Getting to know ... Kond

It is astonishing to realize that the current urban fabric of Kond has remained the same for centuries and that the streets had preserved the same layout from the 17th century.

So you're in Kentron, the always busy, dynamic center of Yerevan, and all you have to do is walk up a few stairs or simply cross a narrow alley from the Saryan, Proshyan, Leo or Paronyan Streets and surprise, you will find yourself transported to a completely new dimension! Well even though it totally looks like it, no, you're not suddenly in a Hollywood production, nor you have time travelled... you have simply stepped into Kond, the last remaining quarter of Old Yerevan, the other two being completely vanished.

This place is mysterious, unique and charming...

It is astonishing to realize that the current urban fabric of Kond has remained the same for centuries, and that the streets had preserved the same layout from the 17th century. This leads to some exceptional architectural remains and historical gems that you will find here and there while strolling the narrow streets of the quarter.

A melting pot of ethnicities...

As you discover the inner corners of Kond, you will suddenly come across the only wall that's left from the Persian mosque which is estimated to be built in 1687 and which is considered a historical monument protected by the Armenian State. This mosque was named Tapebashi which is the Muslim equivalent of the Armenian word Kond that means ''long hill'' designating its higher location compared to the neighboring areas.

Here and there you will also see some brick constructions with Islamic architectural elements such as pointed arches mixed with the traditional rounded ones, even though these buildings aren't in their best shape, they are a beautiful attestation of the multiethnic cohabitation in the area and a visual proof of its dense cultural diversity.

As a matter of fact, not very far from this mosque is the Surp Hovhannes Church (Saint John the Baptist Church) which was built in 1710 to replace a medieval church that was completely destroyed during the 1679 destructive earthquake.

A blend of the old, the modern and the artistic...

Although it sounds like a piece of urban fabric frozen in time, we shouldn't forget that Kond has never stopped being inhabited. Between these edifices from the past and in these narrow alleys you will often see little children playing with a ball, or having a running contest. Their laughs and giggles would break the otherwise silent atmosphere that reigns here. The approximately 3000 habitants of Kond live in one or two story modest constructions glued to one another. Watching these homes from the outside is like getting an inside view to the personal taste and individual creativity of these people. Here, any mundane item can serve as a decorative element to the facade or for solidifying purposes.

However, what you will soon notice as you continue your exploration is that Kond is changing, you will get the sense that here and there new constructions are slowly replacing these old homes or blending in with the existing ones ...or should we say standing out...

Well, the diversity, density and richness of Kond doesn't stop here. Not long ago, a project turning the walls of Kond into a canvas for street art and graffiti has been launched. Now the quarter has a vibrant and colorful character that matches no other. As you walk these alleys and pass these houses your eyes will be drawn left and right by conceptual, abstract and expressive art as if the present time wants to also leave its mark to this centuries old area.

Warm hearts and beautiful doors...

What makes Kond alive and beautiful above all is the people that live there. As we were walking by, many were the times where we were stopped by the locals to be offered a cup of tea and some biscuits. It is actually a well known fact that a ''Kondesti'' is particularly hospitable, friendly and welcoming and we got to experience it ourselves. Hearing their stories about day to day life in the neighborhood or listening to ''tatiks'' (grandmas) talking about a sixty year time span spent in Kond is fascinating to say the least.

Afraid to bother but surpassed by curiosity, we knocked on one of the doors to take a look at the famous wall that served as a projecting screen for movies in the 1950's, we were welcomed with a heartwarming smile by the current inhabitants of the house, who not only let us take a look at this wall which is now a part of their courtyard, but also insisted on inviting us to their house and giving us their insider’s view on Kond. But as I mentioned, we were too reluctant to bother, and have respectfully declined the offer knowing that our visit was unannounced. Next time, fingers crossed!

It's not only the people behind these doors that are beautiful but also the doors themselves are fascinating to look at, anything from ancient wooden doors dating back to the 19th century and intricately carved and decorated with various motifs of iron structures to the most humble house doors colored in the most eye catching ways... All is beautiful.

Unfortunately, Kond remains unknown by so many visitors and even locals. When they are spending their time in the trendiest spots of the city, little they know that there is a whole other world just minutes away waiting to be discovered! Kond is so many things, often contradictory, what is for sure though is that Kond has its own character and it is a strong one. One that would definitely not leave you indifferent!

--- by Grace Jerejian