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By Harry Kalfaian

August 6th - The escalators hidden in the concrete of the colossal Cascade can take one only part way up the hillside.

A relatively short hike from the staircase’s unfinished terminus, however, will lead you to Victory Park, where a bronze statue of Mair Hairenik stands, sword in hand, in the shape of a cross, overlooking Yerevan. The trek to the view is enjoyable in the early evening air. That’s where we come in, on a leisurely race to meet a sunset that is painting the city center gold. See us pointing at the Massis in the dusk. We trace the ridge of the snow line in the air like a sentence from an arabic textbook. There’s the spot where we’d stood at the summit. 17 thousand feet, amazing! Alien lights flicker and appear two-thirds the way up the mountain, and we descend into the night.

Daghlar! Daghlar!

On a stuffy but modern bus from the garrison town of Erzurum, sitting among wool vested men and women in black chadors, listening communally to a rehashing of a pop hit from the seventies as the shells of overturned trucks pass on the wayside, Alisa and I enjoy our first glimpse of the enormity that marks the end of the Anatolian plateau. The upper reaches of Ararat are faint through a halo of fog, the triple peak crown obscured by a late afternoon accumulation of ominous storm clouds. There is no other wonder of its caliber.

Dogubeyazut is a sprawling frontier outpost, though one of the well-dressed locals explains that the nearby borders aren’t really significant at all. For him the region is the heartland of a greater Kurdistan, one that includes adjacent sections of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. The Kurds and I have something in common, ‘Historic’ Armenia, the Eden my people lost and they inherited. They celebrate our troubled land with exotic words written to familiar melodies. Songs of love, patriotism, and rebellion are recorded onto cassettes and packed neatly by the score into sturdy wooden handcarts, where they bake and warp and fade in the summer heat, while dusty merchants await your buying pleasure. Apricot music permeates the air of the rustic town at the foot of the dormant volcano.

The Ishak Pasha has decent rooms, and a picture perfect view of Ararat. Its on a tapestry that the night clerk points to on check in. In the lobby, we meet Mustapha, an overworked tout who considers us lucky to have found him. He makes his living hawking day trips, but will provide us with all we need for our expedition, leaving us time also for sightseeing. The 7 kilometer stretch to the newly renovated Seljuk palace named after our hotel is a cakewalk. The deserted Saray with its Urartian walls was designed in the seventeenth century by an Armenian architect and built for a Kurdish prince, or so the latest guidebook states. No one really knows, here history is written and rewritten to taste. On the way back to town, we are invited to pick and sample the spotted fruits of a lone orchard among endless hayfields, as a preoccupied dust devil whirls about like a dervish in search of Nirvana. Nearby, Ataturk’s flag is carved into a barren mound surrounded by razor wire. Beside it is a disclaimer that bites, “What Joy it is to be a Turk.” Little Ararat is majestic in the distance.

Read the whole article and see photos here.

Source: Massis Weekly, September 23, 2006


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