As this map of the Mediterranean shows, Cyprus is really pushed into Asia and closer to Africa than to Europe. And as I lay bobbing in the lovely blue waters of Larnaca’s bay in the south-east of the Island of Cyprus , I knew that a bit further down to my left was Syria, straight down was Israel and to my right, Egypt. I was truly in the cusp of Asia Minor and Northern Africa and just a stone’s throw away from Southern Europe.
Cyprus is mostly Greek, which is surprising considering Greece is relatively far away. The other part of CYprus is Turkey. The Greeks and the Turks have been traditional competitors in the Eastern Mediterranean rim. And as is the case with such long running feuds between two countries who see themselves as ‘ancient civilizations’, history can never be forgotten and solving problems among the two is a pretty torturous process.
IN 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus and took a portion of the Island. The Greek Cypriots screamed blue murder and now call the rest of the island (the non-Turkish part), ‘Free Cyprus’, which does seem to be a loaded term. In the span of just the 3 days I was there, I too got a small taste of the long running animosity. On the very first day of my visit, I was talking to a middle-aged lady owner of a book-shop. I casually asked her about the language of Cyprus. She looked at me for 10 seconds in shock and sniffed, “Greek. The Cypriots are Greek people”. And she absolutely refused to talk to me after that. Although 35 years have passed, the war is fresh in people’s minds and unsuspecting visitors can get caught in the cross-fire.