A very dear friend of mine grew up and lives in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. It’s been almost a year since we saw him last, and we’d always promised to visit, so it seemed high time that we flew there this summer and reunited.
Cyprus is a fascinating place on a sociopolitical level, with little interaction between Greek Cypriots in the south of the island and Turkish Cypriots in the north. It’s got a turbulent and violent history, but since 2004, you can cross into the Turkish territory (and vice versa) via a couple of checkpoints, where you must show your passport.
The Turkish part of Nicosia has more of a village vibe, but a similar slew of decent coffee shops and run-down, artsy looking buildings. We went to a cute cafe to drink iced latte and read hippy quotes, away from the 40-degree heat of the day.
We also passed lots of lovely alleyways selling spices and clothes (it reminded me a bit of Istanbul and Marrakech, only much quieter), and some restaurant streets like this lovely one with an umbrella ceiling.
On other days, we decided to “do it properly” and go to the beach. Luckily our friend can drive, so we set off in early afternoon to some of the nicest beaches to avoid the strongest heat, basking in late afternoon sun while swimming in crystalline waters.
We also visited the lovely mountain village of Lefkara, where we enjoyed delicious meze – tzatziki, tahini, and yoghurt – served with grilled halloumi and warm fresh pitta. There was an amazing view of the mountains, too.
In the early mornings, when everyone else was still sleeping, I would walk up three flights of cool stone stairs to the roof terrace of our friend’s apartment. The warm quiet all around is so peaceful; all you can hear are distant birds, mosque calls, and church bells.
At night, we shared a bottle of wine and a bowl of crisps beneath the stars. Looking out past the minarets, green lights in the formation of a huge Turkish Cypriot flag glitter on the side of a distant mountain in the north. You can sort of make it out here:
Political situation aside, Cyprus is a mighty beautiful jewel in the Mediterranean and has the crystalline, azure waters which holidaymakers dream of from drizzly British shores. Our friend having grown up here, he took us to his favourite spots all over the island – including a couple of naturist beaches.
Here’s us enjoying the freedom (makes a good postcard, no?):
Now, I don’t want to end on a negative note, but I couldn’t help feeling a pang of pain and sadness when I saw this upon our arrival back in London:
As Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister, is sworn in on my first morning back, I wonder what this continent will look like in a year’s time. Politics changes so quickly these days, yet the land, sea, and sand remain as they always were: it’s we humans who erect the arbitrary national and psychological borders which affect our ability to make a home in the world. Freedom of movement is a massive privilege. I just hope we can preserve it somehow.