Complete Mardin Turkey Guide
Standing on a bluff above the Mesopotamian flats about 56 miles (90km) south of Diyarbakir is the town of Mardin, arguably the most Arab town -even more Arab than Antakya or Siirt- in Turkey. The vista afforded from the town’s citadel is nearly magical: below, the view stretches across the vastness of the Syrian plain, pancake flat but for the occasional tell of an artificial hill designating the site of some ancient and forgotten city in the Fertile Crescent.
The area east of Mardin, especially Midyat, is the center of the 40,000 remaining Suriyanis, or Jacobite Christians who continue to speak a sort of proto-Arabic known to scholars as Syriac, erroneously assumed to be the language of Christ.
The Suriyanis of Turkey, unhappily, seem to be a community doomed to cultural extinction in the long run, as more and more of their members either migrate to Istanbul and celebrate mass, along with the remnants of the Levantine community there in the Latin or Armenian churches, and it is unclear just how long the monasteries of Der Zafaran and Mar Gabriel will continue to function as living entities and not as museums. It is, indeed, strange to run into these distant Christians, so deep into Anatolia, with the girls and boys in close contact and uncloistered, even in the villages.
The Suriyanis of Midyat is known throughout Turkey as superb jewelers. Many of the top jewelers of the Covered Bazaar of Istanbul, for example, are Suriyanis from Midyat, and they are better off than their Muslim neighbors.