Registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Ani archaeological site, also known as the “city of a thousand and one churches”, attracts tourists all year round. The ancient city, which houses Islamic architectural works of the 11th and 12th centuries, was added to the World Heritage List on July 15, 2016.

Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
The view Ani from across the border in Armenia. Photograph courtesy of The Atlantic

Ani is located in the northeast of Turkey, close to Arpaçay district in Kars province, on a secluded triangular plateau overlooking a ravine that forms the natural border with Armenia.

Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
The Monastery of the Hripsimian Virgins overlooks the Akhurian River which acts as the modern border between Turkey and Armenia. Photograph courtesy of The Atlantic

This medieval city that was once one of the cultural and commercial centres on the Silk Roads, is characterized by architecture that combines a variety of domestic, religious and military structures, creating a panorama of medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by successive Christian and Muslim dynasties.

Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
The ancient city of Ani. Photograph courtesy of the Atlantic

Inhabited since the Bronze Age, Ani flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries AD, when it became a capital of the medieval Armenian kingdom of the Bagratids, and profited from control over one branch of the Silk Roads.

Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
Ani reconstructed. Ruins of forgotten times: Armenia’s city of Ani

Later, under Byzantine, Seljuk, and Georgian sovereignty, it maintained its status as an important crossroads for merchant caravans, controlling trade routes between Byzantium, Persia, Syria and Central Asia.

In fact, Ani has hosted some 23 civilizations since its establishment and it is also considered to be the first entrance gate to Anatolia from the Caucasus.

The Mongol invasion, along with a devastating earthquake in 1319 and a change in trade routes, marked the beginning of the city’s decline. It was all but abandoned by the 18th century.

Have a look at some more photographs of this amazing place

Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
A gorge below Ani, showing numerous caves dug into cliffs, as well as fortifications. A modern border fence can be seen at bottom centre, Armenia is on the left, Turkey, on the right. Photograph courtesy of The Atlantic.
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
The remains of King Gagik’s church of St Gregory.
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
Ani Cathedral. Photograph courtesy of Turkey Photo Guide
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
An interior shot of the Ani Cathedral shows the scale of some of the ruins. Photograph courtesy of The Atlantic
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
Ruins of the Mausoleum of the Child Princes. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
Church in Ani
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
Ruins of Ani. Photograph courtesy of Private Tour.
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
Frescoes inside the Church of Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents. Photograph courtesy of The Atlantic
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
The ruined church of the Holy Redeemer. Photograph courtesy of The Atlantic
Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
The Virgin’s Castle, on the cliffs along the Akhurian River. Photograph courtesy of The Atlantic.

24,950 visitors in two months

Kars Museum Director Necmettin Alp told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Ani is one of the biggest archaeological sites in the eastern Anatolian region and interest increased after it was registered by UNESCO.

There has been a serious increase in the number of visitors. At the end of 2017, our annual visitor number was 41,685. In the first two months of 2018, 24,950 people visited. That is, there is an increase at the rate of 70 or 80 percent,” he said. “Ani’s combination of architectural and archaeological features combined with the geography creates  a unique beauty.”

The whole world should see it

Lale Hamleci, who came from London,said that she travelled on the Doğu Express to see the ancient site.

Ani - a combination of architecture, archaeology and geography creating a unique beauty
The Doğu Express travels from Istanbul, via Ankara to Kars.

I recommend that everyone comes here. I saw Ani on the news and I was very curious. I didn’t know what to expect but I decided to go,” Hamleci said. “It was a huge surprise when I went. It was much more perfect, much more beautiful than I expected it to be. I will go again with friends. If you haven’t seen Ani, you haven’t seen the world. I saw the world.”

Stephen Hargrave, a British citizen, said that he was mesmerized by Ani, but he didn’t even know about it until a few weeks ago.

“One of my friends advised travelling on the Doğu Express. I came here from Ankara on it. I discovered Kars and Ani, and it was a great experience for me. When I return to London, I will tell everyone that they should see this beauty” Hargrave said.

Another visitor Pelin Şen, who came from Istanbul, noted that Ani is much more beautiful than the pictures they saw on social media. “There are many places that should be seen in Turkey, and Ani is one of them,” she said.

Sources: UNESCO/Daily Sabah

Featured photograph courtesy of PeopleOfAr

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