Cyprus – a popular tourist destination in the Eastern Mediterranean – is located in the midst of Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon. These countries have left their influence in regards to culture, food, religion, and many more aspects, though Cyprus is ancient itself, with animal remains from an archaeological dig dating back 9,5000 years (which predates Egypt!). Residents of this island country are quite rich, with average monthly wages around 2269 euros per month. In fact, the World Bank has classified it as a high-income economy.
It’s dotted with tiny hospitable villages, ancient ruins in Paphos, stunning waterfront views, and golden beaches along the Karpasia Peninsula – some of the most beautiful in the world. All of these aspects make it ideal for vacation, even if you’re travelling with kids. But if you’re left with questions, feeling curious about this geographical wonder, or are planning a trip, here are 9 interesting facts about the beautiful country of Cyprus.
Everyone knows that Cyprus is an island, but most people aren’t aware that it actually boasts an impressive footprint. In fact, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean at 240 kilometers long and 100 kilometers wide at its widest point. It’s only rivaled in mass by Sardinia and Sicily, and it’s larger than the Greek island of Crete.
You will hear a mix of Greek, Turkish, and English on the island of Cyprus. Most locals can speak English as the island was a colony of Britain from 1878 until they gained independence in 1960. In fact, there are still several British military bases on the island. Cyprus is also a major tourist destination in the Mediterranean, so you’ll be able to communicate well with most locals you encounter while visiting.
An Island Divided
Cyprus is a divided island with power struggles dating back to 1965. The North part of the island, called the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, is ruled by the Turks, but this title is only recognized by Turkey itself, everyone else calls it “Occupied Cyprus”. The southern part of the island is known as the Independent Republic of Cyprus or “Greek Cyprus” even though it’s not part of Greece. However, this gets confusing since the entire island is part of the European Union, with the exemption of the northern portion of the island, which is ruled by Turkey.
Easter is the main holiday of the island with almost 80%of residents worshipping according to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox faith. Many businesses on the island remain closed for Holy Week and many people are fasting until Lent. Easter continues with a colorful Easter eve vigil and procession at midnight – complete with lively singing, elaborate vestments, incense, and offerings. Easter Sunday is a day to cook and eat a traditional feast after fasting, and celebrations with friends, family, and the greater community are often loud with laughter and loud music.
Residents of Cyprus Are Called Cypriots
Locals are called Cypriots, though one is not called a “Cypriot” alone. You are either a “Greek Cypriot” or “Turkish Cypriot” in recognition of your ethnicity and your residence in either the Greek-speaking-Orthodox or the Turkish-speaking Muslim community.
Capital City Division
Not only is the island of Cyprus largely divided, so is the capital city of Nicosia, which is situated such that it’s separated by “The Green Line” akin to the manner in which Berlin was once divided into East and West Germany. Obviously, access across the divide is patrolled and restricted, but typically crossing is trouble-free if you have the proper travel documents.
Cyprus is as multi-religious as it is multilingual and multicultural. The majority of the island’s residents – 78% – belong to the Autocephalous Orthodox faith; 18% are Muslim, and the remaining 4% of worshipers are Maronite or Armenian Apostolic.
Cyprus lies in the midst of several Middle Eastern nations, including Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. But its closest country in proximity is Turkey, which is located 455 kilometers or 283 miles to the south. This unique location has set up the island of Cyprus as a neutral crossroads for many diplomatic proceedings throughout history.
Many of the famous historical Byzantine buildings are still considered sacred and are guarded by a key-keeper whose job it is to safeguard the oldest buildings. As a mark of respect, tourists of sacred spaces are asked to wear full sleeves, pants for men, and long dresses for ladies, and never stand with their backs toward the church icons. Also, a small donation is appreciated if you tour a church or sacred building and is a good way to show your respect.