location was not chosen randomly for cultivation
Safaryan says. .
A garden regarded as a historic cultural
monument is in danger of being destroyed by urban expansion in Yerevan.
3,000 years, Dalma gardens, near the Genocide Memorial, have been cultivated for
wine-making and other grape products.
If the Yerevan Municipality's urban
development program is realized, the historic landscape will yield a street and
a highway and businesses. Some sources familiar with the situation say the Franc
Mueller company wants to build a watch factory in the area.
activists, including the Union of Greens oppose the destruction of the gardens,
but are not hopeful of stopping the development.
Dalma gardens covers 530
hectares and are believed to have been planted in the beginning of the 7th century
BC in the neighborhood of a town then called Teishebaini in the Araratian Kingdom
In the 1950s an excavation of the Karmir Blur ("Red Hill")
monument beside the gardens found seven vaults with 420 wine jars with 800-1200
liters capacity each, testifying to the antiquity of the vineyard. Research performed
on grape seeds found in the jars revealed that they belong to the sorts of vine
such as Yezandari, Kharji, Askiari and Mskhali growing in Dalma these days.
vine-shoots have been found as well. Under the order of academician B. Piotrovski
those shoots were researched in 1962 by winemaker and winegrower Derenik Safaryan.
"Grapes are divided into three groups," he says. "The first
two groups are roundish and oval containing no seeds. They are Nazeli and Sultana
sorts and they have been growing in Dalma up to now. From grapes they were making
raisins which have carbonized. Three thousand years ago people knew that raisins
must be made from unseeded grapes. I found seeds in the third group of grapes.
It was Askiari sort, which is growing in Dalma as well."
are irrigated by the 2,800-year old Dalma aqueduct, originating near the Davitashen
bridge. Flowing through an underground construction it covers approximately five
kilometers and flows out of the ground near Tsitsernakaberd (the Genocide Memorial),
on the edge of Dalma gardens.
"Before excavations people didn't know
where the water comes from. It was a mystery for them," remembers Safaryan.
that have produced grapes since the B.C. years might become the site of a watch
There was information about two underground
channels in the records found during excavations carried out in the 1950s. One
of those channels was Dalma aqueduct dug through basalt layers.
to tradition, in the beginning of the 19th century, when the aqueduct's passage
was blocked because of landslides, Persian Khan Hussein Ghuli ordered to open
it. The word the Khan used sounded like "dalma", giving the gardens
their current name.
Safaryan says the location for the gardens was not chosen
randomly. It has a south-western angularity and in such a geographic position
lighting as well as thermal conditions are more productive for gardening.
80 grape sorts and dozens of mulberry, apricot and apple varieties have been cultivated
in Dalma gardens until recently.
Safaryan's father was one of Dalma gardeners.
In 1919 at the times of the first Republic of Armenia he purchased an area of
"We had 15 sorts of apricot and different sorts of grapes.
The whole family was working in the garden. It was our only source of income."
In 1938 Soviet authorities confiscated Dalma gardens from Safaryan's family
and other gardeners and handed it over to collective farms.
authorities were widening Yerevan towards the south-west they passed over Dalma
gardens and didn't build them up leaving them as a historic-cultural heritage
and oasis of fruit gardens.
Since the 1990s local authorities have leased
out Dalma gardens for private cultivation. The leasing contracts extend until
In 2000, the City of Yerevan proposed a program of developing
Dalma gardens and presented that program to the Government. It was planned to
build roads and highways through Dalma and divide the rest of the territory. Part
of the territory would have gone to the Yerevan Beer Factory, and the Hovnanian
Ltd. company had intended to build a golf driving range.
It appeared the
plan had been scrapped, following protest meetings held by the Union of Writers.
(Since 1987, when an environmental movement started in Armenia, the Union has
been the focal point of meetings and a source of disseminating information about
"Chief architect of the city Narek Sargsyan told
me that the meeting had been important and the gardens carried value," says
head of the Union of Greens of Armenia Hakob Sanasaryan. "However, in reality,
authorities had just put the program on hold."
Last year, the Yerevan
Municipality again proposed the project. It is now pending approval of the Government
"There is a draft project for constructing the road but
as of yet there are no investments. A decision hasn't been made. There are still
other roads to be constructed before beginning on Dalma. It must be done step
by step," says architect of Yerevan municipality Hrachia Vardanyan.
simple survey of the area, however, shows that development is rapidly encroaching
the area of the gardens.
ancient aqueduct provides irrigation for the gardens.|
According to municipal records, some 100 hectares
boarding the gardens have been sold by the municipality,
and in the past three years have been developed
into restaurants, hotels and saunas.
Adjoining Dalma and considered a part of it, is another
gardens, Sardar. The Sardar gardens is on the list of Monuments of Armenia, a
classification that should protect certain properties from development. Still,
the gardens have been developed on all sides and only a fraction of the gardens
In 1996 the rest of the garden was given to the
Republic of Iran for building an embassy a mosque
and a hotel. However, thanks to the efforts of
the Union of Greens that program has not been
"Those days our meeting
with the ambassador of Iran was of great importance," says Sanasaryan. "We
informed (the Iranians) about the significance of Sardar garden and after that
construction works had been stopped there."
Since 1927 Sardar garden
had been property of the Institute of Winemaking, Vine-Growing and Fruit-Growing
as a scientific and research territory. Eighty varieties of grapes were tested
there. A building constructed in 1895, with its wine vault and collection of wine
samples is the only thing left of the Institute.
"Nothing is left
of the collection garden," says Derenik Safaryan. "They will penetrate
that center too and they will build houses there and the whole history of vine-growing
will be destroyed."
The Greens are concerned that Sardar and Dalma
gardens will be destroyed by officials who see real estate value more clearly
than historical value. The Greens say that Dalma's status as a historic-cultural
monument will only increase its "shadow" sale price.
a few years Dalma will turn into a memory," says Sanasaryan. "Every
official wants to see trade of territories during his time in power. Dalma is
a territory for getting big bribes."