Ararat and Armenian Hospitality
“The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.”–Genesis 8:2-4
One of the reasons we came to Armenia was Mount Ararat. If there was ever a country whose identity is tied to place, it is Armenia. In the picture above you see Mt. Ararat, mentioned in Genesis as the place where Noah's Ark came to rest. Armenians indentify themselves as the descendants of Hayk, Noah's great-great-grandson. Thus in the Armenian language the country is called Hayastan. Throughout many parts of Armenia, Mt. Ararat is visible on clear days. However visible, it is not easily accessible for Armenians. Ararat stands in eastern Turkey which was formerly part of historic Armenia. The border between these two countries is closed for a host of reasons, most notably the issue of the Armenian genocide in the early twentieth century as well as Armenia's conflict with Azerbaijan, whom Turkey counts as an ally.
Flood stories are found in many cultures and it's no surprise the biblical tradition has its beginnings with the story of Noah. It is a story with many themes: creation, judgement, promise, renewal. At the center is the human relationship to the land, our need for solid ground and a desire for creatures to be at home.
It was a powerful experience to see Mt. Ararat at Khor Virap, especially on such a clear day. After visiting the monastery, we were asking around the parking lot how to get back to Yerevan where we were staying. A family drove up and called for us to get in. 'Don't worry about Yerevan,' the husband said, 'You are coming to our house!' After a short drive we were at their home and a small banquet ensued. We ended up staying for a couple days with the family. They showed us how to make different Armenian foods and we enjoyed the company as well, drinking a lot of coffee (along with a healthy amount of homemade vodka). The grandmother of the family had her birthday so we got to enjoy those festivities as well. They also took us to their grandfather's grave where they have a tradition of each person walking around the gravestone and putting incense on a fire. It was special to see this part of their lives. Here are a few images of their hospitality: