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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-01-26

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Ararat, 'Ark' beckon tourists

  • [01] Ararat, 'Ark' beckon tourists

    <!--ď۲Řý˛˝ŮŘý˛Whereas Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' milestone visit to Turkey late this week may have dominated much of the "weightier" news coming out of the closely watched EU candidate country, a distinctly overlooked press conference -- replete with Biblical connotations -- took place last week in a remote and snow-covered far-east corner of Turkey that nevertheless offered glimpses of modern Turkey's unrelenting desire for development and international recognition.Located on a dry, elevated plain towered over by imposing Mt. Ararat and Lesser Ararat, the dusty border town of Do─beyazit played host to the off-beat press conference, where a disparate panel of Hong Kong media executives-cum-Christian evangelists, a handful of Turkish academics and scientists along with officials of the host province (A─i) enthusiastically unveiled "material evidence" of the existence of the Biblical Noah's Ark. The "evidence", resembling a small bolder of a greyish colour, was reportedly tested by a Hong Kong lab and deemed to be petrified wood, according to the two men behind Hong Kong-based Noah Ark Ministries International, Media Evangelism Ltd. founder Andrew Yuen and HK documentary maker Yeung Wing-Cheung.Both men, who joined local mountain guides for a gruelling expedition atop Mt. Ararat last February, said the object was taken from an 11.5-metre-long chunk of the same material -- called a "large wooden structure" in press releases -- which was found in a cave located at roughly 4,000 metres atop Mt. Ararat. The fabled mountain dominates the landscape in the rugged triangle where the modern states of Turkey, Iran and Armenia converge -- geographically, but certainly not politically. A military presence is easily discernable in the area, as the town hosts a well-equipped army garrison and there are gendarmerie checkpoints on all roads in the province, although locals appear more-or-less unfazed by the activity.Promises to give samples of the "object" to researchers and labs around the world for independent testing, ahead of another "Noah's Ark" summit in Do─beyazit in August, and access to the cave on the northwest side of the mount were uttered and repeated, as Yuen casually informed reporters that at least one piece of the material found in the cave will be returned to Hong Kong for display in a future "Noah's Ark theme park". He quickly clarified that "theme park" means a cultural and "inspirational" centre on a Hong Kong waterfront, with construction to come via local government funding and support by a major land developer in the former British colony.Asked to calculate the costs for his organisation's quest to find and prove that a wooden structure was still somewhere atop Turkey's highest peak, Yuen said "several hundreds of thousands of dollars" since 2004.For local residents, predominately ethnic Kurds, and central government-appointed officials, Ararat's potential as a draw for "Indiana Jones"-like pilgrims and adventurous tourists wishing to step-off the "beaten path" appeared incalculable. One of the leitmotifs stressed by the local and Hong Kong organisers of the conference was that all three major monotheistic faiths cite the story of Noah, the Flood and the Ark. The last time the area attracted international attention it was of a decidedly negative light, namely, a series of deaths in January 2006 attributed to the H5N1 virus during the height of the "Bird Flu" scare around the world. The Agri area also witnessed a major Turkish military operation in late 1994 against Kurdish insurgents, whereas the mountain and the surrounding lands at one time formed the medieval "Armenian heartland". A new three-star hotel in Do─beyazit is testament to local hopes that venerated Ararat will again lure travellers to the remote A─i and I─ir provinces by the thousands. The deep-pocketed Hong Kong Chinese executives also promised to build a museum in Do─beyazit, a pronouncement that was met with applause in the cold auditorium where the presentation was held."(The discovery) supports the thesis of the Ark resting on Ararat," was the way the city's governor, Cemalettin Demircio─u, diplomatically opened the press conference, with a trio of out-of-town Turkish professors merely adding their belief that the Ark rests on Mt. Ararat, "but that more substantiated evidence (of its existence) is necessary". Indicative of the type of visitor local officials hope will help end the isolation of this under-developed and often turbulent part of the Near East, self-described "Ark researcher" Gerrit Aalten recounts several stories related to his repeated visits to the area and friendship with local people.Asked if he believes there are remains of a wooden ark atop Ararat, the Dutchman responds, "yes, definitely."- H. TzanisCaption: A view of Ararat Mountain in the background, as pictured on Tuesday, 18 February 2003 from the Armenian side of the border with Turkey. ANA-MPA/EPA /ANATOLY MALTSEV


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