I have to thank my lovely driver Yussuf for a lot. Not only did he phone a friend and arrange a perfect breakfast in his house because I had mentioned that the breakfast I had in my hotel was very poor and had left me starving, he also took me to Dara, a place I would otherwise have missed.
Located at a distance of approx. 18.5 miles southeast of Mardin, Dara ‘s name is associated with the battle of Dara in 530 when the Romans and the Persians had, yet another, go at each other. They did this often and consequently Dara has a colorful history because it alternated between being Roman and Persian until it finally fell into the hands of the Arabs.
Originally an East Roman settlement Dara was a strategically important outpost of the Roman Empire and hence fortified by the emperor Justinian. What makes it an interesting point to visit today is the vast necropolis, housing tombs of kings and families. Only a part rises above ground the rest still awaits excavation.
Justinian’s engineers also accomplished a great feat: they diverted the river Cordes so it flew through the city and constructed an underground cistern which takes your breath away because it’s so unexpected. And so huge.
We descended stone steps, down, down and further down and then looked up at the massive structure which secured the water supply for the city. Again, this is a southeast Turkey site devoid of tour buses and mass tourism, so there is just one little café where you can sit and, if you wish, buy a few souvenirs. They do have a great selection of history books though and I bought a few.