Forum Rules (Everyone Must Read!!!)

1] What you CAN NOT post.

You agree, through your use of this service, that you will not use this forum to post any material which is:
- abusive
- vulgar
- hateful
- harassing
- personal attacks
- obscene

You also may not:
- post images that are too large (max is 500*500px)
- post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or cited properly.
- post in UPPER CASE, which is considered yelling
- post messages which insult the Armenians, Armenian culture, traditions, etc
- post racist or other intentionally insensitive material that insults or attacks another culture (including Turks)

The Ankap thread is excluded from the strict rules because that place is more relaxed and you can vent and engage in light insults and humor. Notice it's not a blank ticket, but just a place to vent. If you go into the Ankap thread, you enter at your own risk of being clowned on.
What you PROBABLY SHOULD NOT post...
Do not post information that you will regret putting out in public. This site comes up on Google, is cached, and all of that, so be aware of that as you post. Do not ask the staff to go through and delete things that you regret making available on the web for all to see because we will not do it. Think before you post!

2] Use descriptive subject lines & research your post. This means use the SEARCH.

This reduces the chances of double-posting and it also makes it easier for people to see what they do/don't want to read. Using the search function will identify existing threads on the topic so we do not have multiple threads on the same topic.

3] Keep the focus.

Each forum has a focus on a certain topic. Questions outside the scope of a certain forum will either be moved to the appropriate forum, closed, or simply be deleted. Please post your topic in the most appropriate forum. Users that keep doing this will be warned, then banned.

4] Behave as you would in a public location.

This forum is no different than a public place. Behave yourself and act like a decent human being (i.e. be respectful). If you're unable to do so, you're not welcome here and will be made to leave.

5] Respect the authority of moderators/admins.

Public discussions of moderator/admin actions are not allowed on the forum. It is also prohibited to protest moderator actions in titles, avatars, and signatures. If you don't like something that a moderator did, PM or email the moderator and try your best to resolve the problem or difference in private.

6] Promotion of sites or products is not permitted.

Advertisements are not allowed in this venue. No blatant advertising or solicitations of or for business is prohibited.
This includes, but not limited to, personal resumes and links to products or
services with which the poster is affiliated, whether or not a fee is charged
for the product or service. Spamming, in which a user posts the same message repeatedly, is also prohibited.

7] We retain the right to remove any posts and/or Members for any reason, without prior notice.


Members are welcome to read posts and though we encourage your active participation in the forum, it is not required. If you do participate by posting, however, we expect that on the whole you contribute something to the forum. This means that the bulk of your posts should not be in "fun" threads (e.g. Ankap, Keep & Kill, This or That, etc.). Further, while occasionally it is appropriate to simply voice your agreement or approval, not all of your posts should be of this variety: "LOL Member213!" "I agree."
If it is evident that a member is simply posting for the sake of posting, they will be removed.

8] These Rules & Guidelines may be amended at any time. (last update September 17, 2009)

If you believe an individual is repeatedly breaking the rules, please report to admin/moderator.
See more
See less

To Noah’s mountain, with the cats that leapt off the Ark

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • To Noah’s mountain, with the cats that leapt off the Ark

    To Noah’s mountain, with the cats that leapt off the Ark

    By Diana Preston, The Mail on Sunday, 16th June 2008
    Ancient monasteries surround the remote areas around Mount Ararat

    Ancient monasteries surround the remote areas around Mount Ararat

    'Where are you from?' asked the Iranian hotel housekeeper as, beetroot-faced from a morning's sightseeing wearing the obligatory hijab, I peeled off my headscarf in my room. 'England,' I replied. 'Ah,' a smile lit her face, 'Harry Potter!' This was one of many slightly surreal encounters on a journey around Mount Ararat that had begun in Armenia.

    We had flown into Yerevan, Armenia's capital, just before midnight. Women, smiling and weeping simultaneously, clutched bunches of dark red roses as they greeted returning family and friends. The emotion touched us though we were strangers. We drove into town along a darkened highway that suddenly blazed into a corridor of neon as we passed row after row of casinos.

    This kaleidoscope of images started to fall into place next morning after a substantial breakfast of tiny pancakes oozing with curd cheese, fluffy tabouleh, cucumber salad with parsley and dill, baskets of hot, flat bread - 'lavash' - and honeysweetened pastries.

    Armenia's food reflects its diverse, often fractured, past at the hands of waves of invaders - Mongols, Persians, Turks, Russians and others - all intent on grabbing a region straddling a major trade route between Europe and Asia.

    Swimming cats often have one blue eye and one amber...

    Geography has not been Armenia's friend but since independence from the most recent occupiers, the former Soviet Union, the country has been changing. Ladas still bowl along Yerevan's streets but so do Mercedes and BMWs, and even the odd Range Rover and Bentley. A statue of a stern and muscular 'Mother Armenia' from Soviet times towers over Yerevan but more striking is the snowy summit of the 16,945ft Mount Ararat, just across the Turkish border, where the Ark supposedly came to rest after the Flood.

    The mountain is an impressive backdrop to St Gregory's Church at Zvartnots in the Ararat Valley where the King of Armenia converted to Christianity in 301AD and which today sits in gardens of nodding yellow hollyhocks.

    Religion remains hugely important to Armenians as does music. During Sunday service in the cathedral at Echmiadzin, choristers sing in glorious soaring notes to the bearded priests with pale, icon-like faces who sing back to them. The cathedral owes its existence to Armenian ingenuity. When, in the 17th Century, Shah Abbas of Persia ordered his invading armies to destroy it, Armenian craftsmen hastily carved the Shah's face on the bell tower and told the Persian soldiers the image had suddenly and miraculously appeared. The cathedral survived.

    The many Armenian churches and monasteries hidden away in lonely forests and stark ravines, some in the shadow of Ararat, testify to a precarious past and the necessity of isolation and inaccessibility.

    The Monastery of the Holy Lance at Gegard lies at the end of a dramatic gorge, its church carved into the cliff itself. Priests concealed books and relics in ceramic jars beneath the floors at times of danger. Some churches even have moveable columns with hidden chambers behind them.

    Today, though, there are no marauding Mongols - just tourists and old women selling dried mulberries, sheets of chewy 'cherry leather' and strings of soft, young walnuts in grape juice jelly.

    From Yerevan, our route lay northwest through flower meadows and pastureland to the southern slopes of Ararat's neighbour Mount Aragats and the fortress of Amberd. Surrounded by cliffs on three sides, its name means 'inaccessible' but Timur - Tamburlaine the Great - found and sacked it in the 14th Century.

    As well as castles, churches and monasteries, each with their own dramatic story, our journey showed us diverse peoples. In the cemetery of a Kurdish sect, lichen-mottled carved stone horses that once denoted the graves of the wealthy still stand. Near Lake Sevan, we passed through villages of Russian 'Old Believers'. Described by Tolstoy, they still lead lives of biblical simplicity. Small boys with elfin cheekbones and pale blond hair sell carrots by the roadside.

    Lake Sevan is quite a contrast, a buzzing tourist resort where jetskiers zip across the pale blue waters that provide a refreshing dip in the summer heat. We recalled it wistfully when, a few miles beyond the lake, the women in our group donned their hijabs to cross into north-western Iran, once part of greater Armenia.

    Beyond the border, the road at first twists through knifesharp purple, brown and sagehued mountains. Descending into softer terrain, we saw families picnicking beneath apricot and walnut trees and learned that we had arrived on a special holiday.

    The woods around the onceisolated 9th Century Armenian monastery of St Stephen's were full of families out for the day. The doorkeeper who let us in to admire the glowing stonework and delicate carvings was wearing a Manchester United shirt. Southwards, towards Tabriz, it grew even hotter.

    The fields of tall sunflowers were almost too bright to look at. We rested in a restored 17th Century caravanserai with thick walls for coolness and a stone platform in the centre of the courtyard where berobed merchants once displayed their goods.

    Tabriz was less romantic - a sprawling modern city where people hurry about with laptops under one arm and slabs of bread the size of skateboards under the other.

    But the cool interior of the 600-year-old Blue Mosque testifies to a more graceful past. So do the alleyways of the old bazaar where today's merchants offer everything from dried limes to garlic shampoo. Fertile orchards and meadows dotted with blue and white bee hives surround Tabriz. But further south, the landscape grows to more epic proportions. Takht-i-Soleiman - Solomon's Throne - rises up from rolling grasslands like something out of Lord Of The Rings.

    Water gushes down stone channels from the deep, dark pool in the middle of this hilltop fortress which has been many things - a temple to the Persian goddess Anahita, a most sacred shrine of the sunrevering Zoroastrians as well as, reputedly, the site of Solomon's palace. Legend says that he incarcerated demons and monsters in the depths of a small volcano nearby - Solomon's Dungeon. We climbed to the crater and peered gingerly into its sulphurous but otherwise empty depths.

    Twisting northwards again, we reached Lake Orumiyeh, its waters rimmed with a sparkling white crust of salt like a giant margarita. The crystals have formed into fantastic shapes along the shoreline. Paddling in the warm, salty water is fun - but like the Dead Sea it stings. I washed it off in the hotel run by the housekeeper who likes Harry Potter.

    Close once again to Mount Ararat, we crossed from Iran into north-eastern Turkey, heartland of the Turkish Kurds, and also close to the Armenian border. At Ani, the long abandoned capital of Armenia near the city of Kars, the watchtowers of modern Armenia lie barely half a mile away across a deep river gorge.

    Ani is a place of tumbled ruins - victim of earthquakes and Mongol hordes - but enough remains to picture its once magnificent gateways, palaces and churches. Frescoes depicting biblical scenes, including gruesome martyrdoms, have survived, their colours still bright.

    Lake Van to the south was our last stop, seven times the size of Lake Geneva and the largest salt lake in the world.

    The finely carved 1,000-year-old Armenian Church of the Holy Cross sits on Akdamar Island, where tortoises sunbathe on the rocks.

    But it's definitely a cat's rather than a reptile's life in the town of Van, famous for its swimming felines.

    According to legend, a pair of cats on Noah's Ark grew restless, leapt overboard and swam to the shores of Lake Van. They were later blessed by Allah, his touch leaving ginger markings on their white fur. Through a genetic mutation, some have one amber eye and one blue. They are highly prized as pets but if you own one leave the loo seat down and be prepared for a shared bath-time.

    We spent our last night eating kebabs in a Kurdish restaurant after climbing the craggy Rock of Van to watch the sun set from the ruined castle.

    A cat with one golden and one blue eye watched us as we ate - the last surreal experience of a journey around Mount Ararat through a rich mixture of religions, cultures and landscapes in a part of the world that sees few visitors and deserves more.

    Travel facts
    Diana Preston travelled to Mount Ararat with Explore (, 0844 499 0901) which offers various tours to the area between May and October. A 'tough', 14-night trek priced from £1,329pp takes in Ararat and Turkey's nearby Kackar Mountains, while 'Land Of The Golden Fleece', from £1,450pp, spends 15 nights in Armenia and Georgia. Prices include London flights (regional connections extra), all transportation, B&B, some other meals, local payment and a tour leader

    MailOnline - get the latest breaking news, celebrity photos, viral videos, science & tech news, and top stories from MailOnline and the Daily Mail newspaper.
    What if I find someone else when looking for you? My soul shivers as the idea invades my mind.