Great for: Ancient History, Village Life, Unusual Castles
For thousands of years Turkey’s Mardin Province has regularly been at the frontier between warring powers and even within the relative stability of an empire’s control, the threat of raids and war between the region’s many different ethnic or religious groups meant that there was still danger even during times of peace. There are a number of places in this region where villages away from the strong fortifications of major cities had to find ways to defend themselves. Along with villages such as Inwardo (Gülgöze) and Hah (Anıtlı), the people of Kalecik built their houses tight together like a castle on a high ridge.
The village of Kalecik was built at the meeting point of two steep sided valleys on a narrow ridge with rocky slopes and cliffs all around except a neck of land connecting it to the wider plateau. The larger valley is well watered by a large stream running through it, keeping the valley floor lush and green while most of the surrounding area is dry and barren.
The heart of the village is strung out along a narrow spine of rock between the two valleys. The houses are built tightly together with a single narrow street running down the middle. There is a steep wooden stair in the north as well as a steep opening in the south and middle that you can access the village from. Even with this difficult access locals keep animals in tiny barns tucked among the houses.
As the village grew it spread down the slope towards the river and the main road, new concrete houses alongside historic ones. There is also a little schoolhouse at the bottom of the village.
Some sources say that the village was originally built by Syriac Christians who, after abandoning the site, were replaced by the Kurds that live their now though there is no clear record of this that we’ve been able to find. The name Kalecik is Turkish, meaning “Little Castle”; the local Kurdish name is Keleha Bunisra which means Bunisra Castle taking its name from the valley it sits above.
How To Get There
The Village of Kalecik sits along the Midyat – Nusaybin Road, 8 kms north of Nusaybin and 38 kms south of Midyat. There is minibus service between Nusaybin and Midyat which will drop you off at the foot of the village.
For more about car rental and driving in Turkey make sure to read our full drivers guide.
Where To Stay
While Nusaybin has some small hotels it is right on the Syrian border so depending on the current political situation (both in Syria as well as in Turkey) you may want to avoid staying here as a foreigner. The safest bet is to stay in Midyat where there is a good selection of basic hotels as well as boutique hotels in beautifully restored stone mansions in the old quarter of Midyat.
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.