Spring Break: A Day Around Larnaca

I began my second half of Spring Break by flying into the Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus and meeting my father. As we both arrived in the evening, we spent the rest of the night picking up the rental car (and remembering how to drive on the left) getting dinner, and finding our hotel. The next day we set out to see the sights around Larnaca.

Our first stop was the Church of Saint Lazarus as it was right across from our hotel. Built in the ninth century, it is named after the New Testament figure Lazarus of Bethany who was raised from the dead. According to Orthodox tradition, Lazarus was then forced to flee Judea, because of rumoured plots on his life on his life, and came to Cyprus. There, he was appointed as the first Bishop of Kition (present-day Larnaca) and was said to have lived to 30 more years and was buried here after his second and final death.

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The front of the Church of Saint Lazarus.
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The supposed tomb of Saint Lazarus.

The next site we went to was the Larnaca Fort. We unfortunately, on my decision, chose to walk around the coast-side first and got trapped in the spitting rain. Luckily there was a short reprieve and we entered the fort, starting with the inside exhibits.

 

It is unclear when the fort was first built, but best estimates place the construction around the 12th century. By the 1700s, it was abandoned until British rule of the island when they used the fort as a prison and built gallows. The last execution by hanging took place in 1948.

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Cannons pointed towards the ocean on the walls of the Larnaca Fort.
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A carved tomb at the Larnaca Fort.
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One of the watchtowers at the Larnaca Fort.
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Ottoman gravestones from the Larnaca Fort.

The architecture in Larnaca is a blend of old and new. In the old-town, there were a lot of abandoned houses, in addition to newer infrastructure.

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Old arches support a mosque.
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A white and blue house in Larnaca.

A little outside the city, though still in the middle of modern life, lies the Kamares Aqueduct, built from 1747-1750. The structure was financed by the Ottoman Governor of Larnaca and was in operation until 1939. From the aqueduct there was a trail to the Larnaca Salt Lake which is an important bird sanctuary.

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A view from the top of the aqueduct looking towards Larnaca.
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The Kamares Aqueduct, featuring 75 arches.
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A view of the Larnaca Salt Lake.

On one side of the Salt Lake is Hala Sultan Tekke, also known as the Mosque of Umm Haram. Umm Haram (Turkish being Hala Sultan) was the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s wet-nurse. According to accounts, Umm Haram fell from her mule and died during a siege of Larnaca and was buried here. During the Ottoman administration of Cyprus, a mosque complex was built around the tomb in the 1700s. In recent years, the site has been attacked a number of times by vandals.

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The author taking a video of the 20+ cats across from Hala Sultan Tekke. Photo courtesy of Geoff Kuenning.
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A view of Hala Sultan Tekke from the side.
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One of the entrances to Hala Sultan Tekke.

As we had the chance to, we decided to go inside. The mosque offered conservative robes to borrow in addition to head scarves for women. There was also an area to take off your shoes. Inside, the building was modestly decorated and in the back were a few tombs. In addition to the actual mosque, there was a beautiful garden and some ancient ruins, though there was no sign describing what they were from.

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The rack for hanging robes.
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The placement of shoes outside the entrance to the mosque.

In between Larnaca and Limassol was the UNESCO site of Choirokoitia. Discovered in 1934, Choirokoitia is an archaeological site dating from the Neolithic age (seventh millennium BC). At the bottom of the site, archaeologists reconstructed a section of the enclosure wall, the access to the village, and five residential units.

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The reconstruction of the Neolithic village.
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An inside view of what the inside of a Neolithic hut would have looked like.

The Neolithic village is located on the slopes of a hill partly enclosed by a meander of the Maroni River. Enclosing the village are successive phases of a wall with a hidden entrance meant to control access to the site. The houses were made from sun-dried mud bricks and stone with openings in the wall in place of windows. The floors of these units were also used for the inhumation of the deceased; this stopped death from breaking community cohesion.

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The remains of Neolithic houses.
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The view from the Neolithic village.
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The remains of the enclosure wall.
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More remains of the Neolithic village.

Unfortunately we only had 20 minutes to explore the site due to the rain and the manager wishing to close, but it was enough to get an overview of the village. We then drove to the capital of Nicosia (on the way seeing a double rainbow) where we were getting dinner and staying for two nights.

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3 thoughts on “Spring Break: A Day Around Larnaca

  1. It’s really nice to read some of the history behind the photos. I did view Dad’s slideshow of 500+ pics but I had no commentary to reference. The ancient history of Cyprus is very fascinating. I need to read up on the mythology as well as history from this part of the world.

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  2. Wow – very ancient history there. I can see why Dad chose this place to visit. The Cypriots certainly built their structures to last a long time, and thanks to archaeologists, visitors can get a good idea of how it looked in Neolithic times. That the aqueduct was in active use up until 1939 speaks to their knowledge and skill in engineering and construction in the 18th century. No food photos?

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