Capital City Origins ~ Asia Part 2
First published: Monday December 6th, 2021
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The second part of our Asian expedition starts almost in Europe. In fact there is much controversy and argument over which continent this first country is actually in. Some say it's Europe and some say Asia. The fact is, despite Cyprus belonging to the European Union and also competing in Eurovision, it is in fact, according to JetPunk at least, firmly in Asia. The arguments continue however, with many comments everytime the island is mentioned. No doubt there will be some in the comments of this very blog. Please, play nice if you comment, I don't want to have to turn off commenting, so in the words of Tiffany, "Children Behave......and watch how you play".
In the last part we covered the Middle East, although some class Turkey, Cyprus and Iran in this region, and you may be right, however the Arabian Peninsula is what most people refer to as the Middle East.
Anyway, to quote the Black Eyed Peas, "Let's get it Started", and crack on with our first capital city of Asia Part 2.........
Nicosia, or Lefkosa as it is called on the Turkish side, is a city divided. The United Nations "Green Line" splits the city into the Northern Turkish side and Southern Greek side. Incidently, it is called the Green Line because that was the colour of the UN officer's pen that was used to draw the line on the map.
According to Greek mythology, Nicosia was a siren, daughter of Acheloos and Melpomene, and the name translates as "White State" of "City of White Gods", That Gods not Goods, I doubt anyone would name a city after a fridge, although you never know. Keep reading to find out !
NICOSIA = WHITE STATE
Historically known as Ancyra and Angora, Ankara is an ancient city with many archaelogical sites. It was the capital of the Celtic state of Galatia from 280 to 64 BC, and also to the Roman province with the same name up to the 7th century AD. The name Angora survives in the animal kingdom with several different species carrying the name.
Ankara derives from the Greek and Latin words for "Anchor"
ANKARA = ANCHOR
Early Christian chroniclers thought that the name of Yerevan derived from an expression exclaimed by Noah when the Ark landed on Mount Ararat, and the waters receded. Noah was said to have exclaimed "Yerevats !" meaning "It's appeared".
Another theory is that it comes from the name of the Armenian King, Yervand IV. However the most likely hypothesis is that it derives from the Urartian fortress of Erebuni. Over the years the name has changed, Erebuni - Erevani - Erevan - Yerevan. Scholars believe that the name Erebuni means "Victory"
YEREVAN = VICTORY
Founded in the 5th century, Tbilisi has been the capital for various Georgian republics and kingdoms. Due to it's location on the edge of Europe and Asia, and it's proximity to the famous trading route, the Silk Road, this capital has been at the centre of trade projects for many centuries.
The name Tbilisi derives from the Old Georgian word tpili meaning "warm". However, t'bilisi translates as "warm location", refering to the sulphuric hot springs nearby.
TBILISI = WARM LOCATION
Located on the coast of the Caspian Sea and at 28m below sea level, Baku is the lowest lying capital city in the world. And according to "Lonely Planet" guides is in the Top Ten destinations for urban nightlife.
The most popular etymology for the city is that it's name derives from the Persian Bad-kube, a compound of two words, bad meaning "wind" and kube meaning "to pound". In other words "wind pounded city" which is reflected in the modern nickname "City of Winds"
BAKU = WIND POUNDED
There are plans to relocate the Capital city from Tehran due to the heavy air pollution and earthquakes, however these plans have not yet recieved approval. In 2013, a survey of 230 cities ranked Tehran 203rd for quality of life !.
The etymology of Tehran is divided. One theory is that it comes from ancient Iranian languages and means "hot place". Another is that it derives from Tirgan and means "the abode of Tir" . Neither have much evidence to support them.
The official line from Tehran's own website is that the name comes from the Persian words Tah meaning "end" or "bottom" and Ran meaning "(mountain) slope". Judging by the above picture this makes perfect sense.
TEHRAN = BOTTOM OF THE MOUNTAIN
Founded in 1881 on the site of a tribal village, Ashgabat was made the capital of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924. Almost destroyed in an earthquake in 1948, the city was rebuilt using expensive white marble.
Ashgabat has one of the world's highest costs of living due to inflation and import problems.
It's name derives from modern Persian and means "City of Devotion"
ASHGABAT = CITY OF DEVOTION
There have been several names for this city over the years. The original settlement was founded in 1830 as Akmola meaning "white grave" in Kazakh. In 1832 it was granted town status and renamed Akmolinsk meaning "town of the white grave".
In 1997 the town became the capital instead of Almaty and was renamed Astana meaning "capital". In 2019 Astana was renamed Nur-Sultan in honor of the recently resigned president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Nur-sultan in the Kazakh language can be translated as "Radiant Sultan"
NUR-SULTAN = RADIANT SULTAN
Originally formed as a fortress on the "Silk Road" trade route and named Pishpek, Bishkek grew during the Soviet era and it's street patterns reflect this with wide boulevards and ninety degree corners.
The name is thought to come from the Kyrgyz word for a churn used to ferment the milk of a mare, the national drink of Kyrgyzstan.
BISHKEK = MILK CHURN
Since it was first settled in the 3rd century BC, Tashkent has been destroyed and rebuilt twice. Firstly by Genghis Khan in 1219 and then by an earthquake in 1966. It was rebuilt as a model Soviet city and was the fourth largest in the USSR.
The city's name is thought to come from the Turkic language words tash and kent whose literal translation is "City of Stones".
TASHKENT = CITY OF STONES
Dushanbe was known as Stalinabad from 1929 to 1961, obviously named after Joseph Stalin, but prior to that is was known as Dyushambe.
The name comes from the fact that there was a large bazaar or market held every Monday in the area. The Persian word for Monday is made up as du meaning "second day" and Shambe meaning Saturday, in other words the second day after Saturday or Monday.
DUSHANBE = MONDAY
Kabul has many historic gardens, bazaars and palaces and in the 1960's and 70's was a regular stop over on the "Hippy Trail" to Pakistan and India.
Occupied by Britain in the 19th century and Russian in 1979, Kabul has a turbulent history that continues to this day.
There are several theories as to the name of Kabul, it is thought to have come from the name of a Chinese tribe in the 3rd century BC, but according to legend thare was a lake in the centre of Kabul, with a bridge to the "Island of Happiness". The bridge (pul in Persian) was made from straw (kah in Persian). So Kabul would have been "Straw Bridge". As an aside, the bridge over the river in the Cornish town of Wadebridge is built upon straw, so not a crazy theory at all.
KABUL = STRAW BRIDGE or maybe the name of a tribe. Also the ancient Greek name was Ortospana meaning "High Place" . You can choose your favourite but I like the Straw Bridge theory.
That concludes our second section on the Asian continent. We have travelled through the Caucasus, around the Caspian and Black Seas and stopped off in most of the "Stans". On our next journey we shall be taking in the sights from the Himalayas to the paradise islands of the Maldives and onto the Gobi desert and beyond. What a journey this has been so far. And still three continents left to do after Asia. I'm gonna need to get the van serviced at some point, all these miles we're clocking up !
Thank you JetPunkers for your kind comments on all of these blogs, they mean a lot to me and give me inspiration to carry on.
Also, first comment!!
Straw bridge? Monday? That’s really funny lol
Great Blog! Great learning more about Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Afghanistan Uzbekistan Turkmenistan Azerbaijan Iran Armenia Georgia Turkey, and Cyprus!
(Something about thinking and cities, I don't know what that red and white emoji is.)
I'm excited for you to travel to the next lot! And Cyprus is in
And Cyprus is Europe!!!!
Uzbek guy : what are you talking about it's Tuesday!
Tajik guy : No, my city is called Monday!
Uzbek guy: even on a Tuesday?
Tajik guy : hmm maybe I'd better do something about that...
Uzbek guy : what about Dushanbe? That sounds almost exactly the same as Monday?
Tajik guy : Yeah! Dushanbe it is!
Although, I do suppose naming your country something so hard to spell that a random American Quizmaker halfway across the world allows "Kyrg was a guy with a weird name who met someone called Stan" for the name of your country is arguably worse than naming your capital "Milk Churn".
Of course, it must be symbolic to the people who live there, but to me, no, just as the Stans don't appeal to Americans and Europeans.