The sun is hammering the colour out of the sky, parching the dirt which rises into the sky, further bleaching the landscape. The earth itself looks like the sun has beaten it into submission, so dry and compacted that even the shreds of dead grass pushing up through it seem remarkably improbable. The heat is not unfamiliar to Australians, but the ramshackle houses don’t fit the climate. The hard Soviet concrete and stone stand like the exposed cliffs of a desert mountain, but inbetween the stone blocks stand wooden houses that look like they belong to the tropics of South-East Asia, where poverty and climate combine to rot away the timbers, before being baked to preservation under the harsh Caucasian sun.
In the hard light of summer, Yerevan struck me as being the twin of developing cities across North Africa and the Middle East. In winter, when the biting cold grips the country, I’m sure the contrast could not be greater, but today Armenia could have passed for Morocco, Egypt or Jordan. The contrast within the position of the people must be even greater, between those baking in the heat of run-down hovels and those wearing designer clothes and ordering frosted fruit juices in the shaded cafes that seem to line every street. Fortunately, while the country is hard, Armenians have been soft and generous to us.