The semi-abandoned Syriac village of Dereici in southeastern Turkey

The semi-abandoned Syriac village of Dereici in southeastern Turkey

adventure travel & photography

Destinations/Places: Pakistan ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan

About the place

I learned about the Syriac village of Dereici in the "Lonely Planet". I led a group in the Mardin region of southeastern Turkey and decided that people would be interested in seeing this place off the beaten path.

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We drove there on a beautiful road that crossed a lush green valley as if we were not in the heart of Anatolia. Perhaps that is why the village's name (Dereici) means "Inner Valley".

My first reaction to the village was a mild shock - massive stone houses, narrow cobblestone streets, two churches (one Syrian Orthodox, one Syrian Catholic) and a ruined monastery.

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Most of the houses serve as stables, including the old monastery. The sight of a herd of goats passing between the walls of the ruined monastery is probably the image I will remember most from this place.

The streets are in relatively good condition, and the houses' facades indicate a prosperous past. In the 1960s, the population was about 800 people, most Syriacs. It seems that the Syriac population was happy in this tiny Christian oasis in the middle of Anatolia.

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Today it is a surreal ghost town with only about ten people living there. Another interesting fact is that the only winery in this part of Anatolia was located here.

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The Syriacs are an ancient Christian community from the first century. Later, in the 4th century, they moved to northern Mesopotamia, including parts of southeastern Turkey, Syria and Iraq. They founded most of the monasteries in the area.

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Two churches in the village have been restored. Unfortunately, they are so well fenced in with barbed wire that we could only see the outer facades and the towers. Our guide at Mor Gabrel monastery explained this with the frequent raids, especially by Kurds, with whom the Syriacs do not get along well.

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Practical information

There is no public transportation to Dereichi. The easiest way is to drive from Mardin to Savur first and then find a cab to the village. If you have a car, you can stop in Savur and take a short walk in the old town.

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