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Thursday 13th June
Cyprus Information - Page 1
The Republic of Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean (part of the Middle East), located thirty-five miles south of Turkey and sixty-four miles south-west of Syria.

Nicosia, the capital city, is located centrally on the island. It is divided into two sections, with the Turkish and the Greek communities separated by a fortified border. Larnaka, one of Cyprus' main ports, is on the southern coast of the island. The most important cities in Northern Cyprus are Famagusta and Kyrenia.

Cyprus consists of two mountainous regions, separated by the Mesaoria plain. The Troodos, the southern mountain group, is taller with the highest peak, Mount Olympus, rising two thousand metres above sea level. The Kyrenia mountain group, in the north, is about half as high; the Pentadaktylos Mountain is very striking with a peak resembling five fingers.

The weather in Cyprus is usually sunny and hot with some rain during the winter months.

Cyprus has a variety of flora. Flowers include cyclamen, cistus, chrysanthemums, poppies and orchids. Many species of orchids can be found in Cape Greko National Forest Park, in the southeast of the island.

The Larnaca Salt Lake is on the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance. Salt lakes, near Larnaka and Limassol, are home to migrating birds and flamingoes in the cooler season of the year.

Urbanization has led to a decrease in wildlife habitats although there are still a few moufflon (wild sheep) which is the island's largest animal. Small creatures are bats, chameleons, geckos, tree frogs, snakes, and praying mantids. Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the beach at Lara; there are green turtles and monk seals in the Akamas Peninsula.

Remains of Neolithic circular buildings are found near Larnaka and on the foothills of the Troodos. Kition (Larnaka), an ancient city, was rebuilt by the Mycenaean Greeks. There are also Roman theatres in Kourion (Limassol) and Salamis.

Many Christian churches were built during the Byzantine era (330-1191 AD); an example is the eleventh century Angeloktisti church in Kiti, near Larnaka. After the Turkish invasion in 1571 a number of churches were converted to mosques and minarets added - one such conversion is the Omeriye Mosque.

The French Lusignans ruled Cyprus from the end of the twelfth century to the end of the fifteenth century. During this period Gothic architecture flourished, especially in Nicosia.

The Venetian (1489-1571) occupation left fortified walls in Nicosia (Leftkosia) and Famagusta. A number of monasteries, such as the monastery at Agia Napa, were also built during this period.

Some Turkish architecture survives from the Ottoman period (1571-1878), in particular the eighteenth century Kamares Aqueduct.

British Colonial buildings, such as St Paul's Anglican Church in Nicosia, remain from the British administration of the later nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.

The population was estimated at 1,120,489 in 2011; the largest percentage is Greek. A small number of Greeks live in the Turkish Cypriot area and a small number of Turks live in the Greek Cypriot area.

Greek is the main language in the South and Turkish in the North. Many of the people speak English.

Seventy-eight percent of the Cypriot people are Greek Orthodox and eighteen percent are Muslim. There are minorities such as Maronites.

A meze consists of a number of small dishes, sometimes up to thirty, and may be served before the main course of a meal. Meze dishes include Greek salad, halloumi, small meat dishes and dips such as houmous, taramosalata and tahini.

Main meals are kleftiko (roasted lamb), kebabs, moussaka, stuffed vine leaves, kalimari (squid) and fish dishes. Potatoes are a popular vegetable. Other vegetables available are green beans, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, onions and peppers.

A variety of fruits are grown: apples, apricots, cherries, figs, grapes, peaches, strawberries, pomegranates and watermelons.

Honey is used in pastries such as baklava and kataifi. Loukoumi or Turkish Delight, called Cyprus Delight in the South, is a well known sweet.

Coffee, preferred strong, is a social drink in the kafeneions where men gather to drink coffee, talk and play backgammon.

Wine is produced. Other drinks are brandy, ouzo, Zivania (fire water), and Keo the local beer.

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