TURKEY: Turabdin Pizzeria reopens at new location in village of Kafro in Medyad (Midyat)

MEDYAD, Tur Abdin — The city of Medyad (Midyat), in the historic Tur Abdin region in what is now southeastern Turkey, has become a renowned destination for history, culture, and religious tourism. However, it continues to enhance its reputation as a culinary destination with the opening of the new location of Babylon Pizza, now renamed Turabdin Pizzeria.

The grand opening of Turabdin Pizzeria was attended by a slew of prominent figures. Distinguished guests including:

  • Midyat District Governor Ahmet Solmaz
  • AK Party Mardin Provincial Chairman Vahap Alma
  • Midyat District President Atilla Race
  • Nusaybin District Governor and Deputy Mayor Ercan Kayabaşı
  • Mardin Metropolitan Municipality Science Affairs Department Head Cebrail Aslan
  • Midyat Deputy Mayor Mahsum Cengiz
  • Midyat District Gendarmerie Commander Major Kalender Ünal
  • Midyat Chamber of Craftsmen and Artisans Chairman Mehmet Selim Yıldız
  • Nusaybin Chamber of Craftsmen and Artisans Chairman Ömer Özel
  • Mardin Headmen Federation President Mehmet Nas
  • Midyat Credit Bail Cooperative President Mehmet Ali Akkurt

(Image: Mardin Life)

Ishok Demir, the owner and operator of Turabdin Pizzeria, extended his gratitude to all the guests who attended the opening ceremony.

Demir, a 30-something Syriac born and raised in Switzerland, first open Babylon Pizzeria in 2017 after he moved to his ancestral village in Tur Abdin.

The Syriac community in Turkey faced immense hardships throughout the 20th century, with numerous atrocities committed against them during the final years of the Ottoman Empire and the waves of e migration in the 1980s and 1990s due to the prolonged conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Demir’s family was one of those who settled abroad but made the choice to return in the 2000s when the situation became more peaceful. It was the first time Demir had the opportunity to see his family’s ancestral village.

“When I heard that my parents wanted to go back to Turkey and live in their old homeland, I was shocked and had no understanding of their decision,” said Demir in an interview with Paul Benjamin Osterlund for Culinary Back Streets in May 2023. “Time passed. I found new friends and learned more about this place very slowly. With time, I started to like it, I made souvenirs with objects like monasteries and churches on postcards and churches and sold them to tourists. Sometimes I translated for tourists in German and Syriac, and I’ve worked for a Syriac newspaper as well,” he said.

(Image: Mardin Life)

In 2016, Demir made the decision to establish a pizzeria. A Syriac friend from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland taught him the skill of making wood-fired pizza.

“A lot of people always ask me why we immigrated to this place,” Demir said. “We are a very small minority, but have such a big and old history. Our monasteries and churches are so old; they deserve to be visited and maintained. I feel at home here, close to my religion and faith, and that’s why I decided to stay here, and not to go back to Switzerland, even when I miss it very much.”