To a visitor the view of Mount Ararat from Armenia, which dominates the horizon of capital Yerevan, adds to the grandeur of the city, for some it is associated with the belief that it is the resting place of Noah’s ark but for Armenians the volcano it is a reminder of loss.
It was in 2011 when I visited Yerevan, the summer had turned to winter overnight and there was a crispness in the air. Yerevan has some interesting museums, the food is good and the people are kind and modest; it is an easy city to explore.
One evening we met up with the British military attaché and a few of his colleagues for dinner, some of whom were visiting Armenia for the first time. As can be the way when travelling in some of the less visited parts of the world it is possible to be absorbed into the ex-pat community by simply being a similar nationality. Keen to show off his knowledge of Southern Caucasian cuisine the military attaché ordered some dishes he thought we should all try. Unfortunately, his Russian wasn’t quite as good as his knowledge of the food and instead of ordering 14 khinkali (dumplings stuffed with mince) we ended up with 40, on top of all the other courses we’d ordered.
The over-ordering of the dumplings led to an unconventional evening spent running about the alleyways and underpasses of Yerevan trying to find where the homeless would be spending the night in order to donate our excess food to them. This proved more difficult than we’d anticipated. Eventually we were successful we headed back to our accommodation in the shadow of the ever present Mount Ararat.
The view of the snow-topped outline of Mount Ararat from Armenia is a constant reminder to Armenians of a land which was once part of Armenia. During the First World War, on the slopes and surrounding plains of the great volcano, the Ottoman Government committed what has now been recognised as genocide against the Armenian’s. Troops systematically cleared the land of Armenian people and incorporated it into what is now Turkey. The genocide has led to a large Armenian diaspora around the world who have not forgotten their roots. Today the political tension between the countries rumbles on and the border between Turkey and Armenia still remains closed. The closed border makes it impossible to travel to Mount Ararat from Armenia and the volcano is an ever present monument the loss of life and homes a century ago.