Mahalle (Arabic: محلة maḥallä, Persian: محله maḥallä) (abbreviated mh. or mah.) is an Arabic word, adopted into Turkish (mahalle), Albanian (mahallë, or mëhallë or mëhalla), Bulgarian (махала) and Romanian (mahala), which is variously translated as district, quarter, ward, or "neighborhood." It is an official administrative unit in many Middle Eastern countries. In the Ottoman Empire, the mahalle was the smallest administrative entity. The mahalle is generally perceived to play an important role in identity formation, with the local mosque and the local coffee house as the main social institutions. It lies at the intersection of private family life and the public sphere. Important community-level management functions are performed through mahalle solidarity, such as religious ceremonies, life-cycle rituals, resource management and conflict resolution.
The mahalle is represented in the municipality and government by its muhtar. The muhtarlık (the office of muhtar) has been designed as the smallest administrative office, with representative and enforcement powers at the local level. However, in some cases, the muhtar acts as not only the representative of the government towards the community but also the head of the community towards the government and subverts official government policies through intricate face-to-face mahalle-level relationships.
It is also the smallest urban administrative division in Iran. Each city is divided into a few Mantaqes, (Persian: منطقه), which is then divided into Nahiyes (Persian: ناحیه), further subdivided to Mahalle (Persian: محله), usually having a Mahalle council (Persian: شورای محله), a quarter mosque, and a small parkette.
In September 2017 a Turkish based association refers to the historical Mahalle by organizing a festival with the title Mahalla in the frame of parallel events of the 15th Istanbul Biennial. This festival in Istanbul features cultural initiatives of the civil society and artists from the Middle East and Europe, the Balkan and Turkey. Against the background of the ongoing migration crisis all participants of the festival are concerned in their work in various ways with themes of hospitality, identity formation, homelessness, migration and fluctuation, the changing of an existing order and the dissolution of borders.