Cyprus 2013

11 – 13 July. Welcome to my blog. These posts will be about my trip to Cyprus in July/August 2013, partly to work as a volunteer on the archaeological dig at Idalion, (coordinated by Lycoming College, Pennsylvania), and partly to lounge around on the beach and do nothing interspersed with occasional trips to historical sites.

In terms of human occupation, Cyprus pretty well goes back to the year dot. It was a major exporter of copper in ancient times (very handy for the Bronze Age, as you can imagine, bronze being an alloy of copper and tin) and Cypriot pottery turns up everywhere in the region.

But before my Cyprus adventures, my stop over in Abu Dhabi deserves an honourable mention. The plan was to spend a day sight seeing before overnighting in Bahrain, and flying to Cyprus the next day. I arrived with my ears ringing with the piercing squeals of three toddlers under the age of four who were directly behind me on the flight from Sydney and were pissed off, to put it mildly, with the idea of being cooped up in a plane for 14 hours with a bunch of strangers. (Fair enough.) I walked out of the airport terminal into heat. and I mean, HEAT. I had heard whispers around town that the Middle East gets, well, a little warm in the summer. But the words ‘heat’ and ‘summer’ are redundant in the context. Imagine being beaten over the head with a feral blowtorch and you’ve pretty well got it. Wow. I wondered how the hell I was going to cope digging in Cyprus if the heat was going to be anything like this.

I also walked out into Ramadan, one of the major festivals of the Islamic calendar. It’s traditional at this time to give to charity and undertake other acts of generosity, and to fast between sunrise and sunset. No eating and drinking in public is allowed between those times. I drank bottled water and crammed peanuts and cashews, purchased at a newsagents at the airport, into my mouth in secluded corners and in the lady’s toilets.

Before sunrise it’s traditional to participate in a meal called Suhoor, and after sunset, a banquet called Iftar, usually a buffet with an emphasis on traditional Arabic/Persian cuisine. The Abu Dhabi tourist publications were full of advertisements for the Iftar buffets offered by the major restaurants/hotels in town, and let me tell you, they looked mouthwatering. I can imagine they would be especially mouthwatering if you had been fasting all day.

With its population of ex-pats, it appears that, like Christmas in some respects, Ramadan is ubiquitous and not just for Muslims.

I’m afraid what with the heat and the jet lag and the absence of cappuchino in my life (due to Ramadan all cafes and restaurants were shut) I only lasted half a day before I fled back to the airport, paying extra $$$ for an airconditioned taxi as I couldn’t bear to wait around for a bus getting the remaining moisture sucked out of me. (And may I say right here that the bus and taxi drivers were considerably more pleasant than I would have been had I been fasting. I would have been ready to rip someone’s leg off by about 11.00am.) It was enough time to check out the Central Market (a modern reproduction of those unbeatable Arabic markets, but sadly, not the same as the mesmeric Damascene and Aleppo ones) and for me to glimpse the shimmering white mirage of the Sheik Zayed Mosque, which makes the Taj Mahal look like something built with Lego. I wanna come back one day and see the inside.

And that leaves one question.

WHAT IS IT WITH THE MIDDLE EAST?

It’s dusty, it’s dirty, sometimes dangerous, everyone speaks a different language, and the summer heat is like a feral blowtorch. Yet as I waited for my plane out of the place, I was thinking: Must come back here in the future. In Ramadan. I’ll hole up in a nice hotel with a pool and fast all day. Then after sunset I’ll participate in one of those Iftar buffet banquets. And just think! Ramadan start with the first sighting of the crescent new moon. How romantic is that? I wanna see that mosque. And how about all the other places in the Middle East I haven’t seen yet? I’ll bet my house would look nice with some Arabic handicrafts.

Thankfully the Cyprus heat is a lot more pleasant.

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~ by margoforte12 on July 13, 2013.

2 Responses to “Cyprus 2013”

  1. Hi Margaret, glad you are travelling okay. Just a thought for the future: Not sure what the locals would think if you and your bikini were ensconced beside the pool during Ramadan next visit (and I don’t mean your body personally, but all the unclothed tourists generally!). It’s difficult enough for them philosophically to face such sights and to serve alcohol the rest of the year, let alone during this most important holy month. We all have to do things in our jobs we don’t like/agree with just to keep it, but this must be extra hard, especially while fasting, especially in the height of summer, as Ramadan will be for a number of years yet.

  2. Oh golly I laughed out loud at the image of you furtively sipping water and nibbling peanuts in secluded corners Marg. And no coffee!!!! If you wore a burka you could eat and drink anything under there without troubling anyone.

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