Turkey: Detour to Mardin

Posted November 28, 2009 by David McGuinness

Ok so the title of the blog is slightly misleading; it was not to Mardin that I made a detour, but to a town on the Syrian border called Nusaybin. I left Urfa after checking out a few hotels (there are some decent options) and got on the bus to Mardin. On the bus I got talking to a Kurdish junior doctor, Sehmus (pronounced the same as the Irish name “Seamus” for those who know how to pronounce that).

We chatted for a couple of hours and then Sehmus invited me to spend the night at his house in Nusaybin, a half an hour past Mardin. As it was already beginning to get dark and I would have little sightseeing time in Mardin that evening I accepted and we continued on to Nusaybin and went to his house.

When we arrived his sister welcomed us, and even my miniscule Turkish was no help here as she only spoke Kurdish but the wide smile made it clear I was welcome. Her young sons greeted me by kissing my hand and touching it to their forehead, a traditional greeting of respect amongst the Kurds.

Then his sister brought out an enormous plate of food and put it in front of us. Chicken, lamb, couscous (or something very similar) and very thin pasta were piled onto one enormous plate from which we ate together. On the side was bread, olives, a tomato and cucumber salad dressed with a pomegranate dressing and delicious Kurdish bread. We were hungry and both tucked in. When we were finished eating his sister and the four boys continued where we left off.

When I wandered into the yard there was a turkey staring up at me. A turkey in Turkey! That was first for me! We watched some news on the Kurdish channel (the Denmark-based one as opposed to the newly established official government one) and chatted about music, politics (mostly Kurdish politics) and football. Myself and Sehmus then went out for a wander through the town and stopped for tea before calling it a night. The next morning after a delicious breakfast prepared by Sehmus (who burnt the bread though!:-)) Sehmus insisted on buying me a scarf as a memento of my visit and left me to the bus back to Mardin. A fantastic ambassador for his people he even invited me to his wedding penciled in for August of next year in Izmir in the West of Turkey. I will certainly go if I can.

After arriving in the beautiful Mardin – clinging to the side of a mountain with a lot of blue and white houses- and finding my hotel I set out to explore the sights. A very popular site for Turkish tourists Mardin boasts impressive mosques, churches, centuries old buildings with fine stone carvings, a meandering bazaar and a lovely monastery nearby. I was not disappointed despite the hype about the place I had heard.

The highlight was probably the market despite having seen quite a few already but it was a close call. After spending the day walking around I rewarded myself with a meal at the famous Cercis Murat Konagi restaurant where local heroine Ebru Baydemir has set up a fantastic restaurant specialising in local dishes and pioneering the concept of the working woman in the area. A ground-breaker both in the culinary and social life of Mardin, the meal was an experience for the taste-buds and the imagination.

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the links below to navigate through this journey.

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