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Cyprus

What’s the drive from Cyprus airport to Nicosia like?

You arrive at the Larnaca airport, so named because it lies just four kilometres from the city of Larnaca.

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It’s a one-hour drive to Nicosia. Expect to see mostly open road and blue skies. The ride is very smooth and virtually bump free.

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Notice that the board says “Lefkosia.” That’s the Turkish name for the capital city of Nicosia.

Close to the airport is the Larnaca Salt Lake, next to which stands a mosque. It’s a place of great religious significance:

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According to legend, Muhammad’s paternal aunt, accompanying her husband on an Arab raid on Cyprus in 649, was attacked by Byzantine forces here. Unfortunately, she fell from her mule and broke her neck. She was buried on the spot, and the Hala Sultan Tekke was built around her grave.

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That is why, the mosque is the fourth most important holy place in the world for Muslims.

The mosque complex itself was built in a series of stages in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A shrine was built by Sheikh Hassan in A.D 1760. Later, the mosque was constructed in its present form around A.D 1816/17.

The Salt Lake itself is a special protected area, where 85 species of birds congregate and migrate. When we went, there were no flamingoes around, but on a bird-rich day, the Lake is sure to be worth a longer stopover.

That’s the only stopover worth making on the short trip, but it is indeed a serene experience after your long flight. Once you are on your way again, the landscape opens up, with whirring windmills cheering you along the way!

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(Pix: TS Photo Editor Nitin Gopal Srivastava)

What should I shop for in Cyprus?

Travel Secrets editor Shubhra Krishan recently spent a few sunny days in Cyprus. Here are her suggestions on souvenir shopping on the island.

Typically, souvenirs and touristy tidbits will be sold to you as ‘Cyprus this’ and ‘Cyprus that.’ Steer clear of those traps, and take time to observe where the locals are going and what they are buying.

Commandaria Wine
Image: http://www.cyba.org.cy

Commandaria Wine: said to be the world’s oldest. I cannot verify the claim, but can vouch for the wine: it is sweet divinity!

Cyprus honey
Image: cyprus-mail.com

Honey: the blossoming farms on the island yield some wonderful varieties. Also, figs and fresh fruit from the local markets. Better still, pluck them straight off the trees. As my guide Georgia Constantin said, “You can never go hungry in Cyprus; there’s always fruit hanging low on the trees!”

cyprus olive oil
Image: http://www.oliveoilcy.com

Olive oil: after all, the locals have grown up with olive trees since times Neolithic! But beware: we bought a big can of olive oil at a farmer’s market, and paid 18 Euros for five litres. But when we weighed the can later, it was only four litres. Also, check with the airline if you are allowed to carry oil. Some don’t allow it, even as part of your checked baggage.

lefkara lace cyprus
Image: blog.chron.com

Lace and embroidered fabric: from Lefkara village if possible, where fine lacemaking has been a tradition for generations. In the streets of Omodos village, we saw old women working away at lace kerchiefs and tablecloths.

Cyprus traditional crafts
Image: http://www.photographersdirect.com

Local handicraft & ceramics: Browse and buy traditional craft items — weaving, basket making, wood carving, pottery, and the production of leather and traditional copper items are Cyprus specials. Mesogi village near Paphos specialises in colourful baskets made of bamboo and wicker.

Cyprus gourmet bath salts
Image: therawfoodkitchen.com.au

Bath salts: did you know, Cyprus is one of the only regions in the world to produce gourmet bath salts!

I’m going to Nicosia, Cyprus. Point me to some good eateries, please.

We can recommend three with confidence, since we ate there quite recently.

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Erohia Lounge Bar & Buffet Restaurant, opposite Hilton Hotel: We arrived at around noon from Bahrain, hungry as horses. It took about an hour to reach the hotel, and soon after checking in, we walked down to the restaurant. The buffet was a wake-up call to the eyes and the taste buds. The salad greens and reds and yellows sang with freshness and colour. The corn was juicy, the lettuce crunchy, and the extra virgin olive oil, well, virginal in its purity. Being vegetarian, I was a bit unsure of finding enough options, but I need not have worried; there was plenty to choose from. Paired with delicious local wine, the meal was perfect. Do eat at Erohia if you’re in Nicosia.

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Flocafe: Located in the city’s hippest and blingiest quarter–Ledra Street. Walking around here is sure to make you ravenous, and Flo Cafe is a great place to enjoy hot pizza with beer. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate of Cyprus, the weather is almost always perfect for sitting outside.

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Ikea Cafe inside the Ikea Mall:  it’s quick, cheap and tasty fare; very welcome after you’ve burned up your energy and money roaming through the vast swathes of space inside Ikea. The brightly coloured eatery offers interestingly laid out spread, which you keep picking off the counter and onto your trolley until you reach the pay counter. We loved their potato and broccoli cutlet–a simple and good-looking snack that tasted great. And don’t miss the fantastically fresh orange juice: you’re in Cyprus, after all!

 

 

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