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Hot and dusty, Mardin is the gateway to Mesopotamia. Perched high in the hills above the plains, the hilltop city is famous for its cascade of beautiful buildings overlooking the vast, empty mesopotamian plain, where the occasional höyük marks lost settlements in the Fertile Crescent. Mardin itself can be traced to 4000BC, and until the 20th century it was a n important Syriac Orthodox centre.
The Great Mosque was built by the Artukid Turks in the 12th century, and there are a number of distinctive mosques and medresses. The Monastery of St. Gabriel (Dayro d-Mor Gabriel) on the east side of the town is a working community of monks and nuns. Founded in AD397, it is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery. Until 1932 when it was moved to Damascus, the seat of the patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox church was the Saffron Monastery (Deyr ul-Zafaran) on the southeast side of the city.
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