If you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss Harran.

Archaeologists believe Harran, about 50 kilometers south of Sanliurfa, is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, along with Baghdad and a few others. There are extensive Roman and Ottoman ruins there, but Harran is famous for its beehive-shaped mud huts. People still live in these unique structures, a design that may date to the beginning of written history.

If you speak Turkish, you won’t be using it here. Most people speak Arabic, Aramaic or Kurdish in Harran, which is just a few clicks north of the Syrian border. People are welcoming, but the kids are going to follow you around a bit, hoping for a handout of a few million lira to help them through their day.

Midyat, 60 kilometers east of Mardin, is even purer architecturally than Mardin. And it, too, has a large Suriani, or Syriac, Christian population.

Farther east from Midyat is the Syriac monastery of Mar Gabriel. Nuns and lay brothers still feed the hungry voyager. Northeast of Midyat, there are a number of isolated Syriac hilltop villages, but you’ll have to get a local to tell you how to get there.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve left all the guidebooks behind. Keep your eyes peeled for yellow or brown signs to historic sights. Every Islamic sect has a pilgrimage site in the area.

The weirdest is Eyyubnebi, between Mardin and Sanliurfa, where two obscure 13th-century saints are buried. We never could figure out what this place — a warren of memorials, gardens and mosques — was all about, other than it wasn’t exactly Muslim and it wasn’t exactly Christian.

From what we could gather, Eyyubnebi is sort of the Lourdes of Islam. About 30,000 people visit it every year looking for miracle healings – not really a Muslim tradition.

One inscription reads that pilgrims can find healing “because each sin we commit and each doubt that enters our mind inflicts wounds on our heart and spirit.”

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