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Published: September 28th 2008
By the time we got to Mardin
we were all feeling a little worse for wear. Both Sandra and Xavi picked up a tummy bug but somehow I managed to avoid it again. Mardin's range of cheap accom is thin on the ground, so their timing was fitting. They had no option but to stay in a nice hotel room with a very clean bathroom! We were also so exhausted given we'd been on the move everyday since we'd been in Turkey so they were happy to splash out. I think in 12 days we had endured at least a 3 or 4 hour bus trips for 10 of those days, 3 of those being overnight with little sleep, as well as 2 early mornings - and by early I mean before the sun was up!
As much as I would have liked to stay in a beautifully restored mansion that is now a boutique hotel, I had organised to stay with another couchsurfer Murat, and with no regret either. He is originally from Izmir, which is Turkey's 3rd largest city that lies on the Aegean Coast, but he has moved to Mardin for work. In his spare
Rizvaniye Vakfi Mosque and Medressa @ Balikli Gol (Sanliurfa)
the rectangular pool of water is supposedly filled with sacred carp
time he likes making short films and I got to watch some of these and they were brilliant. Murat and his girlfriend showed me more of the welcoming Turkish hospitality I have been seeing so far and I got more of an insight into local life which I wouldn't have been able to if staying in a hotel so it was all worth it.
My main reason for wanting to visit Mardin was, unsurprisingly, related to food. I had read about a restaurant thats claim to fame is due to a very entrepreneurial Turkish woman. As in other Muslim countries, the role of women within society in Turkey and particularly in the East reflects very traditional customs and values. Women rarely work outside let alone leave the house, so after reading about how this particular woman overcame all these barriers to establish a successful restaurant run by women was definitely an experience I didn't want to miss. Serving Syrian influenced cuisine, I was also excited at the thought of tasting new flavours and dishes, a welcome change from the kebaps we'd been eating along the way. Cercis Murat Konagi
occupies a traditional Syrian Christian home and
so I imagined it to be like one of those no fuss basement type cosy joints serving traditional home food from a tiny kitchen on rickety wooden tables covered in butcher paper. However we arrived at an elaborately decorated and classy restaurant complete with white tablecloths and seat covers! Needless to say that the prices were higher than a lot of the places we had eaten at and as a result, not many locals dine here anymore. It was also interesting to see there was only one woman working in the kitchen and there was no surprise that the owner (Ebru Baydemir) was not there (we were told that the majority of staff are still women and the owner was at the second restaurant in Istanbul). Xavi was particularly disappointed as he is a journalist and was really keen to interview Ebru to find out exactly how she became so successful.
The food on the other hand did not fail to impress. The dishes we ordered were scrumptious, so much so that we forgot to stop and take photos of it all! The sarma
(what we call dolmates) and the falafel were so good that both Sandra
and Xavi decided to forget they had tummy problems and ate up! Overall the experience was great, but unfortunately I think the success of the restaurant has also resulted in overrated hype and a much less authentic experience than anticipated. Not taking away from what Ebru has done though. Ebru has paved the way for the changing roles of women in a predominantly male oriented society by shifting the mentality of men and women alike and it's now accepted for women to work outside their home. Her success has even been acknowledged by the likes of Prince Charles whilst he was in Turkey.
The next day, Xavi paid the price for ignoring his upset tummy and was so sick he didn't think he could get on the bus to Şanlıurfa (Urfa)
. But my miracle Chinese tablets that cure everything rescued him and within a few hours of taking them, we were on our way.
Şanlıurfa (pronounced Shan-luh-oofa) had also been given rave reviews from other travellers and the LP but I think by this point in our travels, all of the cities in Eastern Turkey are starting looking the same. We are missing fresh air, greenery
and the sea. So our visit there kind of came and went without us exploring too much of the city. The one thing that Şanlıurfa exuded though was a Middle Eastern flavour, not surprising given its close proximity to Syria. Most of the men sport traditional Arabic pants that are even baggier than the typical genie style pants you see, and the women look more exotic.
Religion or Islam is plastered all over the city and as much as I love visiting mosques, I think I am starting to become mosque-d out. The people and children in particular are also not as friendly as we had experienced in other parts of Eastern Turkey. Walking down the street I have been prodded and poked and it seems the people here want to engage in staring competitions with me! Hence we have decided to stay for just the night and tomorrow we are heading to our last stop in Eastern Turkey - the one place I have been looking forward to the most - why? Well, it is meant to be the baklava capital of the world!
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