Hamazkayin Forum participants headed off to the site of the historic city of Dikranagerd, where in the early 2000’s, archeological excavations revealed traces of the city built by one of Armenia’s most successful kings, Dikran the Great; during his reign, Armenia’s boundaries covered sea to sea.. To date, almost 10% of the excavations are complete.
As the bus carrying the participants passed through Asgeran’s fortress, pomegranate trees and watermelon stands are seen along the way and of course the army base where the group had been a day before is seen on the right. Once at the site, the local guide Narine took the group through the museum, providing helpful pieces of information about the area, the excavations and discovered treasures. Forum participants took the opportunity to wander around and inside the fortress and of course take lots of photos. Some rested in the courtyard, under trees and around the fountain.
After leaving Dikranagerd, Forum participants headed toward the museums of the soldiers who gave up their lives during the Artsakh liberation war and the soldiers who were vanished without a trace, but whose parents and loved ones continue to wait and pray for their safe return until this day. Vanished soldiers museum director Mrs. Vera Grigorian welcomed the group; a mother whose son had vanished, she was very caring and hospitable toward the group. She read from her books, guided the group through the rooms where countless number of photographs covered the walls; flowers, a shrine..the whole experience was very moving for everyone. The museum of those who were killed during the Artsakh war followed; it was very painful to see the photograph of the founder of the museum, a lady who was known to many of the participants from prior visits, Mrs. Galya Arstamian at the entrance; she had passed away last year. The museum was filled with photographs, army gear, even a wedding suit was hanging at a distance, among photos and military equipment. Mrs. Arpi Altounian took the group through the museum, answered questions and wished them well in their future. Following lunch at Parc hotel, it was time to visit Kantsasar. The winding roads took us through the majestic and endless mountains of Artsakh; there was no doubt in anyone’s mind, that Artsakh is breathtakingly beautiful. The bus stopped at the famous Tiger mountain; a mountaineous area that has the natural shape of the head of a tiger but has been further enhanced and is now a popular tourist attraction. Following photo shoots, Ara P hurried everyone into the bus to continue with the packed agenda of the day.
Next stop: Kantsasar; what a beauty! Nestled in the luscious mountains of Artsakh this beautiful church and surrounding area are definitely worth the visit.
Dinner time was near; the bus stopped at a location close to the house-museum of national hero Nigol Touman. A nice breeze filled the air, trees and bushes surrounded the long tables that had been set for the group. Shortly after everyone sat down for dinner, the national song and dance ensemble of Artsakh, ‘We are our mountains’ kicked off what ended up being a truly memorable evening for all. Folk and national songs and dances followed; the Kochari got everyone up; the circle kept growing and then it was time for the Yarkhoushda; Anahid and Gohar were the start performers of that dance. One of the highlights was when the band performed ‘Gharapaghtsin’…. The entire group was on its feet except Forum participant Artak, who comes from the Mardouni region of Artsakh; Artak was sitting on Hayk’s shoulders and waving his arms in the air; as they say, you had to be there. A short while later, Hrayr was on his guitar and Gassia was on her Shvi… Small groups explored the museum; a short while later, it was time for the handing out of the certificates of completion; Ara and Tamar, the directors of the Forum 2015 called upon all the participants to receive their certificates; it was a fun yet touching experience for all.
As the bus was driving back to the hotel, silence filled the air; departure time was getting near and it was very clear that no one wanted to depart from Artsakh, depart from Armenia, depart from each other. It was hard to believe that the Hamazkayin Forum 2015 was nearing its end.