NORTH CYPRUS CULTURE.
Traditional Hand Crafts
Traditions and Customs
Cypriots are very proud of their cultural heritage, which stretches
back more than 9000 years. However, you'll probably find that Cyprus
today is more concerned with the events of the last 20 years than
those of a millennium ago. The north of the island is busy re-creating
itself in the image of Turkey, changing names to Turkish and embracing
the life and culture of its northern neighbour.
The traditions and customs of a culture can best be observed in
ceremonies and on special occasions. Between the Turkish Cypriot
community, some of these are wedding ceremonies, feast days (Ramazan),
birth, children starting school, etc. Another important characteristic
of the Turkish Cypriots is their hospitality. In the past, the importance
of the guest was relative to their social status and their age.
Serving the guests usually started with coffee or sherbets, especially
those of honey, rose and carob. Fruit paste serving was also of
Cypriot culture is also reflected in the rich folk art of the island.
Age-old crafts, handed down from one generation to another, are
faithfully carried on to this day by skilful hands and nimble fingers,
fashioning handicrafts, both decorative and useful, that would grace
Carnival is one of the best known Cypriot and throughout the year
there are also exhibitions, concerts, drama and folk festivals.
Whatever the present-day situation may be, Cyprus is littered with
reminders of the island's history. Many villages specialize in a
particular art form, and as you travel around Cyprus you'll see
pottery, silver and copperware, basket weaving, tapestry and Lefkara's
North Cyprus is becoming a generous host to many cultural events.
The island has started to host many cultural events over the past
few years. They are generally held at historical sites such as Bellapais
abbey, Kyrenia castle, Salamis Ampitheatre and Othello's Tower,
such events have always attracted wide interest and you can come
across cultural activities almost every weekend making it possible
for visitors to experience such culture.
During the spring months of April and May Bellapais Abbey plays
host to an array of celebrated musicians all over the world.
Another city beginning to make a name for hosting music activities
in Famagusta. It is possible to listen to many mucisians courtesy
of Famagusta municipality's annual music festival. Apart from the
packed festival programme there are individual events to entertain
Ottoman Turks built many public baths in major towns on the island.
There are separate baths for men and women. After entering the hamam
wrapped in a towel you go to a large heated headstone in the middle
where one perspires and is rubbed down by a bath attendant. This
method of bathing is supposed to be refreshing and many of the old
marble baths are architecturally interesting.
Folk is an old tradition in North Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot people
do their folk-dances at the ceremonious occassions such as marriages,
kina nights, harvest days, etc. These dances are generally performed
in the following sequence : meeting dances, henkerchief dances,
“zeybek” dance, women dances, dramatic dances, and butcher
dances. Meeting dances consist of men and women gathering. The women’s
dances are generally slower in tempo.
Cypriot men used to dance mostly during wedding festivities, festivals
and at various junkets on high days and holidays, but also in coffee-houses
in the evenings, on threshing-floors, and wherever men gathered
together. Social convention restricted women to mainly dancing at
Folk dances are the expression of feelings, thoughts and enjoyment
of the people.
The origin of folk dancing is very old. It may even be said to
be related to shamanist ceremonies and early religious and incantational
In the period we are considering, roughly from 1910 to the seventies,
the basic dance of both men and women was the "kartchilamas"
performed by a confronted pair of dancers. The "kartchilamas"
consists of a series of dances that vary slightly according to the
performers, the locality, or the era. These dances are essentially
parts of a whole, or suite, the parts being known as the "kartchilamas"
or "first", "second", "third", "fourth",
and "fifth" or "balos", rounded off by other
dances such as the "syrtos", "zeipekkikos",
and "mandra". A feast would usually end with one of the
pan-hellenic dances, the "kalamatianos", and a circle-dance
in which all might join.
Traditional Hand Crafts
The lace industry of Cyprus should need no further advertisement
than a simple statement of the fact that Leonardo Da Vinci visited
the island to purchase lace for the Milan Cathedral.
However, lace is only one aspect of the many-faceted tradition in
local craftsmanship which includes colourful homespun linen, thatched
chairs, painted gourds, worked silverware, pottery and intricate
A centre has now been established in Nicosia to act as a showpiece
for the Handicrafts Authority and provide training. At the same
time, incentives have been provided to village communities to build
up cottage industries. Especially successful has been the revival
of lace in Athienou, Kornos and Kilani, and pottery in Kornos, Phini
and Ayios Dimitrios. The Authority has also trained refugee craftswomen
to ensure that their inherited skills - such as the weaving of Lefkoniko
linens - do not become extinct.
• Yemeni (Traditional Head Scarf)
Yemeni was widely worn by Turkish Cypriot women. It was a symbol
of richness. The material for Yemeni was produced at home by using
thin cotton thread and was finely decorated with pretty symbols
of flowers, leaves, and branches. The edges were sown with various
• Lace-Work of Lefkara
This is one of the most important handicrafts of Cyprus . The linen
that is to be worked on is first tied and stretched on a pillow.
Different techniques like cutting out and sewing in shapes are used
to decorate the final product. After the motifs are completed, an
arch is sewen all around the lace. In the past, they were mainly
made for personal use. Currently, they are produced mainly for economical
purposes, and are sold to the tourists.
• Hesap Works
Hesap works were produced both for economical and personal use.
This name is given to these works because while decorating them
with different motifs, each strand is counted one by one.
• Silk Works
One of the most widely used handcrafts in Cyprus was the use of
silkworm cocoons. After carefully removing the silkworm, the holeless
cocoon was used in either picture works or for decorating dresses.
Pictures were worked on white, black, or claret red colored Japanese
• Plant Knitting
Thin branches of plants are cut into thin ribbons in different ways.
Mesarya and Karpaz are the two main regions where plant knitting
• Hand-woven Kilims
Beautiful and interesting kilim weaving is done in the villages
in the Karpas peninsula. Besides the boldly patterned kilim rugs,
and carpets, there are embroidered rugs called `cicim` and rugs
of Angora goat hair. Copper and brass-ware, coffee pots, candlesticks,
hand-painted pottery, silver jewellery, and many more.
Throughout the centuries both the history and culture of Cyprus
have been formed by its location at the crossroads of cultural exchange
between Europe, Asia and Africa . Antiquities excavated on Cyprus
bear witness to a culture influenced from abroad, due to its geographic
location between the great cultures of the ancient world, but which
developed from these influences its own unique tradition. Though
less well known than the art of Ancient Greece and Rome , it has
a charm all its own.
The Kyrenia Museum of Folk Art situated on the Kyrenia Harbour road
was opened in 1974. It is a fine example of pre XVII Century buildings
which have traditionally housed Cypriots.
These buildings consisting of a ground floor and an upper floor
have their main entrances opening to the harbour. These typical
Cypriot houses contain many traditional Cypriot items. On the ground
floor, there are items such as oil-mill, plough, agricultural instruments,
large earthenware fan, and workbenches which were used until recently,
but are not known by the younger generation.
There is a room for a watchman on the stairway leading to the upper
floor. In the first room of the upper floor there are examples of
especially chosen works and handy works (crochet work, materials
embroidered with colorful threads or silver threads, bedspreads,
tables covers, head scarves, pillow cases, woolen socks and bowls
etc...) from various areas of Cyprus , displayed in glass cabinets.
The second room used as a kitchen contains water jugs, wooden mortars,
wine bowls, and ceramic bowls.
There is a corner in the third and largest room which was used as
a resting place. In the middle of the room, a wooden bed, a wooden
cupboard, a cabinet containing various women's and men's clothes,
raised wooden shelves with ceramic and metal cups displayed upon
them. The third largest room has been arranged in this way. It is
possible to see, clothes, chests, tables, chair, wall cupboards,
doors and windows, in the all parts of the museum
Cyprus changed hands numerous times prior to the medieval era, and
was an important outpost of Christianity and European civilization
during the Crusades . The tumultuous history introduced a variety
of styles, including music from Armenia , France , Greece and Arabs
. The island's peak as a cultural capital of Europe occurred from
1359 to 1432 .
During that peak, Pierre 1 de Lusignan made a three year tour of
Europe, bringing with him an entourage of musicians that so impressed
Charles V in Rheims that he donated 80 francs in gold to them. On
his return to Cyprus , Pierre I brought with him the French Ars
Nova and, later, the Ars Subtilior. French musicians became well
established in Cyprus , and the city of Nicosia became a capital
of the Ars Subtilior style.
Pierre 1's successor, Janus 1 de Lusignan saw Cypriot music evolve
into its own variety of music. His daughter, Anna, brought a manuscript
after her marriage to Louis, Count of Geneva, which contained 159
folios with over two hundred polyphonic compositions, both sacred
and secular. The manuscript is now contained within the National
Library of Turin.
The folk music of the Greek-speaking population of Cyprus shares
some characteristics with other regional Greek music. Ornamental
patterns are transmitted by oral tradition and are added at the
discretion of the player. One pattern, a slide either to a note
or between two notes, is found on the Greek mainland, the Greek
islands, and Cyprus . This example of a Cypriot wedding dance features
violin and guitar.
North Cyprus is becoming a generous host to cultural events. The
island began to host many cultural events over the past few years.
Bellapais Abbey in Kyrenia , North Cyprus which has witnessed singing
the old songs for ages now hosts modern and classical concerts these
days. During the spring months of April and May Bellapais Abbey
plays host and array of celebrated musicians all over the world.
Organized by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus friends of
Music Society, The fourth of these international concerts was held
this year and featured world famous pianist Viv Mclean Matthew Barley
on Viola and solo pianist Ozgur Aydin.
Numerous concerts have been performed in this 13th Century Lusignan
Monastery. Salamis , in Famagusta is another such historic site
used for concerts. Both of these places will now host cultural activities
and music festivals during spring and summer periods.
It is possible to listen to many artiest courtesy of Famagusta municipality's
annual music festival. Apart from the packed festival program there
are individual events to entertain music lovers. A jazz concert,
for example, was staged on 27th May in Famagusta. Titled jazz from
Paris this unforgettable concert featured the world famous Gilbert
Today, Turkish music is a fusion of classical art music, folk songs,
Ottoman military music, Islamic hymns and the norms of western art
music. Classical Turkish music is the courtly music of the Ottoman
sultans that is an offspring of the Arabic and Persian traditions.
This music is not written down in scores; with only the maquam,
which is a similar pattern of major-minor scale system, being marked
down. Improvisation (taksim) is a traditional variation technique,
featuring the form. One of the characteristics of Turkish classical
and folk music, as well as the military music and the hymns, is
being monophonic. There are about 24 unequal intervals and almost
The evil eye is a common belief among Mediterranean people. It is
widely believed that if one person gives another a hateful look,
he or she may die or become ill from its negative effects. The strength
behind the evil look is the evil eye. It is also believed that the
evil eye doesn’t only affect humans, but animals, plants and
homes, so the blue beads are used for protection.
This amulet against evil eye is very typical in North Cyprus.
You can find it all over Turkey and North Cyprus: women use it as
bracelets, earrings or necklaces; Turkish people use it hung in
their house, office and their car, also babies have it hung in their
cloths. It should be mainly blue and look like an eye. There are
very different sizes but the shape is usually round. The Turkish
name for this amulet that protects one from the evil eye is nazar
But what is behind this turkish superstition? Once upon a time there
was a rock by the sea that even with the force of a hundred men
and a lot of dynamite couldn't be moved or cracked. There was also
a man in this town by the sea, who was known to carry the evil eye
(Nazar). After much effort and endeavor, the town people brought
the man to the rock, and the man, upon looking at the rock said,
"My God ! What a big rock !" The instant he said it, there
was a rip, roar and crack, and instantly the immense and impossible
rock was found to be cracked in two.
The force of the evil eye (nazar) is a widely accepted and feared
element in Turkish and Turkish Cypriot daily life. So the idea is
to protect yourself, your house, your office and loved ones.The
Nazar amulet can be seen dangling from the bumpers of taxi cabs,
pinned to the clothes of babies, built into the foundation of modern
office buildings and guarding the doorways of kebap houses. If you
want to use it in your house you should hang it in the entrance
of the house, so any visitor will see it. If you want to wear, the
most common one is a small amulet that can be hung on your cloth,
or from your bag. Also you will find bracelets, earrings or necklaces
in different forms and shapes to be used.
Turkish people believe that with the evil eye amulet you will be
protected and all the bad energy will be directed to the amulet
and it will brake. No bad energy will reach you since you are protected
with the amulet of nazar boncuk. The protection of the Nazar is
used for anything new or likely to attract praise. The belief is
that even well-intentioned compliments include a conscious or unconscious
dose of envy and resentment. The bead reflects the evil intent back
to the onlooker. It somewhat resembles an eye and it is said the
typical blue color is a factor in protecting the user.