10.000 years of history and civilisation.
The winds of history have repeatedly ravaged this beautiful island. Cyprus has been ruled in turns by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Franks, Venetians, Turks and the British; however, the origins of the very first signs of permanent settlements are much older in history, and date from the Neolithic age (8200-3800 BC).
Each of these cultures has left its mark on the architecture, style, cuisine, language and the mentality of the island´s inhabitants.
Above all, the island has been shaped by the conflict between the Greeks and the Turks. The Greeks first arrived over 3,000 years ago. The Turks began to settle here following the conquest of the island by Sultan Selim II in 1571.
PEOPLE AND SOCIETY
Cypriot society has been composed of two completely separate cultures since the division of the island in 1974 into the Turkish-occupied North and the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus in the south. Greek Cypriot society has always been highly traditional, particularly among country people. This is partly due to the power of the Orthodox Church.
Life proceeds at a slow pace in the villages, where it centres around cafés where men spend hours playing backgammon and discussing politics. Village women excel in sewing and embroidery.
In the Turkish North, life proceeds at a far gentler pace, partly due to the international boycott that has afflicted tourism and hampered development since 1974. The North is quite separate from southern Cyprus in both atmosphere and landscape, as well as politics. It is far less affluent and more sparsely populated, and Islam is the main religion.
The Republic of Cyprus (since 1960) is an internationally recognized state, geographically belongs to the Middle East but is politically European. It is located between three continents and separated 113 kms from Turkey and 120 from Syria.
The official languages are Griego, Turkish and English, which is why its inhabitants are Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and AngloCypriot. Live around 1,115,000 people on the island and the population density is 120 inhabitants per km2. For its size, 9.251km2, is the third largest island of Mediterranean.
Economically, the Republic of Cyprus lives mainly off tourism and financial services. Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the displacement of tens of thousands of its people, it seemed that the island would never recover its economic stability, but the Republic of Cyprus has achieved a fantastic economic evolution in the last thirty years. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from the North found new homes and began their lives anew, and fortunately, in those years, the southern part of the island became a very prosperous place.
Since then, national income was increasing constantly, the economy was flourishing, but now everything is uncertain*.
The main Cypriot Bank, Laiki Bank Group, will remain closed and the financial sector is seriously damaged after the reforms imposed by the EU. The discontent is general, economic forecasts are not good and social future becomes uncertain The border, installed in the middle of the city, administered by the United Nations, continues rubbing the feelings of the Cypriots who refuse to show their passport in their own island, but despite all this, life goes on.
Here in Nicosia the people do not stop being friendly and sharing his great heart, they are accustomed to multiculturalism and the foreigner, more if dark-skinned like me **, feels comfortable yet enormously grateful to share this time so turbulent and so intense, with people who do not hesitate to smile and offer you the best.
* A future article will treat exclusively this topic.
** Just people start talking to me in Greek. Cyprus is full of people from many countries, UK, Russia, Pakistan or anywhere else in the world, they do not discriminate anybody at all, they are part of this multicultural society.
INERSTING TO KNOW …. The name of the metal “copper” comes from the Latin phrase, æs Cyprium, “metal of Cyprus”, later shortened to Cuprum, ‘copper’, as they found large deposits of copper on the island.