My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Pilgrimage to Eastern Turkey - Mount Ararat, Noah's Ark and Lake Van

Mount Ararat
To wake up the next morning at dawn to watch the rising sun glowing onto the snow on Mount Ararat right in front of the hotel was a very spiritual moment for me.
This trip was beginning to get under my skin in a way I had not anticipated. 
As I sat outside on the hotel balcony, wrapped up warm clutching a cup of hot cay, and watched the colors and hues changing with every moment, it was awesome to reflect that this is the place given in the Holy Bible for where Noah landed with his ark those millennia ago, and sent out his dove to find dry land.

But there is much controversy over the actual mountain where the Ark landed. Some cite Ararat as being unlikely given its geology and geography, including the fact that it is covered in snow throughout the year. There is apparently some archaeological evidence for the flood and the actual landing place being on Mt Judi, in the same mountain range as Ararat but some 200 miles further south. This location would also have offered a more hospitable landing place for the animals. This accords with the Peshitta, the oldest Syriac Aramaic version of the bible, which says that the ark rested down not on Ararat but on Mt. Qardu, otherwise known as Mt Judi which is named in the Koran version of the flood.
Of course there is plenty of discussion and debate around this on the web, to be found with no trouble through a search. Try  and to begin with. One member of our group mentioned the work of David Rohl on this debate for which see

Whatever the truth may be about the landing place of the ark, which we will probably never know for sure, by seven o'clock the spiritual moment had past. The whole mountain became covered in heavy grey cloud, rolling downwards towards the lower snow free slopes, and I went back indoors for breakfast. 

In any event we were reminded that we would do well to reflect rather on the mystery and meanings of the story and the lessons to be learnt, rather than allowing ourselves to become bogged down in the calls for scientific proof all the time. 

On this leg of our journey towards Dogubeyazit the previous afternoon there were signs of greater wealth, or rather, perhaps, less poverty, in the villages we passed. It is after all relative. There were “fields” enclosed by walls of stone or cement blocks, often neatly topped with slabs of similar material. The farm yards looked neater, tidier, cleaner. Although there was still lots of litter this was mostly beyond the boundaries of these still simple homesteads. Arriving at our hotel in cold and torrential rain after a bleak drive through the clouds on this leg of the journey, the hotel did not look promising. First there was a muddle over rooms. Then the wet and cold walk through the grounds to the restaurant did little to lighten or warm our damp and cold spirits. But the most charming hotel owner was congeniality itself. He did everything he could to make our stay comfortable, in the true tradition of Turkish hospitality, including lighting the log fire in the lounge bar for us, having it refuelled and stoked regularly to give warmth and cheer to an otherwise gloomy and cold evening.

That evening Abba Seraphim talked to us about the history of the Armenian church and specifically the church we were to visit the next day - on the Island of Aghtamar in Lake Van, described on our itinerary as the beautiful location of one of the finest Armenian Churches in the tomorrow I will delve into the history of Armenian Christianity - stick with me because an understanding of that is essential for truly appreciating the pilgrimage - before I move on to the beautiful Lake Van and its wonderful Island of Aghtamar... 

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