Culture in the North Cyprus
As far as shopping is concerned in North Cyprus, the focus is on markets rather than big shopping centres. This is all part of the experience and a chance to get involved in the local Mediterranean life. You’ll find everything from fresh fruit, vegetables and other foods to delicately handcrafted items such as the Lefkara and Yemeni. These in particular hold a personal touch, and provide a unique souvenir. You may also find clothes and shoes, along with those famous evil eye amulets! If looking for gifts you’ll find lots contending for your money, and the fun is haggling to try to get the best prices for everything.
Haggling here in North Cyprus is a common occurrence and considered an activity that naturally co-insides with shopping around the markets. Some tips that might prove helpful are firstly not to feel pressured. If you’re not happy with the price even after bargaining it down to as low as the seller will go, walk away. You can always come back later if you change your mind. Have a browse of the various stalls to check out the general selling price for certain items to get an idea of a good price to try to haggle down to. Lastly, have fun with it! Haggling can make shopping a far more sociable and lively activity that will allow you to meet some friendly characters and hopefully walk away with the pride of having got yourself some great bargains!
Tipping can always be a tricky one, especially due to the different etiquettes of various cultures. Tipping is not a huge deal in North Cyprus, though is expected for certain services, for example, waiters, hotel staff and tour guides perhaps. In some restaurants a service charge may be included, though if not a 10% tip is usually appreciated.
Music has the ability to define a countries culture, and this is no different for North Cyprus. You’d be surprised by the variation in music here too! There’s everything from traditional folk to jazz, and classical to DJ sets. It’s likely that you’ll get to experience some folk music, which brings to light the cultural heritage that is kept so close to the heart of the Cypriot people. It is often an accompaniment to folk dancing and a fun way to involve and introduce visitors to a different way of life. The most famous music event of North Cyprus has to be the Bellapais Music Festival, which takes place in the famous and beautifully gothic Bellapais Abbey. All sorts of live music is played here, with concerts, jazz and piano recitals just some of what’s on offer. The striking architecture, scenic views and calm atmosphere makes for a setting that enlightens audiences and magnifies the beauty of the music. For a more laid back music festival there is the International Famagusta Culture and Art Festival that is held in the Salamis Theatre in Famagusta. This focuses on showing fun acts like international pop stars, reggae bands and jazz. If you’re a keen fan of jazz in particular then there’s a Jazz Festival in Kyrenia at The Rocks Hotel also! The music scene in North Cyprus may not be as commercial as it is in other places but it is still full of inspiration and enjoyment. It is seen as a way to celebrate and create a welcoming atmosphere that breaks the ice between strangers and different cultures. Whether you chose to stay in your hotel or venture out to some local venues it’s likely you’ll get to experience some form of Northern Cyprus musical entertainment.
Myths & Legends
North Cyprus is full of myths and legends, and this is emphasised by the historical nature of the environment that is so embellished with artefacts. The speculation that surrounds the origin of some of these creates a mystical charm that makes the region even more captivating. Some of the most famous myths and legends of the area are as follows. The five finger mountain is one of the most famous sights to see in the area. It is a spectacular and iconic part of the scenery that has sparked some legends with its strange five point ridge resembling fingers.
One legend is that of a gutsy villager who fell in love with the local queen. For most this would stay an unrequited love, but for the villager, who it’s fair to say was a little bit arrogant, confronted the queen and asked for her hand in marriage. The queen of course was not happy with this, and as a way to get rid of him sent him on what she had deemed an impossible mission to collect some water from the spring of St Andreas monastery. Unfortunately for her, he succeeded, and returned excitedly with the water. She still refused though and understandably, the villager was not happy. In a fit of rage he poured the water into the soil and picked up the mud that had hardened from it, chucking it at the queens head. She dodged this and it instead landed on the mountain ridge, which is supposedly what we can see today – a representation of the heartbroken villager’s disappointment.
Another legend about the mountain states that a famous hero that went by the name of Dhiyenis Akritas leapt across the sea from Anatolia in a magnificent attempt to save Cyprus from the Saracen invaders. Some say that it is Dhiyenis’ heroic handprint in the soil of North Cyprus that the five fingered mountain grew from. The famous site of St Mamas church is named after the patron saint of tax evaders, which is what he became know after such legends that are attached to his name.
St Mamas was a persecuted Christian living in the 3rd century AD. He was being taken to court for not paying his taxes when on route he spotted a lion chasing a sheep. Instead of just carrying on with his journey after marvelling at that strange sight, he did what most wouldn’t do and called the lion over. The lion was drawn to St Mamas however and let him climb on his back (and he even remembered to save the sheep, carrying it under his arms). He rode the lion all the way to face the judge, who was so amazed by the sight he saw (and probably terrified of the lion) that he let Mamas go.
The other best known legend about him involves his sarcophagus, which was washed ashore in North Cyprus. These were discovered by a peasant, who experienced a vision that told him to place it in a specific place and build a monastery there. The goddess Aphrodite is said to have inspired the growth of the rock roses in the landscape through her tears when Adonis died, while wild anemones are symbolic of his blood. Teucer is a famous figure, not as a god, but as a warrior who fought in the siege of Troy. Upon returning he founded the city of Salamis, which was the most powerful city in the whole of Cyprus in the 7th century BC.
You can visit the ancient ruins of Salamis to this day, and they are still a magnificent sight to behold with the fragments left of what was once a wealthy and luxurious civilisation. So it is with legends and myths that North Cyprus has such an enchanting aura to its landscape, full of fascination for visitors who can wonder for themselves about the truth in any of these stories. Whether believable or not they certainly add a magic to the past.
Turkish Cypriot People
North Cyprus is the Turkish-Cypriot side of the border. Due to North Cyprus being a fairly small region it maintains a genuine friendliness about it, and laid back charm amongst the people. You’ll find that everyone here is more than willing to make visitors feel welcomed, with good food and helpful advice on the best places to visit. Turkish coffee is usually on offer as a way to have a chin wag and bonding session, while the hand crafted souvenirs show the humble and heartfelt attention the locals put into things. Turkish-Cypriots are extremely proud of their traditions, and have an endearing enthusiasm for their culture, happy to share it with everyone. They’ll make sure that any guests feel safe and secure in their new surroundings, inviting them to experience the area from the authentic perspective of a North Cyprus resident.
Philately is an otherwise fancy name for the study of stamps. This is different to stamp collecting, in that it is more a focus on analysis of the stamps. So I guess you’re wondering what this has to do with going on holiday. Well, it doesn’t, but it is an interesting fact about North Cyprus. North Cyprus has some of the most desired stamps in the world due to the fact it has such a rich and fascinating history. As a region so full of ancient artefacts and its division from the South there is an intriguing narrative to be read from the stamps. Leading up to 1960, when Cyprus became an independent republic stamps showing scenes related to Cyprus began to come into circulation, while the old British stamps phased out or had ‘Cyprus Republic’ printed over them. The postal service issues a limited amount of new series each year that help to promote and educate others in the exciting and curious Cypriot past. There are many commemorative stamps, along with ones showing art work.
Philately in North Cyprus is a unique route to the heart of a landscapes past and treasures.
The idea of ecotourism is to promote travel to places that have stayed relatively untouched by human intervention over the years. It is tourism that focuses on the nature and traditions of a country rather than the commercial additions that have been put in place to attract more visitors. North Cyprus is a prime spot for ecotourism due to its unspoilt nature and emphasis on local life. You can explore the villages, trying fresh foods, browsing market stools and perhaps attending the local festivals. All the while you can mingle with the North Cypriot people, who are always welcoming and friendly. You can gain an insight into how they live and perhaps share some anecdotes over Turkish coffee or tea.
There’s the opportunity to see some incredible wild life and plants, to swim with turtles and learn the craft of skilled carpet makers and cooks. Most activities such as horse riding allow you to embrace a simple way of life, without the rush of traffic or busy streets lined with buildings.
You can spend days embracing the nature, swept away by the calm Mediterranean ambience. All such things let visitors experience an authentic idea of the countries culture, and give them a chance to feel history come to life with the many artefacts and monuments left behind by ancient civilisations. If you want a holiday like no other, where a quiet contentedness is the soul to the dusty sun stroked landscapes then North Cyprus is a wonderful choice. You’ll find it a destination that truly takes you far away from the buzz of fast paced western culture.
Ecotourism is a fantastic way of broadening people’s minds, and promoting treasure like locations that have managed to maintain the traditions of their country.