visitors should not miss in Mardin. What you could ask more if you’re spoiled with this beautiful Mesopotamian sunset?