From Mardin, the “double” town of MIDYAT is an uneventful journey of just under an hour. The westerly portion is the unremarkable, Kurd-inhabited business district of Estel. Two kilometres east is the originally Christian portion of half-abandoned medieval mansions, known as Eski (Old) Midyat. Tourism is beginning to take off in the town, though facilities are still limited.
As recently as 1974 there were nearly 5000 Syrian Orthodox Christians in residence here, the men mostly engaged in gold- or silversmithing, but following PKK extortion and death threats, the population has dwindled to eighty families and one priest. However, because of the changed political climate a few Syrian Orthodox families are beginning to return.
The town’s churches are easily spotted by virtue of their graceful belfries. Mor Barsaumo, close to the main road and reached by an alleyway opposite the Cihan restaurant, was built as early as the fifth century, destroyed in 1793 and rebuilt in 1910. This is the best church to visit as it is the most active, and has a small school-room where the kids of the remaining Syrian Orthodox families come to learn Syriac, a language closely related to that used by Christ.