Reba and I attended the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Desert’s 4th annual Armenian Cultural Festival last weekend. The event was an auspicious one for the Armenian community. During the four-day festival, guests were given a sneak peek of their new house of worship that will not officially open until February of next year.
Built in traditional 7th Century style the 60 plus foot copper domed and travertine wrapped exterior of the church looms majestically against the Santa Rosa Mountains. This edifice echoes the splendid history of the Armenian people and the travails that many endured to come to America. Old timers must experience a pang as they view their magnificent accomplishment. Rancho Mirage is far from their ancestral homeland where most of the parishioner’s great grandparents endured barbarous treatment, thousands perishing, as they fled Turkey less than a century ago. A powerfully felt unspoken sentiment was captured in the remarks of an elegant elderly lady who spoke at a Rancho Mirage City Council meeting over a year ago when she petitioned the Council to permit the church to exceed height limitations set by City code in order to fulfill the traditional architectural standards for an Armenian cathedral. “I am an old woman.” She pleaded, “I want to have my funeral in a church that looks like the one my grandmothers worshiped in.” She will get her wish and in doing so helped construct one of the Palm Springs Valley’s most beautiful buildings.
Leaving the church through the main portal you experience the most exquisite vista in the Valley. The arched doorway frames a stately walkway lined with orange trees and swaying palms. In the distance looms Mount San Jacinto. No first step of a bride or cortege of an elder could be more elegantly framed.
Reba scanned the festival’s craft booths. We listed to John Bilezikjian and Band perform lively traditional music. We bought arm-loads of traditional food to take home. Yalanchi are the stuffed grape leaves that can be found throughout the Levant region of the Mediterranean, but it’s the Armenians that take this savory package to its culinary perfection. We took home some to eat now and more to freeze for later. Packages of Cheese Beorag, Kufta, Lahmajoon, Baklava with walnuts and Gata were bundled off to our car and then the freezer for upcoming Holiday Season parties.
Love those Armenians who have added so much passion and history to the American fabric and make stuffed grape leaves that will break your mouth!