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Discover the Treasures of UNESCO Intangible Heritage in Armenia - part 1

Armenia is a land of natural and manmade wonders where you can explore snowcapped mountains and blossoming valleys, marvel at the sight of ancient churches and castles and indulge yourself in culinary exploration of the delicious local cuisine. And above all, you can learn about Armenia’s millennia-old traditions that present such a great value for the global cultural heritage that some of them were included into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Sounds exciting, isn’t it? So, let’s discover them one by one.

1. Kochari, the Dance of the Invincible

Kochari is an Armenian ritual dance that originated in pagan times more than 2 thousand years ago. It began as a ritual dance for the ram, a totem animal that was worshipped as a symbol of strength, fight and victory. Dancers form an impenetrable wall with their bodies rhythmically moving in the shoulder-to-shoulder dance to a tune that’s so charged it’s guaranteed to raise your spirit and make you want to join the dance. Kochari has also been used as a military ritual dance that serves to unify the dancers, raise the morale and intimidate the enemy. There are many varieties of Kochari dance practiced in different parts of the country. Nowadays, Kochari is an indispensable part of any wedding, celebration or festival with men and women of all ages joining hands and shoulders to dance to the music of their ancestors. When you are in Armenia, don’t miss an opportunity to observe this powerful dance, and take away some awesome dance moves with you together with your travel memories!



2. Lavash, the Taste of Armenia’s Hospitality

Lavash is the traditional bread widely used in Armenia. As simple as its recipe is (the dough is comprised of only water, flour and salt), the baking process itself is a very interesting ritual involving a great amount of hard work and team spirit. Traditionally, lavash is baked by a group of 3-4 women each having a distinct role in the process – making the dough, flattening it into thin layers, sticking it into the traditional clay oven called tonir (a large cylinder-shaped hole dug in the ground and plastered with clay or bricks), and stacking the baked breads for further storage. What makes lavash very special is that it is normally baked in large quantities and can be stored for a very long period of time without losing its freshness and unique taste. Lavash is one of the symbols of prosperity in the Armenian culture: on any occasion – be it a family dinner, official reception or a wedding party – you can see the delicious Armenian flatbread served on the table. Want to plunge into an authentic Armenian ritual? Then try your hand at lavash baking: nothing compares to the heavenly taste of the freshly-baked bread savored with fresh village cheese and local herbs (so, now you have a brdoutch – a sandwich in an Armenian way)! 



3. Sasna Tsrer, the Epic of Armenia’s Spirit

Sasna Tsrer, translated as the Daredevils of Sassoun, is the Armenian national epic told in the best traditions of heroic folktales. In a lively and engaging style, the epic tells the glorious story of the Armenian nation and its fight against external enemies. The epic is also a precious collection of Armenian folk traditions, descriptions of social life and roles, dialects and regional peculiarities. Traditionally, the contents of the epic were passed from generation to generation through verbal recitation. It was first captured in writing in the XIX century. The epic has inspired many works of art by Armenian artists and sculptors and serves as the plot for performances and theater plays. 


4. Khachkars, the Symbol of Armenia’s Faith

Khachkar, translated as “cross stone”, is a unique artifact of the Armenian culture. Large vertical slabs of rock carved with intricate designs of crosses, traditional symbols and inscriptions, khachkars have served as objects of religious worship and rituals, items of architectural design as well as tombstones. Khachkar carving traditions go back to as early as the IV century when Christianity was adopted in Armenia as the official religion. With centuries, the finesse of khachkar masters evolved into a unique style of blending religious and ethnic symbolism into true works of art. The tradition holds that a real khachkar sculptor can never repeat a design he has used for a khachkar, which has resulted in a mind-blowing variety of khachkars scattered all over Armenia. When traveling in the country, you cannot miss the beautiful khachkars carrying Armenia’s spiritual symbols through the centuries.


5. Duduk, the Music of Armenia’s Soul

Armenians often say duduk music is what the Armenian soul sounds like. That’s probably why it’s hard to find an Armenian person who would not get emotional when hearing a tune played on duduk. Duduk is a wind instrument normally made of apricot wood. It produces a soft and melodic sound and is normally used in lyrical, sorrowful or dramatic compositions as well as folk dances and songs. Despite the seeming simplicity of the instrument, it can play a wide range of tunes conveying the history of the Armenian folk music. In recent years, duduk music was widely popularized not only in Armenia but in other countries as well with some duduk melodies being included into the soundtracks of famous Hollywood blockbusters (for instance, the Oscar-winning “Gladiator”). Pamper your aural sensations with some authentic duduk tunes when you are in Armenia or maybe even learn to play this simple but soulful instrument. 


Armenia is indeed full of historical and cultural treasures, fascinating traditions and rituals that are yet to be discovered! Don’t wait for too long before planning your trip to this wonderful country, it’s guaranteed to leave you with overwhelming impressions and lifetime memories!


Text by AmatunyCopywriting

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