Cercis Murat Mansion, which was founded by Ebru Baybara Demir in Mardin, the multi-language, multi-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-cuisine city of Mesopotamia known as the land of the first where the history had begun, was born as a product of the courage, talent and success of Mardin women, and became the origin of stories enriched with a new effort made everyday to reach future generations.
The Power of Courage, Belief, and the Kitchen
In the year 2000, Ebru, who was working as a tour guide, was a daughter of a family with roots in Mardin. Although she wasn’t born there, she believed in and felt connected to this city through her heritage. She knew its historical and cultural richness, its texture, and its spirit very well. In one of the tours she guided, a group of German tourists she brought to the city was very dissatisfied with the meal they had at the only restaurant in Mardin.
Feeling helpless, Ebru decided to take the group to her family’s home for the next day’s meal. She gathered the women of her family and neighbors and had them prepare a meal for the tourists. In an environment that resonated with the region’s ambiance, the meals prepared by women, who were almost natural carriers of Mardin’s ancient culinary wealth, were so well-received that what was initially planned as a one-hour lunch break extended to three hours.
That day, both the women, who had never cooked for anyone other than their own families, and the tourists, who experienced the unique flavors and warmth of the women, shared a similar sense of enlightenment on their faces.
When the traditionally prepared home-cooked meals garnered such praise, Ebru organized the women on the same street to prepare meals for tourists in their homes. The dinner tables she set up with traditional meals cooked by 21 housewives in historical houses received widespread attention. Now, housewives were preparing meals for tourist groups in the historical houses they lived in and making money from this work in their own homes.
Cercis Murat Mansion
A journalist visiting the city wrote in his newspaper column about the meals prepared in homes and the women who made these dishes. Everyone visiting Mardin wanted to hear the story of these courageous 21 women and taste the dishes they prepared.
In a city where tourism income had dwindled to almost nothing, farmers had drifted away from agriculture, another source of income through border trade was on the brink of collapse due to Middle Eastern conflicts, and the city grappled with unemployment due to security issues related to terrorism, and many women rarely left their homes without their husbands, this was indeed a venture that required great courage.
As the number of guests increased, Ebru Baybara Demir and the 21 women restored a historical Syriac mansion in line with its original values and transformed it into a restaurant. This caused the birth of Mardin’s first tourist establishment, namely “Cercis Murat Mansion,” and the beginning of Mardin’s tourism transformation.
Cercis Murat Mansion prioritized female employment in each department, choosing most of its staff amongst women. In a male-dominated society, a woman and the other 21 women, who believed in her, showed others through their restaurant business how they could change a city’s economy starting from what the people knew best.
Taking inspiration from the example of Cercis Murat Mansion, the people of Mardin gradually began converting their historical homes into restaurants and hotels and investing in the city’s tourism. Moreover, no need for foreign investors.
Not Just a "Restaurant"
It wasn’t just about serving new or local flavors to people; it was a place that touched lives, empowered women, and combined cultural richness with production. It wasn’t just a restaurant, and Ebru Baybara Demir was not merely a chef who cooked and served meals. It was more than that.
The story that began at Cercis Murat Mansion extended beyond from the women of the region to Syrian women, joint heirs of Mesopotamia’s legacy, and it reached initiatives aimed at reviving healthy wheat cultivation in the world’s oldest wheat region after thousands of years, and it contributed to the development of a drought-prone city with its own cultural heritage, and it even extended to projects that provided tangible, sustainable benefits to young people and children, and many of which were pioneering examples.
Cercis Murat Mansion, which, serves its guests with products grown using traditional farming methods, traditional recipes, and unique presentations every evening, is the convergence point of future goals, alongside Ebru Baybara Demir and the courageous people of the region, who continues to produce with determination..