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Rediscovering Armenia Armenian News Network / Groong April 9, 2002 Book Review "Rediscovering Armenia," by Brady Kiesling and Raffi Kojian [Raffi Kojian edited the book and wrote the sections on Nagorno Karabagh] Tigran Mets publishing house, April 2001 RA's ISBN 99930-52-28-0 By Katy Pearce Rediscovering Armenia is a book that reads, in parts, like a diary, an anthropological study, or an archeology paper. As one of only a handful of guidebooks about Armenia, it is thorough, engaging and witty. It will tell you what monastery, chapel, or mom-and-pop coffeehouse to visit while traveling beyond Armenia's version of the Capital Beltway. But if you need your guidebook to contain lists of ATM locations, hotels, or restaurants or bars, Rediscovering Armenia will not help you. The book reflects the authors' opinion that a typical traveler does not come to Armenia to shop for designer clothes, eat a hamburger or keep in contact with the office. The best attractions that Armenia has to offer are its rugged terrain, a fifth or sixth century church in a breath-taking hideout, and its hospitable, hard-working people. Rediscovering Armenia certainly will lead you to these things. Armenia, being a country that is far from easily navigable, needs an inspired poet and an artist to convey its beauty and great potential as a tourism destination, and the authors certainly try their best. Most people traveling to Armenia for a week or two are not going to have the time to explore the entire country and Rediscovering Armenia would assist anyone looking to narrow down their choices based on what regions, attractions, or tourist destinations they want to see most. With its extensive background information sections and illuminating descriptions of monuments, churches and natural sights, Rediscovering Armenia is a helpful friend when it comes to doing one's homework when preparing for a trip to Armenia. One possible use is to use the book to make a list of places the visitors are interested in seeing and once in Armenia talk to a guide/driver about creating an itinerary. The guidebook is most helpful for those traveling to Armenia for a summer or planning to live and work in Armenia long enough to realize the need for well-prepared and well-spent weekend trips. Rediscovering Armenia is perfect for those taking the time to see everything. As both Kiesling and Kojian have lived in Armenia for extended periods of time, they are able to speak to long term tourists as peers, considering time, interest, language ability, transportation access, and flexibility. This book, which came as a by-product of Kiesling's time in Armenia working as a senior official of the U.S. Embassy, isn't going to help the average tourist find a laundry service, however those with a sense of adventure, a need to plan, time or all of the above will enjoy this extremely complete work. Brady Kiesling's primary intent is to encourage independent travel, but his secondary intent shines throughout the book. Kiesling wants to produce good karma for all of the Armenians who have treated him so well throughout his travels. By writing a guidebook and hopefully encouraging more tourism in Armenia, Rediscovering Armenia may improve the economic possibilities for those working in the tourism industry from the woman cleaning rooms at a hotel to the man hoping to use his decent English language skills to find people to drive from Yerevan to Ejmiatsin; from the old priest who enjoys showing hidden underground passages to interested visitors to the donkey that guards the entrance to a hidden chapel - and bites. As a trained archeologist, Kiesling exposes layer upon layer of real touristic value in the land he was posted to as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. His intellectual curiosity and authentic interest in Armenia lend credit to this work and create an antithesis to one's stereotypical 'ugly American.' Perhaps due to Kiesling's Foreign Service expertise, Rediscovering Armenia reads like an extremely well-crafted scene-setting situation report and is not formatted like a traditional travel guidebook. This could detract from the book's usefulness for some readers. For example, the informal system of using asterisks to designate interesting places does not assist a tourist in the same way that a list of "Must-Sees" would. Rediscovering Armenia is a better read than a reference. Other travel books pale in comparison when discussing the history of a place or monument. Kiesling and Kojian deserve credit for excellent research - both formal and informal, using sources only found in Armenia. Similarly, the illustrations of churches, detailed maps unlike any other in existence (one major difficulty in traveling in Armenia is the lack of any sort of road maps. This book may contain the highest quality, albeit homemade on Kiesling's computer, maps available), and helpful lists of geographic terms really facilitate an experienced traveler, adventurer, or someone familiar with Armenia to design a satisfying trip itinerary. The book is helpful for other tourists, as described above, using the book as a preparatory tool in combination with a guide. Rediscovering Armenia is not a traditional travel guide in that it is more complete and more detailed. The lack of traditional tourist-book style information is actually in Rediscovering Armenia's favor, in that the rapid changes that Armenia is going through quickly date other guidebooks. Rediscovering Armenia may too date itself, but in a different way: as roads improve and tourism builds, the notes about needing four-by-four vehicles and limitations due to weather will decrease; but the historical background and dedicated research will never date itself. So do not expect Rediscovering Armenia to lead you to an Internet cafi, include a guide to tipping service staff, list the address for the post office, give you a price guide on fax services or name a great beautician. Rather, use this book as a preparation tool for a trip and allow it to inspire you to re-imagine, re-invigorate and rediscover Armenia. Rediscovering Armenia is available for sale on www.amazon.com. To learn more about the project visit www.cilicia.com. © Copyright 2002, Armenian News Network / Groong