Site of Turkey's first university                                 Population: 115,000

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Other name: Nisibis, Nısebine (Kurdish)

Right on the border with Syria at Qamishli, Nusaybin is a small town with a venerable history. As the Roman Nisibis, it was the site chosen in the fourth century for the Monastery of Mor Yakup that still stands today.

A university grew up around the monastery where theology was an important subject. Unfortunately the variety of Christianity taught here was what became known as Nestorianism and was later ruled heretical. The site of the university was excavated in the 2000s revealing the cells of the students as well as the remains of the cathedral built beside it.

During the late 2000s Nusaybin had been flourishing as Turkey's relations with Syria improved. In 2011 all that came to an end with the Arab Spring uprising. Currently the Qamishli border is closed.

Around town

200 DSC03988The Syrian Orthodox Monastery of Mor Yakup (St Jacob) stands on the site of the Roman settlement of Nisibis.

A solid block of a building on the outside, darkly atmospheric Mor Yakup dates back to 359 although it was extended in the eighth century and then extensively restored in the 19th century. Excavations beside the monastery are uncovering the remains of what may have been the first university on Turkish soil, preceding the better-known one at Harran, south of Şanlıurfa. At one time it may have accommodated 1000 students and its huge size is suggested by the fact that the columns of the original entrance gate can still be seen - but on the far side of the Syrian border.

The only other real sight in town is the extraordinary new Mesopotamian Cultural Centre (Mitanni Kültür Merkezi) adorned with magnificent carvings that evoke Assyrian sculptures in the British Museum.

agwinA building intended to house a new museum near the monastery had been completed by summer 2015 but was yet to open. 

On the outskirts of town are the ruins of the remote fourth-century Monastery of Mor Augen, backed into İzla Dağı (Mt İzla) near the village of Girmeli, off the Çizre road, and photographed by Gertrude Bell in 1909.

The monastery is said to have been founded by Augen who arrived here from Egypt with 70 disciples but from 363 onwards it fell on the Persian side of a newly-drawn border and so followed Nestorian rites.

Today it has been restored and is inhabited by a solitary monk-priest who offers Sunday services for Suryani villagers from Girmeli and Odabaşı (Gündükschükrü) in the plain below.


Warning. In 2015 the situation around Nusaybin was very tense. Make enquiries before setting off for the monastery. 


Kasr-ı Sercehan. Tel: 0482-415 4747

Transport info 

There are more than hourly buses from Old Midyat bus station to Nusaybin. 

There is no public transport to Mor Augen which is best visited with your own car. Nusaybin has a taxi rank in the town centre although there are no official yellow taxis. Someone will probably be prepared to drive you to the monastery although in the current tense situation (summer 2015) you should perhaps be careful with whom you travel.

Day trip destinations







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