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Traditions and Customs
Folk Dancing
Traditional Hand Crafts
Evil Eye

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 importance.

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 any home.

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 famous lacework.

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 music lovers.


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 Dancing
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 weddings.

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 worship.

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 crochet.
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 motifs.
    • 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 linen.
    • 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 is practiced.
    • 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 Stigrist.

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 numberless modes.

Evil Eye
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 boncuk.
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.

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