Midyat, the city above Matiate, is part a culturally rich area that receives millions of visitors every year. Nine of its churches and monasteries are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, and others are candidates for such recognition. When the underground complex is completely excavated, Turkish officials indicate they hope it also will draw tourists.
Midyat, first settled about 4,000 years ago during the Bronze Age, has been ruled by at least seven different empires. Yet Christianity has remained—and is now practiced by the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Another underground city that scientists have uncovered in the region is Derinkuyu, estimated to have been built around the eighth or ninth century B.C.E. and capable of housing about 20,000 people.