The Dara Mesopotamia ruins do not often appear in tourism brochures of Turkey despite their importance in the historical world. The city was a strong fortress for the Romans and one of the most populated areas in ancient Mesopotamia.
In recent times, the blame for non recognition is probably because it is near the Syrian / Turkish border. We were staying in Mardin and locals said a drive from Dara ruins to the border was just five minutes. This made me doubt whether my goal to visit could be achieved.
We had spoken to soldiers in Urfa who said military presence in the Southeast had increased dramatically and they had been drafted in from the West coast of Turkey in case the situation with Syria worsened. We decided to try visiting Dara anyway. The worst scenario was military stop points on the road and we would have to turn back.
The ruins of Dara are near the village of Oguz and my qualms about having to change travel plans were unfounded.Military stop points were nonexistent and the village was peaceful with no indication of the turmoil happening a short distance away. Children were running around the streets and women were baking bread in their stone bake ovens. Cows rested in the gardens and although the village looked neglected, I felt no concern with being there.
The Dara Mesopotamia Ruins
The main reason for visiting the area was to see the ruins. Very little information exists on the Internet about them and when comparing them with other Roman sites like Ephesus, foreign tourists are rare. Locals said the ruins were becoming popular however when the problem with Syria flared up, even Turks stopped visiting. They now receive a small trickle of visitors each week.
In articles that I did find, there is contradiction about who built the city. Some historians say its name came from the Persian king Darius while others insist it was the Byzantine emperor Anastasius who laid the first foundations.
Either way, its importance stems from its use as a Roman fortress in the sixth century and as the location of the famous battle of Dara. Excavations started on the ruins in 1986 and according to locals, historians did not leave until two years ago.
If you look carefully at the top of the stone buildings, you can see a long line indicating the different colors in the stone. Everything below that line had spent thousands of years under the ground until excavations began. The thought of unearthing an ancient city is impressive and it is thanks to the village children that I learned this information.
Many people say do not give money to local children as it encourages them to beg strangers for money. However, this young group acted as our guides and told us more information in half an hour than anything I had read on the Internet.
The children were not begging. They were prepared to work for small pocket change. The help of the children was also gratefully accepted because at times, I found it hard to recognize what I was looking at. The children pointed out the necropolis, churches, houses, and agora and without their advice, we would have missed the impressive water cistern situated outside of the ruins and nearer to the village center.
Tips for visiting Dara
- Do not let the close proximity of Dara to the Syrian border put you off.
- Local transport is not frequent or an easy ride. Hire a driver or car instead.
- Visit the village as well as the ruins for a better experience. Half a day is ample time.
- The knowledge of an expert guide will benefit you. The children that showed us around only spoke Turkish, so you will need a translator if you do not have a guide.