When you visit the heritage enclave of Georgetown, Penang, you will not miss Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian). You’ll probably wonder why the street is named after the Armenians, the people of Armenia, a country bounded by Georgia on the North, Azerbaijan on the East, Iran on the South and Turkey in the West. There is also another road named in honor of the Armenians. It’s called Aratoon Road, named after Arathoon Anthony, who brought his family to Penang in 1819, becoming a trader and planter and later founded the firm A.A. Anthony and Company in 1840.
Street art wall painting, Armenian Street, George Town, Penang by Ernest Zacharevic.
According to studies conducted by Nadia Wright, the Armenians in Penang played a far greater role in the economic, social and civic life of the settlement than their actual numbers suggests. These Armenians had not come from Armenia itself but were descendants of Armenians taken forcibly to Persia by Shah Abbas in the early 1600s. When conditions in Persia later became less attractive for them, a significant number resettled in India or the Dutch East Indies.
Soon after Francis Light occupied Penang in 1786, Armenian traders were migrating to Penang from India to Melaka (Malacca) and Batavia (Jakarta). By 1807, there were enough Armenian traders to justify naming the street Armenian Lane, which later became Armenian Street.
Because of its rich collection of street art, Armenian Street is a very popular destination for tourists, selfies and apparently personal photo-shoot moments.
- Syed Ahmad, S. I. (2007, September 20). The Armenians of Penang.