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10.000 Years of History

The cultural heritage of a people is its most important asset, its identity and a sense of continuation through time. Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and standing as it does at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa it has had a tumultuous history. The Mycenaeans Achaeans brought their civilisation here, establishing the first Greek roots 3.000 years ago. Many others passed through, including Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans and the British. The apostles of Christ walked this land. The splendour of Byzantium, founded by Constantine the Great at Constantinople, encompassed the island of Cyprus. Here are prehistoric settlements, ancient Greek temples, Roman theatres and villas, Early Christian basilicas, Byzantine churches and monasteries, Crusader castles, Gothic churches and Venetian fortifications. In the villages, old customs and traditions are still kept alive. Young girls still engage in lace-making in the beautiful village ofLefkarajust as their grandmothers did before them. Potters still create wondrous anthropomorphic shapes to decorate their earthenware vessels at picturesque Foini and the sound of hand-looms can still be heard in Fyti, home of attractive hand-woven materials, whilst, men in traditional baggy trousers, 'vraka', still congregate at the coffee shop for a game of backgammon.

In Cyprus the 21st century rubs shoulders with a civilisation 10000 years old. There are festivals whose origins stretch back into antiquity; like Carnival and Anthestiria organised in honour of God Dionysos; at Kouklia, where the Temple of Aphrodite once stood, a church was known until a few years ago as The Church of the Virgin Mary Aphroditissa'. The aura of the Great Goddess of Cyprus is still present in Pafos, and all over 'the Sweet Land of Cyprus' in the beauty of the landscape, the mildness of the climate and the charm of the people. The immortal words of Euripides and Sophocles ring out on warm summer evenings at the Ancient Kourion Theatre and the Pafos Odeon during performances of ancient Greek drama.

And in September wine flows free and the spirit of Dionysos, god of wine and merriment, is present throughout the Wine Festival. The Mediaeval folk songs are still sung in Cyprus keeping alive the legends of Digenis, the unconquerable border guard of Byzantium, and of his beautiful Queen, Rigaina. In the narrow streets of the walled city of Lefkosia the coppersmith works with the metal as did his ancestors 5,000 years ago. In the shade of old houses with their overlooking balconies, the flavour of the past lingers among the old typical stone houses.

In Cyprus the past lives side by side with the present in a unique tapestry of living history.


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