Cyprus’s cultural heritage dates back to more than 9,000 years. Some in northern Cyprus today are concerned with recreating the country’s image to that of Turkey, including the practice of people changing their names to Turkish names and embracing their way of life.
However, at the same time, northern Cyprus continues to attempt to create its own independent identity, with many places having been recently renamed.
Traditions and customs of Cypriot culture may be observed in its ceremonies and special events. In Turkish Cypriot communities, the best examples of these are wedding ceremonies, the birth of a child, Ramazan (feast days) and the first day of school for children.
Also, characteristic of Turkish Cypriots is their hospitality; the significance of a guest in the past was related to their social status and age.
The culture of Cyprus is also reflected in the rich folk tradition of the island. Age-old crafts are handed down from generation to generation by Cypriot craftsmen fashioning useful and decorative handicrafts.
Cyprus’s ancient monuments have been honoured by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which included nine of the Byzantine mountain churches of the island and the town of Kato Pafos in the World Cultural Heritage List.
Folk traditions showcase ancient themes, such as the island’s largest event Kataklysmos (Flood Festival) in Larnaka, which includes a procession to the sea and people sprinkling each other with water, in memory of Noah’s flood and the coming ashore of the resurrected St Lazarus.
Festivities of Carnival in the city of Lemesos take place 50 days before the Greek Christian Orthodox Easter, the beginning of Lent. Another festival in Lemesos held every September is the 10-day Wine Festival, which is a tribute to the fruit of Cyprus’s vines.
At the end of June, St Paul’s Feast in Pafos is also celebrated, where St Paul is believed to have journeyed after he left Jerusalem.
Cyprus is rich in dance and musical traditions, quite different from those of Greece. Folk dances are typically accompanied by the violin and lauto, a kind of lute with four double strings and a quill from a vulture or eagle. The dances are performed with couples, face to face.
Men and women are sometimes barefoot and the dances allude to courtship rituals in the village, mostly popular at wedding ceremonies. Cyprus hosts many celebrations and colourful festivals, such as the Panigiri Festival, a traditional open-air event held mainly in villages on ‘saint’s name day’.
Cyprus is covered with reminders of its ancient history. The island’s ancient Roman mosaics, Greek temples and 15th-century frescos still influence artists of today. Many of the villages in Cyprus specialise in a particular form of handicraft, weaving of baskets, silver and copperware, pottery, and the island’s traditional Lefkara lace embroidery.
There are a number of museums in Cyprus, which pay homage to the ancient culture of the island. The Kyrenia Museum of Folk Art opened in 1974, and is situated on Kyrenia Harbour Road, which is lined with traditional early 17th-century houses.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the largest in Europe, houses a collection of Cypriot art, with more than 700 objects dating from the early Bronze Age to the Roman Empire period.
The Cyprus Museum in Nicosia boasts one of the richest and most representative collections of Cypriot objects from the Neolithic period to Roman times. A number of district archaeological museums and local museums exist in towns throughout Cyprus, as well Folk Art museums in Lefkara, Yeroskipou and Phikardhou.