NEW || Sirusho - ARMAT series | #20 Dubai, UAE (Season 2)
Sirusho: We are in the Arab Emirates. I was invited to Dubai to attend the DIAFA awards ceremony, which would be aired live in 6 different countries tv channels, various artists, sportsmen, doctors, scientists… This would be the first time an Armenian has attended the ceremony. Before the ceremony I met the Consul General of Armenia in Dubai, Mr. Seyran Karapetyan. Sirusho: How long have you been a Consul here? Mr. Seyran Karapetyan: The Consulate has been operating since April.
Most of the Armenian community lives in Dubai, around 1000 families. That’s about 2/3 of the entire community. Sharjah probably has the second biggest Armenian population.
We have teachers, doctors and workers in the service sector, like hotel managers. Sirusho: We can tell, we were greeted by an Armenian speaking manager when we checked in. It was very pleasant, it was a great experience. Sirusho: We were stationed at one of the best hotels in Dubai “Emerald Palace Kempinski”. I’m proud to say that it belongs to an Armenian. It’s always inspiring to see the success of our people, especially outside of Armenia.
Mr. Seyran Karapetyan: We have two schools, two churches. We have a wonderful and big embassy in Abu Dhabi. All of this was constructed with the help of the community. Thanks to the years of coherent cooperation by the community. Sirusho: Do you envision yourself living here, or would you like to move at some point? Mr. Seyran Karapetyan: I would like to live in a place where I can be of most help to my nation and the people.
Because as I’ve said, after becoming successful in doing business, we have decided that we can partake in social life, while holding the position of the Consul General . Sirusho: Kempinski which has an Armenian spirit had it’s kitchen entrusted by the French cook Alain Ducasse. In the meantime the filming continued. While touring our social media is always active, Aga and Tatevik make sure that our followers get to be the part of the experience.
Sirusho: The Armenians that live here… I think you’ve said 1000 families, if I’m not mistaken? In what period did they move here? Mr. Seyran Karapetyan: Without delving too deep into history, without mentioning the first Armenians settled here in the 17th century and established the city of “New Julfa '' in the territory of modern Ras Al Khaimah. The first Armenian came here in 1969 he was from Iraq, this was before the UAE was established as a country. After the civil war in Lebanon from 1974-1976, Armenians started migrating from Lebanon, some of them, mostly businessmen, moved here. Most notably, Hrayr Soghomonian, I think moved here in 1974.
Mr. Harut and many more… Sirusho: They established the community, and made it prosper… Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: I was born in Lebanon, Beirut. I am an engineer. Sirusho: How did you end up here? Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: You know, the civil war in Lebanon started in 1975.
We came here to make more money. I was young and just graduated from university… Sirusho: Did you come here with friends? Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: I came here alone, I didn’t know anyone here… People started immigrating here by the end of the 60s. Mostly Syrian Armenians, Lebanon Armenians and Iranian Armenians.
We had kids and there were no Armenian schools here, they couldn’t speak, read or write. First we tried to gather them to teach them some Armenian. We didn’t even have a Church, no priests were around. Once a year we invited a priest either from Beirut or Isfahan to at least hold the rites during the Easter. By the order of the Catholicos Aram I, a priest had arrived for us, here. In the early 90s, the deceased Garegin II Catholicos of Cilicia asked the local nobles to give us some land so we could organize and build a church.
In 1996 we found out that the prince of Sharjah agreed to give us some land to help us. We built the first Armenian church in this region, financed completely with the money from our diaspora. Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: Where did you learn your English? Sirusho: I’ve learned it in Canada.
Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: So you used to live there? Sirusho: For two years. In Toronto. Sirusho: Canada has left its mark on me. It has taught me to appreciate the diaspora.
I got to witness first hand where it flourished and it’s problems. As a result I had two childhoods, one Armenian and one western. And the mix of both is present both in my music and worldview. Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: Pardon me for asking, it just came up in my mind. Who makes your Taraz (traditional Armenian clothing)? Sirusho: We make it ourselves. Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: I don’t remember the name of the song, but the Taraz in one of them looks amazing.
Sirusho: Thank you ! Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: I can’t remember the name, but there are a few traditional songs, the Taraz in them looks great, it has a great design. Sirusho: Thank you ! I love making them. Sirusho: We were also preparing for the ceremony and it was like switching to a different reality. The first meeting and the impressions are very important in such cases, that’s when future cooperation is decided… Will they invite more artists from that country or not? We try to make sure that there is continuous cooperation. Mr. Sirak Muradyan: I left Gyumri when I was 17. I moved to the city of Tolyatti in Russia, studied at a university there, for five years.
I got admitted in 1980 and graduated in 1985. I got married and came back to Gyumri. I have a friend in Moscow, his name is Dima. He once told me that we want to send us to the UAE for a vacation.
I was supposed to stay at the "Coral Beach" hotel, there were no vacant rooms available though. So they sent us to the newly opened "Green House Resort" hotel, which belongs to the Sheikh. That’s how it went, I got to know the managers, they offered me to stay and work here.
Sirusho: Did I get it right? You lived in a temporary shelter after the earthquake? Mr. Sirak Muradyan: For four Years. In a temporary shelter, made of iron, 3m*6m… Mr. Sirak Muradyan: I started with a hotel, a small one. It had 10 or 12 rooms. Do you know what the most important first step was? I managed to be satisfied with what I got. It was hard… how can I say it… I didn’t have a choice coming here.
Sirusho: You went a long way. From the shelters to here… Mr. Mr. Sirak Muradyan: To the hotels. Sirusho: The Hotels, right. Mr. Sirak Muradyan: Yes, Sirusho jan! Mr. Sirak Muradyan: For around two years I couldn’t come to terms
with the fact that I had to stay here, work and achieve things etc. It was very hard. My biggest success is coming to terms with the conditions. I… You know what, I haven't said this in my previous interviews, but … During my first year here, I would go to the beach… So that my family wouldn’t see… And I would cry loudly. “Why did it have to be this way? Why did I come to this country? Work here...
A new city, a new country which was so unfamiliar to me. Sirusho: Behind every successful person, there is a huge amount of work… a long road. A person can endure even the toughest hardships and get back on their feet. One must try, not give up and not be scared of making mistakes. We’re the ones who make our destiny. Mr. Sirak Muradyan: I work 24 hours a day. I only rest when I sleep. I don’t rest unfortunately.
I know that people need to rest, but every leader needs good people around them. Just like the wonderful and good people you have around you. Sirusho: The day of the ceremony came, this is the moment when your concentration reaches its peak. You realize that you’re going to spend the next few hours in front of the cameras. Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: At the beginning about 15-20 years ago.
When we built our church, it was the only one that had a dome. Sirusho: That looked like a church… Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: That looked like a church from the outside! When the president… The second president visited us, the Sheikh asked us: “Do you need anything? The president is about to come with a visit here, but he also wants to see the church. Can we help you with anything?”... He was told that our church… It's surrounded by dirt and sand, and there are no roads.
With just one order from the Sheikh Sultan, since the visit was going to take place soon and since we didn’t have a road … A road was built in just a day. So I suppose… His personal connections and relations with the Armenians are on good terms since he has an Idea of who we are. Sirusho: At the end of the tour we were told “we came and brought your culture with you.
Let us show you our culture” Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: I cannot forget to mention that time when the expenses of repairs of the “Haghartsin” complex were covered by the Sheikh of Sharjah… the Sheikh Sultan. I know him very well. For around two three years I provided my services as an expert to him. I would go there and oversee the constructions. With the Catholicos of all Armenians so that the construction could be finished as soon as possible. No one believed that an Islamic leader could provide more than 5 million USD for the renovation of a church.
Sirusho: Why did he do that? Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: Why? He just wanted to help. Because it’s a church, it is a house of God. That's what he said: “A church and a mosque are the same to us, God lives in both, and is prayed to in both”. We always feel proud. There’s even a tablet with his name on it In Armenian, English and Arabic, which states that the renovations were financed by the Sheikh Sultan.
Sirusho: You dedicated your life… most of your life to the preservation of the Armenians. And you did everything you could to protect what's Armenian. To develop it here, and you’re also encouraging people to move to Armenia from here. Why? Mr. Hrayr Soghomonian: That’s how we are. Scattered all over the world, and preserving our identity was challenging.
As Armenians… We preserved our language. Our thoughts were in Armenian. And all of these… It’s the essence of Armenia that helped us to stay Armenian. Our thoughts, our eyes, our thoughts have always been directed to our homeland. We believe that all our diasporas should always be powerful, stay Armenian, and be fortunate.
So that they can provide financial support to the strengthening of the Armenian statehood. A powerful Armenian means a powerful diaspora. Neshan Der Haroutiounian: Welcome to Dubai, here are some Armenian words for you. Welcome and I am proud to be the one to give you this award of DIAFA. Be assured that we are all proud of you, in Armenia… in Lebanon… you’re an icon. I am very happy that I will hand you this award soon. Welcome!