Mardin Castle, which has been reserved for military use under the control of the Ministry of Defense for decades, will be opened up to tourists at the order of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Work has started at the fortress, which was brought to the agenda after Erdoğan mentioned it in a speech delivered during budget talks in Parliament. “Even though Ottoman Sultan Selim III instructed Governor of Baghdad Kadir Suleyman Pasha to renovate Mardin Castle in 1729, the castle was not renovated. We are renovating Mardin Castle, which even the sultans could not renovate,” Erdoğan had said.
Mardin Castle has hosted numerous kings and sultans and was never conquered by other armies. The castle, situated at an elevation of 1,085 meters, is also known as the “Eagle Nest” and has very strategic importance. The castle has been waiting to be renovated for exactly 218 years.
Civilian entrepreneurs have tried to restore the castle, which has been serving the Weather Radar Command for the past 50 years, but their efforts have been met with bureaucratic obstacles.
With the support of Mardin Governor Hasan Duruer and Mayor Beşir Ayanoğlu, a project to open the castle to tourism has been launched. Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Gönül Bekin Şahkulubey and Ayanoğlu informed Erdoğan about the project during his visit to the province last week. Erdoğan gave instructions to Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül to empty the building. Once the Defense Ministry evacuates the castle, restoration will start.
Pointing out that the castle has been laser screened to prepare a building survey for the nearly TL 20 million restoration, Governor Duruer said: “There is the risk of pieces falling off from the castle. The restoration and renovation project is a project that requires special expertise. It is not an ordinary restoration and renovation project. Therefore, we will make offers to many Italian, Swiss and German companies that have experience and expertise in restoration. Once the castle is emptied and renovated, it will be opened to tourists.”
Noting that the castle should be restored and opened up to visitors as soon as possible Mayor Ayanoğlu said: “The people of Mardin have been waiting for this moment for 60 years. The castle, which used to be a picnic area for people in Mardin, was closed to tourism for decades. Once the castle is opened, I believe many people will come to observe the Mesopotamian plan and historic city from the castle. The number of tourists visiting Mardin each year will increase from 1 million to 3 million once the castle is opened. This in turn will help make Mardin known worldwide.”
The only castle to never be conquered
Mardin Castle, which has hosted Subari, Sumerian, Babylonian, Mitanni, Assyrian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Ummayad, Abbasid, Hamdani, Seljuk, Artuqid, Qaraqoyunlu, Akkoyunlu and Safavid rulers and the Ottoman sultan, was never conquered by another army. It was besieged several times but never occupied. There are remains in the castle that suggest it used to be used for residential purposes. Evliya Çelebi eloquently narrated that there were large quantities of food and ammunition in the castle’s storage rooms. There are only the bases of columns that existed in the first half of the 19th century left in some parts of the castle. When the walls of the castle were strong and sturdy, there were six gates to the city. There was the Diyarbakır Gate to the west, the Savur Gate to the East, the Babı Shavt to the North, the Babı Hamara to the southwest, the Babı Zeytun to the southwest, and the Babı Cedid to the south. The strength and firmness of the gates was an important factor that helped keep the castle out of the hands of foreign armies.