Living in Cyprus - Cypriot Society & Culture
As a rule of thumb, the further you travel into rural areas, and the less touristy it becomes, and the more genial the locals become. It's not uncommon to be invited into someone's home for a drink, or a bite to eat. Hospitality for Cypriots is a matter of pride and it's considered churlish to refuse an invitation. Most of the country's social idiosyncrasies are a reflection of the two major religions, Christianity and Islam; hence they vary depending on whether you're visiting the North or the South of the island.
In the North the most likely first point of contact tourists have with Islam is when visiting a mosque. Women must cover-up, including their heads, and both men and women are required to remove their shoes. Mosques should be visited outside of prayer times. Muslims are sensitive about having their photograph taken, and should be asked first. It's also forbidden to take photographs of military installations and government buildings. In the Christian dominated South of the island the dress code is much more relaxed; however shoulders and legs should still be covered when visiting a monastery. Traditional costumes are now generally only donned for the benefit of tourists, but you can still see the occasional local male wearing a pair of baggy black trousers, or vraka, supported by woven belt known locally as a sostra, with an embroidered waistcoat underpinning a white shirt on the top half and a pair of high black boots on the bottom half.
Three years after gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, the Turkish Cypriots abandoned parliament, and since then 24 of the 80 seats in the House of Representatives have remained empty. Partition followed in 1974 with 200,000 Greeks moving south whilst 65,000 Turkish Cypriots relocated to the north. The rest of the world, save Turkey, still refuses to officially recognise Northern Cyprus. in the past, up to 1300 United Nations Troops at an annual cost of $45 million have manned the border, locally known as 'The Green Line'. The self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has successively re-elected the same President, Rauf Denktash, every five years since he came to power in 1976. The recent entry of the island to the EU on May 1st 2004 looks set to shake up the current status between the two sides of the island. The rejection of the EU unification plan by a majority in the South is a setback, but its acceptance in the North looks set to end the region's isolation as it wins EU favour.
Cyprus takes its name from kypros, the Greek word for copper, which in ancient times was one of the island's economic mainstays. Today however, the largest earner of foreign currency is Cyprus Tourism, accounting for nearly 12% of the GDP. Most of the agricultural output is destined for the export market, and includes; citrus fruits, olives, grapes, carob and strawberries. Tourism in Northern Cyprus is a much more low-key affair and the local economy is in a bad way with high unemployment and fluctuating currency problems.