Little Mardin                                 Population: 7,000

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Savur offers all the same ingredients as better-known Mardin – a dramatic hillside location with great views, a crumbling castle and a collection of magnificent stone-built houses dating back to the 19th century.

These houses, with their paired windows and frilly exterior decoration, are the pride and joy of the region, and while those in Mardin itself may be more elaborate, those in Savur are arguably more intact.

During the First World War many of the wealthy architects and stone masons who had stamped their mark on Mardin were forced to flee. The incomers who took their place had none of their specialist building skills and so started to tack crude concrete and breezeblock extensions onto the lovely old houses.

No doubt because it was more remote and so less attractive as a place to settle, much less of this happened in Savur which means that there is less wince-making ugliness to mar the beauty.

The hour-long dolmuş ride from Mardin to Savur is itself a joy since it takes you into countryside that is far greener and less desert-like than that immediately around Mardin.

As soon as you reach the town you'll realise that you're in for a treat. Savur is much less tourist-infested and far less grasping in its approach to visitors than Mardin. It also boasts one of the finest home-stays in the country, an Ottoman delight at the top of a tower with spectacular views over the town. 

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This is a town to be savoured slowly. With few specific sights, your best bet is to duck down the back streets and just wander at will – it won’t be difficult to find the main road again afterwards.

Dolmuşes from Mardin drop passengers beside the shops at the top of the hill.

To the left the town’s single Middle Eastern-style abbara (a stone-arched passageway running below a building) heads in the direction of the simple and newly restored Eski Cami (Old Mosque). In an area which once had a large Syrian Orthodox population, this started life as a church with a stone belltower now converted into a minaret.

Savur’s one unmissable sight lurks up the back streets on the other side of the main road.

Approached from below, the Hacı Abdullah Bey Konağı (aka Savur Konağı) is so sturdy that it seems more like a miniature fortress, but where once one of the town’s huge extended families would have occupied the entire building it is now split into apartments. The one you want is the uppermost one, concealed behind the plainest of front doors at the top of a flight of the plainest of stairs.

Here Nezihe Hanım, matriarch to a family of seven children and 11 grandchildren, lives in what must be one of Turkey’s most exquisitely cared for Ottoman-style houses. The selamlık (men’s room) boasts a sedir and sturdy wooden-backed Mardin chairs, all upholstered in deepest maroon and covered with immaculate white cloths. Focal point of the room is a mangal (brazier) over which thick local mirra coffee would have been brewed.

The carved wooden ceiling has a mirrored centrepiece, and the windows look out on a breath-taking view of old Savur and its hilltop castle.  

Most Savurlus speak Arabic as their first language. They also belong to one of four or five huge extended families, all of which claim to trace their descent back to the Prophet. Appropriately, then, pride of place in the hallway leading to the haremlik (women’s room) goes to a family tree that shows the bloodline of the Öztürks running back through the generations to the time of Mohammed.


The rear of the house conceals a delightful traditional bedroom, the brass bed made up as a couch for day use, the baby’s cradle lovingly tucked up with hand-made quilts, the old-fashioned shower in the corner of the room fitted out with the accoutrements of the hamam.

It goes without saying that the view from the roof is superb.

As you wander the back streets don’t miss the rooftop frames of tahts, curtained ‘thrones’ on which people sleep beneath the stars during the oppressive heat of high summer. The thrones are raised up high to keep scorpions at bay but as you tour the streets you will hear the whistling of kestrels that nest in the stonework of the old buildings. Scorpions form a big part of their diet which ensures they’re a hit with the locals.

Savur high street boasts a simple, small-town lokanta where a roly-poly chef dishes up bowls of piping hot soup. In summer you may prefer to head down to the river which skirts the village, there to tuck into trout at the lovely Perili Bahçe (Fairy Garden) restaurant.

For the time being Savurlus still see few visitors so their welcome is particularly warm. Provided the situation in the south-east stays calm the town surely stands on the threshold of discovery.


Hacı Abdullah Bey Konağı

Hacı Hamit Bey Konağı. Tel: 0530-825 6077

Transport info

There are daily flights to Mardin from İstanbul and three times weekly flights from Ankara.

From Mardin daily dolmuşes ply back and forth to Savur (60km) – you will probably have to wait for a minimum number of passengers. 

There is only timetabled service a day from Savur to Midyat and vice versa - check times locally as it may leave early in the morning (8am).

Day trip destinations




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