The official name of Armenia is Hayastan (country of Hay). It has a surface area of 29,800 km², which is about the size of Belgium. Armenia is partly ringed by Mount Ararat and the Caucasus Mountains, and borders on Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran.
It is dominated by mountains, the highest peak rising almost 5000 metres. The capital, Yerevan, has over one million inhabitants and is located in the valley of Mount Ararat (in Turkey) at an altitude of 700 to 1100 metres.
This valley is the most important agricultural region of Armenia, where grapes, vegetables and fruits are grown.
Armenian is an Indo-European language with its own alphabet of 39 letters. It was developed from Aramaic and Greek by the monk Meshrob Mashtots.
The first Christian nation in the world, Armenia has always been an unusual place in a region of many Islamic states. Through the centuries it was, in turn, an independent empire, part of the Ottoman Empire, part of the Soviet Union, and since 1992 it has been an independent republic.
Since independence the country has gone through hard times. The 1992-1995 war with Azerbaijan caused a tremendous shortage of energy and food supplies, and travelling in this period was difficult.
Since then a great deal has changed in Armenia, and changes continue at a rapid pace. A lot of construction and restoration is going on, and closer attention is being paid to improving infrastructure. In the busy metropolis of Yerevan, many well-maintained parks and a ‘green belt’ offer quiet places to rest and relax. Every six months new restaurants and terraces appear and newly-opened shops offer everything imaginable.
In short, Armenia is in full swing.
In the countryside progress is less visible. Apart from Yerevan, some smaller cities and many villages are scattered throughout Armenia’s ten regions. Villages do have electricity, but in many cases houses don’t have running water. Small roads can be in very bad condition, although little by little we are seeing some improvement. Main roads, most of them two-lane, are in good condition and a few highways exist. There is not much traffic outside Yerevan, which is in sharp contrast with the frantic onslaught of all manner of vehicles in the capital.