On our way to Mardin, we stopped at Göbekli Tepe, a recent archaeological find: possibly the world's oldest temple. It is 11,000 years old, crafted by pre-historical people who had not yet developed metal tools or pottery. It was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC before the advent of sedentism, yearlong settlements. Göbekli Tepe is Turkish for "Hill with a potbelly" and was erected on the highest point of a mountain ridge some 15 km northeast of Şanlıurfa. The site is currently undergoing excavation by German and Turkish archaeologists. Excavation began in 1994. The oldest layer contains monolithic pillars linked by coarsely built walls to form circular structures. So far, four such circular arrangements, with diameters between 10 and 30m have been uncovered. Surveys indicate the existence of 16 additional circular structures. The reliefs depict lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, donkeys, snakes and other reptiles, insects, spiders, and birds, particularly vultures and water birds.
Visit the website below to read a recent Smithsonian Magazine article about Gobekli Tepe:
When we arrived in Mardin, we were met by a Dust Storm from Syria. We were also met by my Turkish teacher-friend's former student, Memet. (My friend used to live and work in Mardin 20 years ago, and when I told her we were traveling there, she said, "Let my former student, Memet, take care of you. He has a very good heart.") We were about to embark on the most generous hospitality I've ever experienced.
After lunch at a friend's restaurant, and our first taste of cig kofte, Memet took us on a tour of the cities religious buildings. Mardin is fascinating in that churches exist next to synagogues next to mosques. There are no protests; everyone is friends in this small city. In fact, Memet told us there was just an Easter Sunday celebration at the Syrian Orthodox church, and afterwards, everyone including Muslims, attended an outdoor picnic.
The Kasim Pasa Medresesi, a 15th century religious school:
The Mar Ismuni Church, a Syrian Orthodox Church:
We noticed, and learned later in a museum, that Mardin was built on a hillside so that no house shed a shadow on another house. Each home enjoyed ample natural sunlight, but all the walkways existed in shadow to provide relief during the hot hot summer months when people had to walk outside.
Memet took us to a few key locations to enjoy the sunset.
We then met up with his wife, Gulhane, and three sons, Sezer, Seyfettin, and Hasan. We viewed the old citadel and had a cup of tea overlooking the Mesopotamian (Syrian) Plain, then they took us out for lahmacun at a restaurant, then to their home for tea and music and conversation. Keep in mind, Memet doesn't speak a lick of English, so we're relying entirely on my Turkish this whole 24 hours in Mardin. It was actually an amazing feeling to be able to communicate and enjoy each other's company (of course not talking about anything too deep or complicated), with my limited Turkish and then translating everything to Christy. They were such a lovely family, and the sons had lots of questions about American culture. And just as we complimented their gorgeous hazel eyes, they loved our blue eyes.
That night I slept HARD...my brain hasn't been that challenged in a long time, but my Turkish really improved on this trip. Here are some pics of our fancy boutique hotel: