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September 2011
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Travels in Turkey: Mardin & More

Mardin ArchitectureWhen last we chatted, I was in the town of Harrar, beginning a long circuit through Eastern Turkey. Another place I visited that is worth mentioning is Mardin.

The town of Mardin, is carved into terraces of rock beneath a steep cliff topped with a ruined citadel. It looks out from its perch over the dry plains which run uninterrupted the short distance to the border with Syria. Here, there is one drivable street and a spider’s web of narrow alleys running up and down and around the terraces on which the town is built. Soap in TurkeyMardin reminded me a little of Zacatecas, Mexico! The town is flanked on both sides with three- and four-story stone houses. No wood here. I noticed this in other parts of Turkey too… stone where we would use wood. In the photo you can clearly see the stone corbels supporting the second story. (Even here in Yucatan where there is much more stone than wood, our corbels are always made from wood.)

This contrasts with Istanbul, where the old houses are almost entirely wood, and few remain after fires, neglect and termite attacks. In Mardin, stone protects your home from these hazards, and the snake goddess will protect it from all others! Just to be on the safe side, locally made Mardin soap, pure and natural will take care of any physical ailments.

The Black Basalt WallsWe detoured through the town of Diyarbakir, one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey. At 1.5 million people, it’s about 50% larger than Merida is today. We went there to see the famous black basalt walls which form a 3.4 mile circle around the city and have protected the city for more than a thousand years. These are second in length only to the Great Wall of China.  There are four gates and 82 watchtowers along the walls, all built in antiquity and RESTORED in 349 A.D. (I wonder if any of Merida’s restored houses will last that long…).

IThe Locals are Friendlyn the 20th Century, the city went through many turbulent times, including massacres of Armenians and Kurds.  It was also the site of a major NATO Air Force Base for many years, but this was closed down in 1997. And Diyarbakir has been a center for Kurdish guerilla activity…but as you can see, the locals were singularly unthreatening! (And THAT reminded me of almost all of Mexico… reported in the press to be dangerous, but warm and welcoming and safe when you actually go there…)

Diyarbakir is situated on the banks of the Tigris and was once a hub of the ancient Silk Roads.  It became known for its craftsmen who produced glass and metalwork.  For instance, the gold and silver decorated doors of the tomb of Imam-i Azam in Baghdad were made by craftsmen from Diyarbakir.  There are still some jewelry makers and silversmiths in the city, but the fame of the craftsmen from here has long passed.

Today this city is relatively unvisited by tourists. This is a city where I would love to spend more time.

The main joy of traveling and the impetus to get out and see the world is always the people we meet along the way.

Here in my last photo are two more little friends from Eastern Turkey.