"By the greatness of the God Khaldi, Arghisti, son of Menua, built this mighty stronghold and proclaimed it Erebuni for the glory of Biainili (Van) and to instill fear amongst the King’s enemies."
The cuneiform inscription carved in basalt stone that greets visitors to the ruins of Erebuni is a testament to Yerevan’s ancient origins as a fortress built to defend the kingdom’s borders from invaders from the north. Today, the arms of the Armenian capital are stretched wide in welcome, as the world awakens to its wonders. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the entire world, Yerevan is experiencing a renaissance of late, growing more prosperous and lively each year. The city’s charm, blending the old world and the new, is now poised to be proudly displayed as never before in what will be a banner year in the history of the capital, and the nation as a whole.
In the coming months, Yerevan will celebrate a truly remarkable anniversary commemorating 2800 years since the Araratian King Argishti I founded the ancient fortress and citadel in 782 BC. Erebuni, as Yerevan was then known, even predates Rome, serving as an important hub for caravans traveling from Asia to Europe. “Yerevan is the symbol of the past, present, and certainly the future of our people,” declared Mayor Taron Magaryan, who pledged to “do our best to make the capital of all Armenians more recognizable.”
As part of its jubilee program, the municipality is planning a series of special events, entertainment, and cultural activities throughout the city. With the concept of a technologically advanced ‘smart city’ in mind, upgrades to infrastructure and transportation are also being developed, along with the construction of a new park in the city dedicated to the 2800th anniversary. Municipal planners are consulting with dozens of other cities worldwide and eight international organizations to help implement all the improvements.
The pressure to succeed is compounded by the fact that in addition to the celebrations—including the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Armenia and the May Heroic Battles—Yerevan will also host the Francophonie Summit in October. The largest international summit ever to take place on Armenian soil, the city will play host to more than 100 international delegations and up to 50 heads of state.
To help accommodate the expected record influx of visitors, major roads leading to and from Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor and other provincial capitals throughout the nation are expected to be the focus of renewed investment. President Serzh Sargsyan recognized the magnitude of the challenge. “We don’t have such experience,” he noted. “This requires hard work, accurate calculations and great discipline…It is a challenge because we must be able to carry it out at the highest level, and it is a chance because if we succeed in holding such a big forum once, then subsequent ones will follow shortly.”
As the nation prepares itself for an unprecedented year of celebration that will test both its organizational capacity and its hospitality, a sense of excitement is slowly building throughout Yerevan while its residents anticipate the opportunity to showcase their culture to the world in 2018. And with so much already to offer—from unique architectural treasures, modern museums and art galleries to lively outdoor cafes open late at night where visitors will be warmly welcomed by friendly and sophisticated locals—it is clear the world will not be disappointed.
Banner photo courtesy of AdobeStock