One of the luxuries of living in the Middle East is the proximity to much of the rest of the world. So while we are here in Doha, we are trying to see the world while we can. Living in Australia is the best, but it is a very long way from pretty much anywhere. Last weekend we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary with a short trip to Cyprus. To be honest Cyprus wasn’t a place I had always wanted to visit, but it was close (3½ hours flight) and relatively inexpensive, so off we went.
We loved Cyprus! It has everything – beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, great climate, wineries, great food, and history galore. 4 days was not nearly long enough, but we packed a lot into our time there. We will definitely try to go back one day.
The Cyprus Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts covering the whole span of human history. Endlessly fascinating! I just love the glimpses these ancient relics give us into the lives of people who lived so long ago. We visited Greek and Roman ruins 2000 years old, exploring streets, shops, temples, theatres and marketplaces which once were alive and thriving. We investigated ancient burial chambers carved underground from solid rock that are now home to many pigeons but still retain an atmosphere of mystery and solemnity. We saw an early Christian church in Pafos built on the site where Paul & Barnabas blinded a sorcerer and converted the proconsul (Acts 13:4-12). We climbed to the ramparts of a Crusader Castle built in 1454 and gazed out over the surrounding landscape.
We strolled through the divided capital of Lefkosia (formerly Nicosia). Since 1974 there has been what they call the Green Line (which is anything but green, and full of derelict houses and barbed wire) dividing the northern (Turkish) side from the southern (Greek) side. Australia has no land borders, so we found this fascinating, if rather sad. The old walled city of Lefkosia is bustling with young people in trendy cafes amongst the faded charm of colonial style buildings. The intact walls around the city date from the Venetian period in the 1500s – we parked our car in a car park on top of the walls – it’s not every day you can say that.
The site of the ancient city of Pafos is a UNESCO World Heritage site, due in part to the incredible mosaics unearthed there. This is what the UNESCO website has to say about Pafos:
Pafos, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, was a centre of the cult of Aphrodite and of pre-Hellenic fertility deities. Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace was on the island of Cyprus, where her temple was erected by the Mycenaeans in the 12th century BC and continued to be used until the Roman period. The site is a vast archaeological area, with remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs. These illustrate Pafos’ exceptional architectural and historic value and contribute extensively to our understanding of ancient architecture, ways of life, and thinking. The villas are richly adorned with mosaic floors that are among the most beautiful in the world. These mosaics constitute an illuminated album of ancient Greek mythology, with representations of Greek gods, goddesses and heroes, as well as activities of everyday life.
We took hundreds of photos of the mosaics, which we found to be both beautiful and fascinating. I especially loved the details of clothing and sandals, weapons and furniture, animals and birds and the insights that provides into an ancient world. It struck me that those ancient mosaic artists were really just like us as photographers and scrapbookers. Just like them, we see the need to preserve the pictures and stories that tell of our lives, to leave a mark on our little part of the world, something for future generations to remember us and know who we were. I love that the quote above even calls the mosaics “an illuminated album”! In this day and age of disposable and replaceable and planned obsolescence I wonder what will last. Our cities? Our way of life? What will future archaeologists learn of life in the 21st century? What will our children and our children’s children know about our lives, our likes our hopes and dreams, what we did for fun, what we wore, and how we lived? We are no different to those ancient artisans, painstakingly choosing coloured marble, cutting it into fragments and lovingly placing each tiny piece to form a picture. Fortunately for us, clicking the shutter button and creating albums in Artisan is a lot less back-breaking!
Here’s a quick page I made with just a few of the mosaic photos – keep an eye on our Facebook page for more Cyprus pages over the next while!