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Pulsating Armenia at crossroads of modern silk route



Record: between 2010 to 2020, Armenia’s annual tourism grew nearly 15 percent

Armenia’s Christmas lighting extravaganza started early this year since the capital city, Yerevan, hosted the 20th annual Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Armenia was designated host following the 2021 first place win by the  Armenian contestant, Maléna.

Under the magnificent light shows and towering Christmas tree centering Yerevan’s Republic Square that brought thousands of holiday revelers, Armenia remains wounded under the aggression cloud from its two neighboring countries: NATO-member Turkey, and Azerbaijan in 2020 unleashed a full-scale war over the disputed, Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), or Artsakh as it’s known to the Armenians.

Remanence of the war against the 300,000 NK inhabitants in 2020, and over 5,000 Armenian casualties, reflects on the veterans undergoing rehab at Yerevan’s Zinvori Tun (Soldier’s Home)–scared by disabilities, PTSD, and a wide range of other psychosocial problems. There are some 100,000 displaced NK Armenian residents. Those housed in make-shift homes across bordering communities in Armenia are once again traumatized by the September Azerbaijani invasion of 10 kilometers into the Republic of Armenia’s territory. With 100 civilians killed and civilian infrastructure destroyed, there are still no sanctions on Azerbaijan for its well-documented 2020 war crimes.

Armenia’s Winter of Discontent

Armenia’s winter of discontent started with warmer weather. With the enemy only miles away, there are daily casualties of Armenian civilians in both the NK region and in Armenia’s border communities. Azerbaijani civilians, and “environmentalists” continue to disrupt passage through the only humanitarian corridor between the two countries.

But all this doesn’t seem to deter the buoyant, fun-loving Armenian populace from celebrating life.

Complaints of high price tags on everything don’t seem to deter Armenians–and the over 30,000 Russian and Ukrainian emigres from spending at local retail shops, restaurants, beauty salons, cafes and bars. The number of cars on Yerevan’s streets has multiplied–causing continued traffic and high pollution levels. 

The newcomers, mostly financially secure IT professionals, spiked rental fees, pushing Yerevan’s apartment rental prices to 109,000 drams (about 273 Euros) per square meter. The high rents have leveled up after greedy landlords pushed out their lower-paying tenants to accommodate the newcomers. Prices in Armenia are nowhere as high as in Moscow or Kyiv.  Some newcomers, employed at Yerevan’s countless eateries and retail shops, use their Russian and English language capabilities with expats and tourists–as they slowly pick up the Armenian language. Armenians remain, for the most part, gracious hosts allowing Russians in without visa requirements. Mostly, the Russian newcomers keep to themselves; work on their laptops, frequent retail shops and restaurants, and Russian schools and churches.  

The underlying resentment among some Armenians stems from an innate distrust of their previous landlords (the Soviet Union ruled Armenia for 70 years). Moscow’s failure to stop Azerbaijan’s attacks in 2020 is a fresh wound. One taxi driver says the Russians lack loyalty to those who extend a helping hand–having lived with the Russians for years. 

In late November, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization declaration as a protest against the members failing to take a stand against Azerbaijani aggression. Some Armenians cheered the action, others wonder if this leaves Armenia even more vulnerable to attacks by Azerbaijan, backed by NATO-member Turkey and with Israeli weapons.

Minorities and New Comers Are Well Integrated

At Yerevan’s Paplovok Park a monument with inscriptions “To Live and Never Forget” honors the Genocide and Holocaust victims.

Interestingly, while Turkey, Azerbaijan and Israel do not recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1915 perpetrated by Ottoman Turks, in Yerevan’s Paplovok Park a holocaust monument with inscriptions “To Live and Never Forget” honors the Genocide and Holocaust victims. There are other memorials, including one honoring the martyrs of the Assyrian genocide of 1915.

Armenia’s Russian, Jewish, Bahai’, Yazidi and Assyrian communities freely practice their religion and language. With 35,000+ Yazidis in Armenia, the country is now home to the world’s largest Yazidi temple–Quba Mêrê Dîwanê.

Some 10 years ago, the newcomers were the Syrian and Lebanese refugees of Armenian descent, fleeing wars and resettling in Armenia. These Western Armenian dialect speakers are still getting used to Armenia’s Eastern dialect which is primarily spoken in Armenia and Iran. But now, fully integrated into the local fabric, even Western Armenian dishes such as hummus, muhammara, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh and others are part of the local cuisine. 

Sherep restaurant - Yerevan, Armenia
Sherep Restaurant decks up its ladle wreath decorations.

Armenia’s Culinary Delights

The expats, tourists, the nouveau riche, and the IT sector workforce are the frequent diners at Yerevan’s posh restaurants. Among countless eateries are the Collective, Mayrig (mother), Tavern Yerevan, Sherep (ladle), Lavash (leavened bread)– the last three are among the Yeremyan Projects empire founded by restaurateur David Yeremyan. His culinary empire includes over 10 restaurants, cooking shows, a culinary academy, gastro tours, social impact projects like food for the military, and Yerevan’s Christmas market, among others. The local eateries also serve a wide selection of seafood choices, delectably prepared and devoured within this land-locked country. A variety of seafood is cultivated, or naturally available in Armenia’s majestic Lake Sevan–the largest freshwater, high-altitude lake in Eurasia. 

With over 100 wineries in Armenia and Artsakh, Armenia’s thriving, reinvigorated cradle of wine industry reflects on most restaurant’s wine lists offering a rich collection of domestic wines, harvested and produced in Armenia’s wine country. One of the local favorites is Qirs–made and manufactured in Artsakh. The bottle label design of the 2,724.6 meter-high Mets Kirs mountain–one of the highest peaks of the southern branch of the mountain range– is known to the locals as the Artsakh fist.  

Paying high prices, the clientele at high-pulse quaintly decorated café’s and charmingly designed restaurants and eateries expect only the best service and food quality–and fully trained culinary artists serving their meals. Last minute dinner and lunch reservations are hard to secure–regardless of the day of the week. For now, the exiled, and the locals, are living it up, untainted, it seems, by their countries’ volatile state.

Complaints of Unemployment Don’t Reflect in Shoppers

Oddly, the tropical kiwi fruit is a constant in the fully stocked shelves of countless supermarkets around Yerevan. Some of the mom-and-pop produce shops in hayats (Persian word for yard) still accommodate old timers in Soviet-era apartment complexes that circle backyards that provide residential parking space and dilapidated metal playgrounds for the young who haven’t yet discovered screens. 

Most folks in Armenia complain of the unemployment rate, which since 1998 has averaged around 12 percent but reached over 21 percent in 2019. Employers are searching for good workers–but as one retired businessman turned taxi driver who doesn’t believe there’s much of an unemployment problem in Armenia, says “there’s always work for those who want to work.” An engineering supervisor can’t find new hires since the young, recent graduates she interviews demand monthly salaries as high as hers. “I have 30 years’ experience, they’re new graduates with zero work experience and very high expectations.”

The hospitality industry is one of the high employment sectors. Between 2010 to 2020, Armenia’s annual tourism growth rate of nearly 15 percent set it as one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations. In 2019, there were nearly 1.9 million tourists who contributed some three percent to Armenia’s GDP, pumping over $300 million into the country’s economy. Another top employment sector is the IT industry. With over 65 technology companies calling Armenia home, the country is the main Caucasian hub for software development, industrial computing, and electronics.

Yerevan’s famed Vernissage open market’s unique handmade souvenirs by local artisans are replaced with mainly mass-produced items. There are handmade, locally sourced items available, beyond the tourist trap chachkies, but mostly not at the Vernissage. Armenian women designers, artists and agronomists lead the way, masterfully incorporating modern techniques with ancient Armenian practices and motifs as Piafchik Handmade’s brass, needle painted, one-of-a-kind jewelry, or Ornamen’t paintings turned into silk scarves–and organic, locally farmed and raised products by Green Lane which empower rural women agronomists.

Walking away from Yerevan’s mesmerizing winter wonderland and Christmas market’s holiday spirits, the thousands of mesmerized revelers gathered at the Republic Square fail to notice their tightly guarded Prime Minister, Pashinyan, taking an incognito walk down Abovyan Street around the square’s festival of lights.

The glittering Yerevan is a stark contrast to the Armenia that went dark in 1992 as the Turkish blockade cut off electricity, power, and petrol to the three million populace. But today, as in 1992 at the crossroads of the modern silk route, Armenia perseveres, pulsating with a feverish zest for life, once again putting a stake on the ground of its existence. 

Jackie Abramian is committed to amplifying the work of women peace-builders, change makers and social entrepreneurs. She is a social enterprise advisor and the founder of Global Cadence consultancy.


New iPhone photography exhibition opens in Paris



A shot of some of the work being displayed at the iPhone 15 photo exhibition in Paris
The two-day event held at the Salon Corderie features work from five photographers, all shot on iPhone

“I Remember You,” a two-day photography exhibition, has opened today in Paris highlighting original work shot on iPhone 15 Pro Max.

The collective work of photographers Malin Fezehai, Karl Hab, Vivien Liu, Mika Ninagawa, and Stefan Ruiz incorporates people, places, and things that move them, exploring memories and the power of photography to preserve them.

“‘I Remember You’ brings together five photographers who share their deeply personal conceptions of memory, connection, and nostalgia,” explains Isolde Brielmaier, Ph.D., the exhibition’s curatorial advisor. “It is a moving glimpse of life, preserved in time.”

In celebration of the opening, each artist spoke about how iPhone has contributed to their creative process and what they hope people will remember from their featured work.

Malin Fezehai is an Eritrean/Swedish photographer, filmmaker, and visual reporter currently living in New York. She has worked in over 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and America. Fezehai is a National Geographic explorer, and in 2023, she became a Climate Pledge grantee. She is working on a project about adaptation to living on water. Her career started in her native Sweden, where she studied photography before attending the International Center of Photography in New York. Her work focuses on communities of displacement and dislocation around the world. She was commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme to photograph survivors of violent extremism across sub-Saharan Africa and published a book titled Survivors. She has received a 2015 World Press Photo Award and the Wallis Annenberg Prize, and was named one of the “30 Emerging Photographers to Watch” in 2015 by Photo District News. Her image depicting a wedding of Eritrean refugees in Israel was the first iPhone photo ever to receive a World Press Photo Award.

“The integration of the iPhone into my photography workflow marked a significant shift in how I perceive and capture the world around me — feeling more inclined to capture life as it happens — the fleeting, candid moments that often define the human experience,” Fezehai says. “Its ease of use and ability to capture high-quality images effortlessly enables me to explore and document the ordinary in extraordinary ways. That sentiment is embodied in the work I created for the show.”

“I Remember You” will be on display at the Salon Corderie in Le Marais in Paris on Friday, November 10, and Saturday, November 11, from 11 am to 7 pm.

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9 Christmas Markets to visit in the UK in 2023



A Christmas market in Bath, UK
UK Christmas market are also an opportunity to discover new destinations this winter.

It is Christmas market season in the UK.

From late November through December, towns and cities across the UK are coming alive with festivities and a variety of local markets offering handcrafted gifts from local artisans showcasing their talents to international vendors offering goods from around the world.

Beyond the shopping experience in the market stalls, twinkling lights, live entertainment, and mulled wine, UK Christmas market are also an opportunity to discover new destinations this winter.

Euronewsweek has selected nine of the country’s best Christmas markets, ideal for a family day trip or a romantic night out.

Here are our Christmas Markets to visit in the UK in 2023.

Birmingham Christmas Market 2023

A firm favourite on the city’s Yuletide calendar, Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market  is the largest German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. Expect a fine range of traditional gifts and products on its 180 stalls and get into the  festive spirit while indulging in schnitzels, bratwursts, crepes, glühwein and weissbeer. Another huge draw is its bandstand location in Victoria Square and the programme of live music and carol singers that bring party vibes to your festive shopping. 

When? 3 November to 23 December 2023 

While you’re here
Check out outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham, the Big Wheel Experience, or head to Wightwick in Wolverhampton to experience a traditional Victorian Christmas. 

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2023

Hyde Park, London

Transforming London’s most famous park, Winter Wonderland is the biggest Christmas attraction in the capital. Home to the world’s tallest transportable Ferris wheel and the UK’s largest open air ice rink, thrilling fairground rides and numerous bars and food stalls, you’ll need at least a day to enjoy all the attractions here. Don’t miss jaw-dropping circus acts at Cirque Berserk and creative ice sculpting workshops, and browse over 100 wooden chalets for unique gifts, festive decorations and culinary delights.

When? November 2023 to January 2024

While you’re here
Wander further afield and take photos of the festive window displays at Hamleys, Selfridge’s and Harrods, and the capital’s festive lights along Regent Street and Oxford Street.

Southbank Winter Festival 2023

Southbank Centre, London

The popular Winter Festival returns to London’s Southbank Centre this autumn, a festive favourite that sits alongside an eclectic programme of festive shows and events along the banks of the River Thames. All along the South Bank you’ll find twinkling wooden cabins selling Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional. Make sure you get a selfie by the towering Christmas tree before you leave.

When? 28 October 2023 to 7 January 2024

While you’re here
Enjoy a live classical music concert Christmas in Tinseltown, featuring tunes from your favourite Christmas films played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and presented by film reviewer Mark Kermode on 14 December.  

Winchester Christmas Market 2023

Winchester Cathedral

With its unique location on the grounds of a celebrated English icon, Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best. More than 100 chalets are home to hand-picked exhibitors offering exclusive gifts that visitors won’t find on the high street – from hand-crafted decorations and festive treats to craft beer and mulled wine.

When? 17 November to – 21 December 2023

While you’re here
Head inside the 1.000 year-old Cathedral to hear a range of seasonal services taking place, from Advent evensongs to carol services, featuring the acclaimed choir. 

York Christmas Market 2023

Parliament Street, York

Soak up medieval charm at York’s award-winning Christmas fair. Alpine-style chalets take pride of place on Parliament Street, offering an array of festive decorations, foodie treats and traditional Christmas gifts. For local Yorkshire produce, head for the Make in Yorkshire Yuletide Village, and for all the fun of the fair, slide down the Victorian-style helter-skelter at Kings Square. After all that excitement, you’ll need a tipple or two, so stop by the rustic barn in St Sampson’s Square for a glass of mulled wine and a cup of hot roasted chestnuts.

When? 18 November to 23 December 2023

While you’re here

Lace up your walking boots for a 90-minute daily Festive Guided Walking Tour, which explores the history, tales and traditions of 2,000 years of festive tradition including Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Yule and of course, our modern idea of Christmas.

Rochester Christmas Market 2023

Rochester, Kent

This Medway market attracts more than 130,000 visitors a year. Found in Rochester’s Castle Gardens, browse a range of chalet-style stalls selling everything from Fairtrade clothing to dog toys and homemade jams. Head over to the Bavarian food village for a bratwurst before letting loose on some good old-fashioned fairground rides. The market also coincides with the Dickensian Christmas Festival (2 to 3 December 2023), where you can immerse yourself in Victoriana, meet costumed characters and listen to open-air carolling.

When? 25 November to 10 December 2023

While you’re here
Grab your 19th-century ball gown and attend the Mistletoe Ball, part of the Dickensian Christmas Festival. 

Bath Christmas Market 2023

Bath Christmas Market sees more than 160 pop-up chalets set up on pretty Georgian streets and around its prized Abbey. Browse stalls selling food, decorations, homeware, jewellery and everything in between from local artisans and craftsmen in the South West and further afield. With new stalls to explore alongside the perennial favourites, you can indulge in a cup of mulled wine and a warm festive snack to keep those winter chills at bay.

When? 23 November to 10 December 2023

While you’re here
Check out Bath on Ice, which along with its ice rink, is home to Glow Golf, a mini golf course decked out with fairy lights. Glow-in-the-dark golf balls will also help you get a hole-in-one after dark.

Norwich Christmas Markets 2023

Norwich doesn’t have just one Christmas market; it has several! With festive events taking place from November, there are plenty of reasons to visit up until the big day itself. The largest, Festive Fair at The Forum, spills onto the pedestrianised amphitheatre opposite Norwich’s biggest medieval church. Browse stalls selling handmade East Anglian crafts, art, food and drink to the soundtrack of live Christmas music, and don’t miss the delicious street food.

When? 23 to 26 November 2023

While you’re here
Stop for a cup of warming Gluhwein at Sir Toby’s Beers on Norwich Market (Norwich’s smallest bar), The Nutcracker-themed afternoon tea at The Assembly House and the magical illuminations on Norwich Castle.

Stratford-upon-Avon Victorian Christmas Market 2023

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Step back in time at this award-winning Victorian Christmas Market spreading traditional festive cheer with shopping, street food and free entertainment. Around 300 stalls, complete with Victorian outfit-clad vendors, will be selling a wide range of gifts and seasonal products, and over on Wood Street, there’ll be a traditional funfair to keep the little ones entertained, including an original Victorian-era carousel.

When? 7 to 10 December 2023

While you’re here
Experience traditional winter blooms and ‘Wassailing’ (traditional folk singing) at Christmas at Shakespeare’s birthplace.

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Almost 300 London renters face no-fault evictions each week



A family at home
A third of all no-fault evictions in England in recent years have been in London, up 70 per cent in the last year | Photo: Jimmy Dean

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has warned that the Government’s delay in banning Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions has already taken a devastating toll on many Londoners, and that thousands more are at risk of becoming homeless if the Bill is delayed further into next year.  

New City Hall analysis reveals that 290 London renters a week have faced no-fault evictions since the Government’s pledge to strip landlords of the power to evict tenants without reason four years ago (also known as a ‘Section 21’ evictions given their legal basis in the 1988 Housing Act).  

Under current legislation, landlords in England can issue a Section 21 notice if they want to take possession of their property from its current tenants. Landlords do not have to give a reason for the eviction and only have to give two months’ notice.  

Ministers promised to scrap this method of evictions back in 2019 to give renters more security, and this year the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, introduced the long-awaited Renters Reform Bill to Parliament which, if passed, would ban no-fault evictions for good.   

However, this four-year delay has had a detrimental impact on London renters, where the use of no-fault evictions is particularly high. City Hall analysis shows that since 2019, a third of all no-fault evictions in England took place in the capital, up 70 per cent in the last year. This analysis is based on the number of Section 21 notices that have been followed up with a possession claim. The true scale of the problem could be far worse as not all Section 21 notices will necessarily reach this stage [1]. A further delay of six months to the passing of the Bill into law would mean 15,000 more Londoners risk facing no-fault eviction.  

With homelessness in the capital already on the rise, Sadiq is urging Ministers urgently to strengthen and pass the Renters Reform Bill to prevent more London renters from being kicked out of their homes without good reason. In particular, he is calling on the Government to close any loopholes that would still enable landlords to unfairly evict tenants once Section 21 is removed. Sadiq is also calling on the Government to extend the notice period when tenants are evicted for no fault of their own – such as where the landlord wishes to move into the property – from two months to four, to allow renters sufficient time to seek advice and plan for an unexpected move, and to prevent homelessness. 

“This new analysis is deeply concerning. For too long, landlords have been able to take advantage of exploitative no-fault evictions, which leave renters vulnerable, simply because the Government refuses to act. It is inexcusable that four years after the Government vowed to ban no-fault evictions, so little progress has been made. Ministers must act swiftly to strengthen and pass the Renters Reform Bill to ensure that renters get the legal protections they desperately need and deserve”, says Sadiq Khan.  

Today (Monday 23rd October), is the second reading of the Renters (Reform) Bill. Khan has also called on the Government to urgently introduce a two-year rent freeze to ease the burden of the cost-of-living crisis, saving London renters on average £3,374 over two years, and to deliver the £4.9bn a year that’s needed to build more genuinely affordable homes across the capital.  

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