Turkey // The Euphrates and Tigris basin //

The Tür Abdin plateau

The undulating plateau of the Tür Abdin, traditional heartland of the Syrian Orthodox Church, starts just east of Mardin. It’s still home to a few Christians, who co-exist uneasily with the local Muslim Kurds. The rocky plateau is more fertile than you might think if you only see it in the parched days of summer, dotted with what appear to be little more than masses of hardy scrub oak. Grape cultivation is a mainstay, as is lentil production, and walnut, almond, cherry, fig and pomegranate all flourish. Olives are few and far between, however, as the winters here are cold.

Midyat is the western gateway to the Tür Abdin proper, where several villages are still either wholly, or partially, inhabited by Syrian Orthodox Christians, and there are 46 monasteries and churches, some recently restored. Most are tricky to reach by public transport, so arrange either a taxi or rental car.