Welcome to our Caravan-Serai Tours Newsletter! We will be sending this out monthly with country information on our destinations, a recipe, and more. Please feel free to share this newsletter and let your friends and family know they can receive an email edition by signing up on our email list—just contact Brenda@caravan-serai.com and they will be added.
Armenia is a small country with a very big history, having been a crossroads of the world’s greatest empires throughout its history. Armenia, part of the former Soviet Union until 1991, lies on the Silk Road, and was the first country to adopt Christianity in about 300AD. The Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Persians, Ottomans, and Russians have all had an influence on this small country.
Its rich cultural and architectural heritage combines elements from different traditions. The Armenian language is part of the Indo-European family, but its alphabet is unique. The whole country of Armenia is like an open-air museum. It’s rich in stone structures, temples and churches created throughout the ages. The stone carvings on the rock formations of the Geghama Mountains, situated near Lake Sevan, serve as evidence of early civilization, and are the reflection of the early mythological thought, lifestyle, hunting practices, astronomical knowledge and other features of local prehistory. In the Ararat Valley, you will find the remnants of the Medzamour Bronze and Iron Age settlements – symbols of early urban civilization in Armenia.
The Armenians trace their history to the Sixth Century B.C. Throughout history, Armenia has been a battlefield for many invaders, contending empires, and a bridge for many cultures and civilizations. During the past 2,700 years, Armenia was conquered by the Persians, Alexander the Great, Rome, Byzantium, the Ottoman Turks and Russia. Invaders such as Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols, Tatars and Safavids also crossed Armenia.
At the turn of the 20th century Armenians lived in an autonomous region of what is now Eastern Turkey, and had done so for centuries. The area known as Western Armenia had come under Ottoman control in a peace treaty of the mid 1500’s and was thereafter referred to as Ottoman Armenia or Turkish Armenia. The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were often subject to the whims of the Turks for being a minority group and often suffered abuse and harassment.
In the 19th century Eastern Armenia was conquered by the Russian Empire and during World War I, Ottoman Armenians were looked on with suspicion because the Eastern Armenians were participating in the war on the side of the Russian Empire. They were systematically forced out of their homeland in Eastern Turkey or exterminated in the Armenian Genocide. This collection of atrocities committed against the Armenian people is commemorated annually on April 24th, and 1915 is the considered the beginning of the genocide. Over a million Armenians were killed during this assault by the Turks to push them out of the Ottoman territory.
In 1918, following the Russian Revolution, all non-Russian countries declared their independence after the Russian Empire ceased to exist, leading to the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia. By 1920, the state was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, and in 1922 became a founding member of the Soviet Union. In 1936, the Transcaucasian state was dissolved, transforming its constituent states, including the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, into full Union republics. The modern Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
This is just the barest of summaries of Armenian history and the genocide. Armenian history is rich and extremely complex, and really requires more detail to understand all the twists and turns throughout the centuries. These centuries have left their mark on the Republic of Armenia as we know it now, and the best way to begin to understand is to visit and learn firsthand the hearts of Armenians.
To get a really good overview of the country, you need to spend at least a full week in Armenia. There are so many historical sites from border to border: monasteries, magnificent natural landscape, wineries, tradition and modern culinary delights, museums for every interest, and people that are as hospitable as can be. Americans do not currently need a visa to visit Armenia but other citizens may, so be sure to check before you travel. You can also join our new Food and Wine Caucasus Tour in October 2020 where the group will experience culinary traditions and wines throughout Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia as well as see the amazing sights in each county.
Armenian Stuffed Peppers
- 8 Bell Peppers – any color, a mixture is very eye catching
- 1 pound ground beef/turkey/chicken
- ½ cup long grain rice
- ½ onion finely chopped
- ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 large can peeled, petite dice tomatoes
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon dried mint crushed
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 small garlic clove minced
- salt & pepper to taste
Wash the peppers and cut off the tops, remove core and seeds. Set aside.
Mix the meat, rice, onion, parsley, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper and half of the can of tomatoes in a large mixing bowl. Combine thoroughly.
Stuff the cored peppers with mixture – do not fill all the way to the top. Leave about ¼ of an inch from the top as the rice will expand while cooking and it will overflow.
Arrange the stuffed peppers in a large pot. Pour the remaining tomatoes over the top. Add the lemon juice, mint and a little water so there is approx 2-3 inches of liquid in the bottom of the pot.
Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, covered, for about 45 min, or until the peppers are tender.
Serve with a garnish of mint sprig and a spoonful or labna – Middle Eastern yogurt.
You can also cook this in a crock pot, just be sure to increase the length of cooking time to ensure the meat and rice are thoroughly cooked.
New and Notable Tours
While Caravan-Serai specializes in tours and travel to the Middle East, we are also full service travel agents and can book your next tropical vacation, too! Ever thought of an all-inclusive family vacation? Consider Club Med. They have resorts all over the world, and once you get there, you don’t have to get your wallet out again! Accommodations, meals, activities, and more are included. Want a ski vacation? Go to a Club Med resort in the Alps and equipment and ski lessons are included. And the prices are a great value. Want to know more? Call us!
- SCM will be loading a container of donated goods bound for Jordan on October 20 at 10am. This will take place at their office at 3806 Whitman Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 (we share and office with SCM). All volunteers welcome to come and help out. With lots of help the task is usually accomplished in about 2 hours.
- Through a sponsorship program with LuminAID SCM has received 500 solar lanterns, with 300 of them being solar lantern phone chargers. The lanterns were sponsored by SCM supporters and LuminAID has sent them all directly to us to go in the container and some will go to Greece. Thanks to everyone who sponsored lanterns and LuminAID for their matching gift, we will have lots of lanterns for the refugees. https://luminaid.com/
- SCM is getting ready to return to Greece to help the new refugees arriving on the island of Samos. As the situation deteriorates in Turkey for the refugees living there (they are being threatened with being sent back to northern Syria where Turkey, with the help of former IS and Al Qaeda members, is clearing out the Kurds, and causing the IS fighters imprisoned there to escape from their jail making the situation extremely unsafe), more refugees are choosing to cross to one of the Greek islands to find refugee while they still can. SCM will be there to help with a clinic and shelter. Please consider donating to help the mission there at scmmedicalmissions.org/donate
- There will be a clothing drive on November 3rd at MAPS in Redmond. You can donate used clothing, linens, and any household soft goods as long as they are clean and dry. Put your donations into kitchen garbage bags and drop off at MAPS from 10am to 4pm. Goodwill pays SCM by the pound! MAPS is at 17550 NE 67th CT, Redmond, WA 98052
- Follow SCM’s activities on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/salaamculturalmuseum/