Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Little Armenia

Tucked among the green mountain peaks straddling the Syrian-Turkish border are 13 villages settled 900 years ago by Armenians who ventured south from their homeland. The majority of their descendents have since emigrated to the United States, mostly in the 20th century, when Armenians faced genocide, expulsion and, later, rising Islamism.

Those who remain retain their peculiar dialect called Kasabli, named after the largest of the villages, Kasab, which is located in Syria. The language is not mutually intelligible with modern Armenian, having evolved in isolation over the centuries.

Today, Kasab is one of Syria's premier summer vacation spots, and manufacturer of famed laurel soap. It also boasts dramatic coastline -- mountains plunging into the sea, hiding beaches amid their folds. Last weekend I hiked with friends to one such beach, photographed above.