The "new" part of the town of Midyat, which is inhabited by Kurds, has nothing to merit anyone's attention whilst the "old" part is of far more interest.
The narrow alleyways are lined with large houses constructed of local pale beige coloured stone. Many of these buildings are decorated with elaborate and delicately carved designs. This part of the town was home to some 200,000 Orthodox Syrians but due to internal pressures from the national and local government and the activities of the PKK, many have fled either abroad or to cities such as İstanbul and İzmir.
Germany is host to some 10,000 immigrants from the area.
Some 20Km to the east of Midyat is Mar Gabriel which was founded in the 5thC by Saint Simeon, and became the largest and most important monastery in the district.
Today it is the oldest monastery in the world, in continuous use.
The parched and barren limestone hills roll eastward towards the Tigris River and are known as the "Mount of the Servant of God." In early Byzantine times many churches and monasteries were built throughout the countryside.
Today only one monastery remains open, the remainder slowly falling into ruin.
It is administered by the Metropolitan Tur Abdin along with a small number of monks who, apart from their religious duties, cultivate the surrounding fields and orchards.
The services are conducted in Aramaic1.
The Türkiye's government will not permit any other language other than Türkçe's to be taught in schools. Children, as young as four years old, are tri-lingual, chatting with their playmates and neighbours in Kurdish and Arabic and speak Aramaic in the home.
On reaching school age they are taught Türkishs in state schools.
The dialect spoken here is not written, but handed down from generation to generation only by word of mouth.
In 2011 a Syrian Orthodox priest,Yoken Unfal, who lived and was educated in a seminar in the Netherlands, arrived in the town and has re-opened the 10thC Mar Agin Monastery once again.
At one time this was home to 350 monks but after the last monk died in 1970, the monastery fell into disrepair. The Metropolitan of Tur Abdin conducted the service to mark the re-opening of the monastery, which was attended by 300 Aramæans from Mar Gabriel.
When every one had returned to their homes, Brother Yoken prayed alone.
Today less than 2,000 Aramæans remain in Tur Abdin.
As the congregation dwindles, a culture, with its unique traditions and ancient language, is slowly disappearing
1Name applied to the northern branch of the Semetic family of languages, including Syriac and Chaldee.