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My biggest regret of my visit to Mardin, Turkey, was turning down an invitation to tea. I was traveling through southeastern Turkey with three other single women, and we had just arrived in Mardin one late spring afternoon. As soon as we arrived in the old town, with its crowded, narrow, cobblestone streets, we started scouting out for a hotel. We had a guidebook with some recommendations, but no reservation. The first place we went to, up on a rise above the main street, flatly told us that their hotel wasn’t good enough for us, we didn’t want to stay there. They recommended a 4-star resort type hotel near the center of town. We stopped at another budget hostel on the way to the recommended hotel, and they were full. In the end, we found some unique accommodations.  We were duly impressed by the picturesque middle-eastern style reception rooms with Turkish carpets and curved sword wall hangings, sandstone patios with lovely views, and beautiful clean bedrooms. The price was not too bad either, for the accommodation, so we happily agreed to stay.

Our hotel booked and bags dropped off in our rooms, we ventured back out onto the noisy streets busy with foot, vehicle, bicycle, and occasional donkey traffic, to look around. Mardin is perched on the edge of a plateau, overlooking a vast plain. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Syria. The town of Mardin itself is full of steep streets and rocky overlooks. We walked along in the late afternoon sun, noting the interesting sites that we wanted to see more of the next day, including the imposing, historical post office, and a few medressas (religious schools). We found our way somehow onto a back path on an outcrop, almost level with the flat roofs of a row of houses on the street below. Sitting on the top of one of the roofs was a group of middle-aged Turkish ladies chatting and drinking tea. They noticed us on the path and waved. Then one lady called out in Turkish, inviting us to come up there and join them, and soon the whole group had joined in the invitation. It took a minute with our limited Turkish skills to understand what they wanted. When we realized it was an invitation, we smiled and waved our thanks, but demurred. My excuses were that I didn’t know enough Turkish, it would be awkward, it was getting late, they were strangers. I still regret not accepting that invitation. I’m sure it would have been awkward, but it would have been fascinating, memorable, a window into the lives of the local women in Mardin, Turkey. The next time I got an invitation to tea from an unknown lady in my travels in Turkey, I said yes. And it was unforgettable.

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