Thursday, May 09, 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013

After three days wandering around the ancient city of Gaziantep.  I headed to the bus terminal for my next stop.  Like most bis buses the Yeni Midyat Bus Company that I took si fairly modern with individual TV at the back of every seats.  I paid TL40 from Gaziantep to Midyat.  Travel time is approximately 6 hours with several stops along the way.
Typical streets in old Midyat.

I arrived at the bus terminal of Midyat located at the modern part of the town - in Estel.  The new and old part of Midyat is connected by frequent minibuses.  My accommodation – Midyat Gap Hotel – is located at the old part of the town.

Midyat is a town in Mardin Province known in the past under its Syriac name “Tur Abdin”.
The ancient city of Midyat is the epicenter of a centuries-old Christian Syriac-Aramean enclave in Southeastern part of Turkey.  It is the heart of the old Christian Orthodox community.

The Assyrian Genocide of World War I wiped out large numbers of Assyrians in Turkey.  After the so-called Gastarbeiter ('guest worker') era commencing in the early 1960s, the city was soon to be nearly completely emptied from its native inhabitants who chose to leave for a better life in some western countries.  Thereafter,  local Mhallami and Kurdish inhabitants start building houses in the surrounding areas.  The still existing preserved old houses and churches that dot the city belongs to Christians, many of them empty.

Until the early 1960s, the estimated population of Midyat is composed of more than 500 families, of which the Christian Arameans constituted over 90% of the total populace .  At present, less than a hundred Aramean families are residing in Midyat.
The Shamayaa - a luxury hotel in the old city of Midyat.

The long distance bus I took from Gaziantep to Midyat dropped me off exactly at the roundabout of the old part of the town called Eski Midyat near the clock tower, so it was a 5-minute walk to the hotel I’ve booked.

Midyat retains its old charm with nice quaint cobble-stoned streets and alleys.  It is very much similar with Mardin except that the latter is positioned on top of the mountain so it offers a nice view of the new city below.
Cloacktower in the middle of the roundabout / intersection in the old city. 

The charm of this old town is that it isn’t that touristic as yet compared to the neighboring Mardin.  In fact, I only saw 2 foreign tourists in two churches but roaming around town? None.

The town is full of old churches, monasteries, stone cut houses and several mosques.  It is peaceful and I was glad that I chose to stay right within the “ancient city” part of this town (Eski Midyat).  Except for the occasional children playing along the narrow streets, most of the alleys are deserted and several stone houses seemed to be uninhabited.  It’s eerie although it contributed to the tranquility of the place which made me enjoy walking around, no rush, it’s like time has stood still in this place.

Something is so mystifying about this town, there is this mysterious character to it especially at the old city, yet at the same time, it’s calming.  It is so detached from metropolitan lifestyle, except for the distracting new building when I wandered around the busy market area of the new town or locally called as Yeni Midyat.  Although a bit of walk out of the center brought me to some quiet streets of old houses.

Midyat is divided into the Yeni Midyat or New Midyat and the Eski Midyat or Old Midyat (where I chose to stay).  Yeni Midyat although has some old houses on its outskirt is more modern with taller new buildings, a bustling market, center of commerce in this small town and where the provincial bus terminal is located.  Eski Midyat on the other hand is some kilometers from Yeni Midyat and where all the old churches and houses are, it is where most of the sights are located.
Fountain at the intersection in Estel - the new town.

I’ve discovered (and experienced first-hand) that people in Midyat are friendly and helpful towards visiting tourists compared to the bigger city of Mardin where I was almost conned – or I think I was?  A story on that later.  

The staff at the hotel were helpful albeit I was always lost in translation, don’t expect people around here to speak the English language, but that renders authenticity of the place. I got accustomed for awhile communicating in sign language.  If you ever ask for directions, just mention the name of the sight and people will be happy to point you to the right direction.  In fact during my last day and I’m heading to Hasankeyf, the lady at the hotel’s reception called the dolmush (shared van) station to pass by the hotel to pick me up right at the doorstep of the hotel.  That was convenient.
Feeling lucky to have visited Midyat.

Transportation To/From & Around Midyat:

Transport from Gaziantep to Midyat.
From the big Gaziantep bus terminal, I bought a ticket to Midyat from Yeni Midyat bus company.  It’s a modern bus with individual tv on the back of each seat, no wifi though like other buses and unlike Metro bus or Kamil Koc, they only serve hot beverage, no nibbles like cookies or cakes.
Fare from Gaziantep to Midyat is TL40, and travel time is approx. 6 hours with several stops along the way for passengers getting off towns.

Transport around Midyat
The old town of Midyat and the new town is connected by minibuses.  Take the minibus right around the clock tower roundabout to get to the new town.  And from the new town, wait for the bus a little past the fountain roundabout opposite the Grand Estel Hotel.  Fare is TL1.30.  I found the slowest bus in the whole wide universe here, running about 10 - 20 kms per hour I'd guess, I could've run past this bus seriously.

Midyat New Bus Terminal (Estel)
The new town bus terminal of Midyat is located at the back of Hotel Demirdag along Seyfettin Gunestan Cad.  Big provincial buses, minibuses and dolmush call on this small bus terminal that travels to nearby towns and cities.  You can catch the bus going to Istanbul and other provinces here as well as the smaller transports to Batman or Mardin.  Surprisingly, here is where I've found a couple of guys who speaks good English.

Midyat Old Town Bus Station
The bus terminal at the old part of Midyat is located at the corner of Mardin Simak Yolu and Golbasi Cad., almost at the northern edge of the old town.  Although the bus that I took from Mardin stopped at the old part of town, it dropped all the passengers near the clock tower but did not make a call at the small bus station.  This bus station serves mostly smaller transport such as dolmush and minibuses that ply the Batman-Midyat, Mardin-Midyat routes and some smaller towns, occasional big buses stops here but I’m not sure of their destinations.


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