Mardin is steeped in history and it does a fantastic job in showing this off. In a small area of the Old City and the outskirts, there are constructions that date back not only 100s, but 1000s of years. It’s worth giving this city the credit it deserves, as it’s lucky to be sitting within Upper Mesopotamia, making it one of the oldest cities in the world!
The city is part of the forgotten region of Kurdistan and once was even annexed as part of Syria, which was the reason why it was home to Assyrians speaking the Syriac language. Today, it is home to the Kurds, Turkish and some Arabs who have fled Syria to settle in this safe city.
Before entering the notable Old City of Mardin, we decided to head over to the well-preserved and historical Kasimiye Medrese. Located Southwest of the Old City, it is one of the oldest, biggest, and most significant Medreses in all of Mardin.
But what is a Medrese? Well, in the Islamic World, Medreses were setup for the purposes of teaching and learning both the Islamic Sciences as well as the worldly sciences. So whilst students travelled to this Medrese to learn about Islam, they also came with the intention to learn about astronomy, medicine, poetry and engineering. Dating back to the 14/15th century, the Medrese must have been thriving and bustling with students and teachers, with guest visits by scholars from various parts of the Arab world. The Ottoman Empire were extremely proud of their efforts in building Medreses such as this one, and this gave them more of a reason to extend their invitation to others to come and visit.
There’s not a great deal written about this Medrese, but I must say, if you plan to visit Southeast Turkey, or even Mardin specifically, do not ignore this one. It does not take long walking around, and it really gives you an appreciation of how well preserved these Medreses are. I mean, why would they not be! As yellow limestone stone was used throughout the entire construction, the ambience of the complex is peaceful. But the yellow limestone serves two purposes. It also helps to keep the building cool in scorching hot summer months when students would find it difficult to study.
There is a very well kept pool right in the centre of the courtyard with water settling into it from the nearby fountain. This was not something unintentional. Being a place of learning, symbolism filled the place. The fountain represents birth with the pathway to the pool representing various phases of life from childhood to old age, eventually ending in the pool which represents the day of judgement when all will be gathered.
Walking around, I found a lot of deserted classrooms which once were filled with students and teachers. The most fascinating part of these classrooms were the doors. They were quite short and were built this way deliberately, so that students had to bow their heads in humility out of respect for their teachers. What’s more, the entire complex including the classrooms were constructed using Mardin’s main architectural element which is limestone. The reason for this was to help keep the students in a pleasant temperature when it would heat up very quickly in summer.
It’s remarkable to see how well the complex has been preserved especially with Mardin’s Old City being filled with many ruins. It’s location is also very strategical, as students of the past and visitors today can get views of the Upper Mesopotamian landscape from various viewpoints inside and outside the complex.
Next time you’re in Turkey, or even planning to visit Turkey, I would highly recommend visiting this Medrese. It was once a thriving place with students and today it has become a place which is highly appreciated by visitors from around the world.