A little introductory photo gallery for those who may not be familiar with Armenia or the Armenians.
Armenians are a very old people. They'd been around for a good 1,000 years when Jesus showed up, which was also the time that Armenia was at its largest. Stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Caspian, and aaaalmost to the Black Sea.
Today, after being around thousands of years, Armenia has a rich culture and beautiful country, even if it is much smaller than it used to be. Countless stunning monasteries and fortresses dot the mountains, canyons and valleys of Armenia.
The capital of Armenia is Yerevan, which is built under the shadow of Mt. Ararat. This is a sacred mountain for Armenians, with a great deal of symbolism we will get into in a moment, but it is a holy mountain for many people around the world who believe the old testament story of Noah's Arc landing on Mount Ararat.
Armenians started carving simple crosses and calling them khachkars (cross-stones) after Christ was crucified, and this example from 1291 CE shows the level of mastery this art reached. They are still carving them today.
Another art Armenians excelled in was that of illuminated manuscripts. The Matenadaran is a repository of ancient Armenian manuscripts. Some important ancient texts exist today only thanks to Armenian translations.
Armenian music has a long history and is of course influenced by the music of neighboring nations. "Khaz" is an Armenian musical notation system used for many centuries. Komitas did important work a century ago in documenting Armenian musical tradition before much of it was lost in the Armenian Genocide which also destroyed Komitas' psyche.
Armenian dance and garb is displayed here during a performance of a traditional dance.
Today, the countless open-air cafes of Yerevan have been expanding all over the sidewalks and parks, for better or for worse. People love to socialize and the cafes are packed all summer and fall.
More Armenians live outside of Armenia than inside, due to a host of historical reasons. The number one reason is the Armenian Genocide, during which the Ottoman Turkish Empire wiped out nearly all the Armenians living in their historical homeland across Anatolia. Most died, the rest were dispersed around the world. Today's Armenia consists of a tiny portion of historic Armenia in the Caucasus that was able to defend itself from the Turkish army.
The fortress founding Yerevan was established before Rome. There are some ancient archaeological sites that are still being studied, but Yerevan remained a relatively small regional hub until it was chosen to become the capital of Armenia in 1918.