- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 August 15, 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

You know you are flying with Armenians, when the woman in the seat next to you takes lavash and a cucumber from her purse to complement her in-flight meal.

I'm not making this up. It was only an hour and 45 minute flight to Yerevan, but the woman in seat 22b had come prepared for any emergency that could be solved by the security of familiar food.

We were flying on Siberia Air. If Armenia still had its own national airlines, I suspect the flight attendants instructions might have been altered to . . .

"In the unlikely event of loss of cabin pressure, lavash will automatically drop from the panel above your seat. If you are traveling with small children, place the lavash to your own mouth first, secure another roll for your child and continue to breathe normally . . ."

A cucumber. I've never seen a person bring a cucumber on board. I wonder what it looked like going through x-ray. Or not.

Others brought the more usual carry-on and check-in items: a (Philips) 19-inch color TV, for example; a box of in-line skates; a (Panasonic) home-entertainment stereo speaker assembly. One man brought a bubble-wrapped automobile windscreen. Another was carrying what appeared to be a dual-exhaust tailpipe. And I swear to you that one passenger had securely wrapped and checked through excess baggage the side-panel door of a small vehicle.

Just another average flight of Armenians flying from . . . Istanbul. To Yerevan.

I don't get it either. Apparently the folks at Zvartnots International Airport in Yerevan and their counterparts at Attaturk IA in Istanbul are a little late catching up on the news that there's a trade embargo between Armenia and Turkey.

In fact, can anybody explain to me how it's possible that countries who are at each other's throats diplomatically, and who hate each other so much they'd rather suffer economic sanction than do business together, can manage two Yerevan-Istanbul/Istanbul-Yerevan flights a week?

Part of it might have to do with the fact that, if the flights the cucumber lady and I took are any indication, most of the spending is taking place in one direction - the other one. In other words, I didn't see many Turks unloading in Yerevan and rushing off to snatch up bargains on home electronics or automotive replacement parts.

To get there from here, Armavia, apparently somehow filling in for Armenian International Airway, which replaced the defunct national carrier, Armenian Airlines (which in fact says its still flying, though that's hard to prove), swings a deal with Siberia Airlines. And before you can say "Genocide? What Genocide?", an airbus full of soon-to-be Turkish Lira-toting Armenians is on the "enemy's" turf saying stuff like "our tomatoes taste better".

I followed the line of in-bounders to the visa counter and as is my custom in countries where English should not be assumed, I watched to figure out the process.

Armenian after Armenian laid down blue passports and $10 bills and walked away legal to enter Turkey. The lone American laid down his blue passport and a $10 bill, and was told to add a zero to the sum. The Armenians get in for $10; the Americans for $100. Maybe the difference is $90 worth of guilt. Maybe its what the Yanks pay for using the Turks' military fly zones. Or maybe they knew I wasn't going to be purchasing a value-added tax replacement door for my Lada.


A weekend of Istanbul behind me, I struck up a conversation with the Turkish woman handling my Siberia Air flight coupon.

"The Armenians are strange, aren't they," she said.

"No stranger than anyone else in my opinion," I replied.

"I don't like their food," she said.

I pointed out to her that on the way to her office, I passed shops selling matnakash, yogurt, lahmajou, pilaf, cucumber and tomato salads, barbecued everything, and enough kebab to lay a bridge of carcinogen from the Blue Mosque to the Holy See. Pretty much the standard Armenian diet, I said.

"Yeah, but theirs smells funny," she said.

I was thinking about that on the flight a few hours later, so I leaned in next to 22b and sniffed her lavash. I'll stipulate that some differences that hamper Armo-Turk relations surely do "smell funny".

Lavash ain't one of them.

According to Agnes
  Click here to enlarge.
Click on the photo above to enlarge.


Karabakh Ceasefire Under Strain: Upsurge in shooting incidents worries negotiators

Full story


Convenience or Conspiracy?: Outlandish claims circulate regarding proposed ID cards

Full story


Identity Crisis: Government alters ID card plan to placate Church

Full story



The Week in seven days


  Photos of the week
  Click here to enlarge.
Click on the photo above to enlarge.
Click here to enlarge.
Click on the photo above to enlarge.

Hey Europe and UK! Stop complaining!

While the UK broke temperature records with 38 C (100.4 F), Summer in the City was a hotter tune in Yerevan. The Opera House thermometer registered as high as 48 (118.4).

On August 10, temperatures in high elevations were said to have reached 55 (131). The Ministry of Healthcare advised residents to eat more fruit and easily digestible foods.

By Friday, things had "cooled down" to 30 (86).



Copyright 2002-2019. All rights reserved.

The contents of this website cannot be copied, either wholly or partially, reproduced, transferred, loaded, published or distributed in any way without the prior written consent of