Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day #5 of Land Tour continued: Mardin; Sultan Isa Medrese; Ulu Cami

Leaving the Saffron Monastery we had a short drive down the hillside and then steeply up a small mountain to the old city of Mardin.  Towering even higher than the old city are the ruins of of the very old Mahdin Castle.  That is not a typo.  The word Mardin derived from the castle name of Mahdin -- all an extremely long time ago. 

Mahdin Castle on top of the mountain
The Sumerians and Babylonians passed through here.  That gives one an idea of just how long ago this city was established.  It is a typical Syriac town.

Mardin is known for the Artuqid architecture of its old city. The Artuqid people were forerunners to the current Turkish population of this region.  The Artuqids also settled in Hasankeyf, a place we would visit the following day.

Tiny part of Mahdin Castle
Mardin is also known for its strategic location on a rocky hill near the Tigris River that rises steeply over the flat plains of the Tur-abdin (Lands of the Servants of God).    Mardin is one of the oldest settled areas of Upper Mesopotamia.  Remains have been discovered dating back to 4,000 BC.  Wikipedia can provide more information if interested.

Looking from Maturity Institute level up towards the old castle
I did not write a lot of notes about what the guide said while we were walking around Mardin.  I was  having too much difficulty trying to keep up with the group on the hundreds of steep stone steps and the steep uneven stone 'streets' and alleyways and walkways.  

This link tells just about everything might want to know about Mardin sights:
Virtual Tourist - Mardin

Door to medrese, no longer accessible

My notes indicate that Taş told us that we were seeing a 12th century madrese (school) that had just been fully restored, but I did not note the name of this place.  This was very high up above the city of Mardin.  The only 12th century medrese that I found info about is the Sitti Radviyye Medrese which was built in honor of someone's wife and supposedly has footprint that is claimed to be that of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  

Taken at level of highest madrese we visited

The madrese we saw was very nicely restored but parts were locked, to the dismay of our guide; so we did not see this special footprint.  I opted not to enter the areas which required removal of shoes.  When you get my age removing laced-up sneakers without a place to sit down becomes a comfort issue.  Unless there is really something special to see, I'm not doing it.  So possibly I missed out on seeing some things.  Bill missed out too; he can easily slip his shoes off and on but he simply was not interested.  He appreciated the view looking down on the old city and the Tur-abdin more than whatever was inside those "no shoes" areas.

Almost at eye level with the minaret
for the Great Mosque

On a slightly lower level was the Sultan Isa Medrese, also known as the Zinciriye Medrese.  This one was constructed in 1385 and is part of a complex that includes a mosque and the tomb of Najm ad-din Isa (whoever he was).  The highlight of this complex is the imposing recessed doorway.  At and below this level are the only Turkic buildings in Mardin.  Turkic does not mean Turkish; Turkic is Seljuk.

Learning about the school
Also on a lower level but still higher than the city stands the first Maturity Institute established by Ataturk in the last century.  This institute is in some of the completely renovated ancient buildings of the medrese.  
Bill in front of the Maturity Institute
This is an adult education complex dedicated to teaching people how to continue the historical craftsmanship of weaving carpets, making pottery the old ways, and the spinning of silk.  There are now several of these Maturity Institutes located throughout Turkey.  We have visited a few and it is interesting to watch these people work in their various crafts.  The resulting products are beautiful.  Last year I purchased a Hittite designed plate that was handmade at one of these places.  Our group did not enter this institute as we had a schedule to follow and there was not time.  But all of us had visited at least one institute elsewhere and they all have the same type products.

Tea on the rooftop anyone?
We opted to eat at ground level at
the place with the green sign.
Even with this level, but I do not think attached to it, was a rooftop restaurant.  The view was gorgeous and our group discussed having lunch up there.  But when we checked the menu later we opted for a street level cafe instead.  Only a couple of people wanted the food served on that rooftop; the rest wanted simpler fare.  Which translates to lower cost.  

Also from this level was a good view of the very tall minaret of the Ulu Cami.  

The minaret as seen from level of
the Ulu Cami, Great Mosque
Ulucami means "Great Mosque" in Turkish.  It is also called Cami-i Kebir in Arabic (الجامع الكبير) and is a name originally given to the grandest Friday mosque of a Turkish city. Sometimes more recent mosques are even grander. But still the traditional name is kept. Historically the Muslim prayer on Friday was only performed at one mosque in a city; however, this is not the case anymore. The Ulucami was the largest mosque of a city, where the citizens gathered to pray the Friday Prayers.

By the way, a 'c' in Turkish (without a squiggly beneath it) is pronounced like a soft 'g' or a 'j'.  So Cami is pronounced Jami or Jahmi.  As I had only read this word before this trip and not heard it, I had formed a completely different pronunciation in my mind.  Took days of hearing the correct pronunciation for me to finally mentally accept it.

Taş and Gwen posing

The Great Mosque was constructed in the 12th century by the ruler of the Artuqid Turks.  It has a ribbed dome and a minaret that soars above the city.  There were originally two minarets but one collapsed many centuries ago.  The remaining minaret actually soars above everything in and around Mardin.  It is visible from just about everywhere except down in the dark narrow alleys or the souk.

Taş & Gwen posing
Next, Taş led our group down the many steps and even farther down through the souk.  He asked Bill to make sure the whole group stayed together and not to let any stragglers get separated and left behind.  Maybe it was my imagination, but the look in his eyes told me that it was not safe for westerners or tourists to be wandering alone down in these very enclosed and meandering alleyways.  Whether he was concerned we might get robbed or if he was concerned that we might get lost, I cannot say.  At any rate, we made it a point to keep everyone together.  Not an easy task since many wanted to souvenir shop as we tried to hurry them along.

Bill in Kurdish headscarf
At one spot down in the depths of the souk we all stopped to purchase headscarves.  The guys operating this stall were good.  They had grabbed the first couple of people and within 2 seconds had headscarves wound around their heads.  Once that scarf is on your head, how are you not going to buy it?  They managed to get one on Bill's head, so we bought it even though we did not want it.  This was on our way to see the Great Mosque.  While down there (with us again remaining outside because of the removing shoe thing), we learned the color-coding for the headscarves.

Local boy riding donkey -- right down steep steps!
The color and sometimes pattern of the headscarves identify a person, especially men but also sometimes women although Turkish and Arab women in Turkey wear very colorful headscarves that have no identifying characteristics.  But in this area of Turkey the headscarf color means who or what you are.  

Orange means you are Turkish.
Red means you are Arab.
Black means you are Kurdish.
Purple means you are modern and do not wish to be identified as Kurdish, Arab or Turkish.
Peach or Orange with crosses means you are Syriac.
Could not believe he rode that donkey
down all those steps!  Easy as pie!

Well, heck, now I did not want the headscarf that had been placed on Bill's head and that we had bought.  On our way back we stopped again at that shop and asked to trade it for a Syriac patterned scarf.  
Taş with Judy in Syriac headscarf

This will be gifted to our daughter-in-law who is religious.  I think that is sort of a special gift for her.  It is large and can be worn as a scarf rather than a headscarf.  Or she can use it as a decoration in her home.  The shop owner wound the scarf around my head; that did not stay on long.

Girl at the ablutions at the Great Mosque

While waiting for the others at the Great Mosque I enjoyed watching a little girl at the ablution spigots.  She had come to fill a small water bottle.  Pretty little thing.

We exited the souk and stopped for lunch at a small cafe.  Outside in the back alleyway exiting the souk were pans of animal entrails which had obviously belonged to the kitchen of this restaurant.  That bothered some of our group members but not me.  Chickens don't naturally come on styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic.  They must be killed and cleaned first.  This did not affect mine or Bill's appetites.  Lunch was great for us.  

The home on the second level of this building is
used to film most of the soap operas in Turkey.
Then our group went our separate ways for a couple of hours.  We opted to go to the big museum.  We were quite tired of walking so when we happened upon a room where videos were being shown, we sat ourselves down and enjoyed the videos.  Did not matter that they were in Turkish.  It was a comfortable place to sit.  

Mardin is also famous for silver
working.  These are small purses
made from silver filigree.

Soon more of our group members arrived and the attendant changed the videos to play in English.  For the life of me, I cannot remember a thing about the video now other than it was good.  So, if you are ever in Mardin, it is worth a stop at the museum to watch the video presentation.

Sign at Virgin Mary Church

Also right at the museum is the 6th century Virgin Mary Church, known to the Syriacs as the Yoldath Aloho Church.  The epigraph over the entrance door written in Aramaic states:  "What an imposing place this is!  This place is the home of God!  The gate of heaven is this!"  Tekvin: 28:17
Does your Bible contain a Book of Tekvin?  Mine does not.  Guess it should not surprise anyone that the Syriac Bible might be a bit different than other Christian Bibles; certainly different from the St. James version used by most Protestants. It is now possible to obtain a copy of the Bible translated directly from ancient Aramaic to English.  I would be interested in reading this to compare to the St. James version upon which I was raised.  I have always felt that much must have been lost in translating from Aramaic to Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English.   Here is a link to translations by Dr. George Lamsa:  Direct Aramaic to English translation of Bible

Sign on the St. Hirmiz Chaldean Church
The Virgin Mary Church is today open only on Sundays for ritual purposes and is closed to visitors.  The church depends on funding from the Roman Catholic Church and upon Moran Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younah, Patriarch of Antioch and All of the East of the Syriacs, who is living in Beirut, Lebanon.  The Patriarch had moved to Damascus, Syria, but because of the current unrest in that country has moved to Beirut.  The Patriarch has appealed to the west to not support the insurgents in Syria, claiming that the Syrian situation is not a civil war but is insurgents who are also against the Eastern Christians.  Fortunately, he was not in the village where 39 Christians were killed by the insurgents in Syria last month.

Door to St. Hirmiz Church
Carvings at St. Hirmiz Chaldean Church
There are a number of Christian churches in Mardin, all of which are very old.  Another one we passed on a main street was the St. Hirmiz Chaldean Church, built here in 397 A.D.  And still in use today.  It was locked as we were there on a Saturday but it was obvious that this building is still in use today.  The carvings on the right side of the entrance appeared to be in different languages.  Really a neat place and wish we could have seen the interior.

Very potent coffee drink
It was still not yet time to board the bus for the ride back to Midyat, so we stopped at a coffee shop next to the only parking lot in Mardin.  One of our group members opted to sample a special coffee drink; I don't remember the name of it.  The coffee was the texture of molasses.  It was served in a tiny, tiny 'cup' and had enough caffeine to blow off the top of your head.  I tasted a miniscule amount on my fingertip.  WHOA!!! 

Had to get a photo of this dress.
Can you imagine!

Back in Midyat for our last night there, the hotel owner treated our group to dinner at a restaurant across the street rather than in the hotel restaurant.  As in most hotels in Turkey the evening meal and breakfast are included in the room price.  We have found this to be true all over Turkey except in Istanbul.  This was a nice treat and the food was good.

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