The DK Eyewitness: Turkey guidebook describes Ani as “one of the most evocative historical sites in Turkey. Set on a windswept, grassy plateau along the Barley River (Arpaçay), the site contains important remnants of Armenian architecture, including the city walls protecting its northern border, parts of which are still intact.”

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

In photos: the unique beauty of Ani

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.

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 recently.

“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/DK Eyewitness

Featured photograph courtesy of PeopleOfAr