CYPRUS: Land of Passion by Angela Bowie c2000

I am a Cypriot by disposition. I don't have a passport or Cypriot nationality but my heart is Cypriot, not Greek or Turkish Cypriot, just Cypriot. I enjoy a passionate love affair with my birthplace. I was born in Ayios Dhometios, part of the Nicosia district. My parents were American.

Cyprus is a land that smells of dry grass and orange blossom. Jasmine and lavender, mint and dill perfume the air. A lizard pauses on the whitewashed walls. The gardens are ablaze with color. Patios are welcoming and the chairs are pushed out and coffee fetched and "glichko" served. We learn a little of each other's language. In Cyprus, we have all the time in the world for conversing, discussing life. Siga, siga! I learned to tend a garden, watch things grow. The Cypriots tend their island garden with great care.

I would not be doing justice to the events I witnessed if I did not write about this island enchantress. I was present at the birth of a nation, and witness to their efforts at self-determination. What I thought was going to be an exercise in research and information became a battle between versions of the truth. Sometimes the truth was hidden and sometimes the "truth" had been fabricated.

The government calls it propaganda. In the commercial arena, it is called marketing. Advertising sells products: fighting a cause, converting others to your religion, running an election campaign, conscripting recruits, selling education, health care and ways to invest your money. To accomplish any of these you must market your product. I had to find a way to tell you the story, a way to market the magic of what Cyprus means to me. The magic of a home place, a safe place, the magic of the fort!

I wonder if the Cypress trees my mom planted on the ridge at the back of our house are still there?You could see them from miles away, as you came around the corner from Pendayia, the tall tees beckoned you home. Pendayia was on the beach where the golf course and the hospital were. I remember the hospital: where I had my elbow scrubbed after 6 injections of Novocain. My mother didn't want my elbow to look dirty in an evening gown from being scarred. I skidded around the corner at Wiggins' square on my bike. I had my appendix out there when I was 8 and my tonsils when I was 15. Dr. Arnold Rose performed a couple of the surgeries. He took my dad's gall bladder out. My father approved of Arnold because he had been an army doctor during World War 2. I think he was South African. This man had one of the most distinctive voices I have ever heard. It was a modulated tenor with vibrant tonality, cultured and well educated. What a speaking voice! It was worth driving down to Pendayia just to hear him say, "say, Ah!"

The Cyprus Mining Corporation contributed the hospital to the Pendayia community. The golf course was for company employees. A famous industrialist & California philanthropist, Henry Mudd, owned Cyprus Mining Corporation. I know there were 2 of them, Henry and Harvey but I am not sure who was father and who was son. My dad said that companies didn't have to be ogres and CMC was one of the companies that he thought treated their employees and host country with great respect. CMC built a technical school in Lefka for job training so that students would not have to leave Cyprus to get the training to be promoted to the supervisory jobs thus eliminating the necessity to hire overseas staff to run the operation. I never felt embarrassed to say that my father worked for CMC. They had a good reputation in Cyprus. Also there was an unspoken guarantee felt by the employees; that the US would not stand by and let the mine be captured by anyone. I have not been able to lay my hands on the lease granted to CMC by the Cypriot government, not all documents are available to us! I am sure they included these provisions for there is NO Cypriot I have ever met who does not value an education above all else.

Lefka is a lovely Turkish village situated in the first row of foothills a mile and a half from the sea. The village has a beautiful view, a main square and then some little tight streets on winding roads that follow the contours of its location where there are some pretty houses. My best friend from school Susan Lines' dad, Bob Lines was a teacher at the Technical School there. They had a great apartment right on one of the narrow winding residential streets in Lefka. It was so different staying at her house in Cyprus compared to her house in England. In England, they lived in Langley Vale who was quiet and rural. In Lefka we felt like we were in a city because we played in a big front room that looked out over the street and could hear all the people walking to the square and young men, swinging jasmine blossoms strung on thread to attract the girls!

Susan and I would play in the front room and do homework and watch the people out of the window until it got dark. Mom and I used to go to open air markets in Morphou and Lefka. At the markets you could buy the distinctive Cypriot wicker baskets, strong enough to carry a couple of bushels of citrus fruit. They also conveniently strapped onto the sides of a donkey and became panniers for the oranges, lemons and grapefruit. I remember the smell of freshly butchered meat. The aroma of garlic and onions and the colors of beetroots and potatoes from the red earth. There were cheap plastic trinkets that spun and sparkled to entice the children to whine a lot. Big gorgeous artichokes, tomatoes and cabbage, squash. When we first lived in Cyprus, Helen used to complain about the lack of variety in vegetables because of the seasonal availability.

The Cyprus Department of Agriculture kicked in after the Republic was won and everything changed. The agricultural economic basis of the island ensured that huge improvements were made in produce selection. But that's adult talk, I was busy jockeying to get treats from the market, there was a piece of lace I had to have and then there was PSOMI- And speaking of food, let's discuss the most heavenly food on the planet: Psomi. Let me say it again: PSOMI. Psomi is bread, dark, baked in an outdoor mud-brick oven, both the bread and the oven look like beehives. This bread could nourish your soul and your body all by itself!

For a while the Apostolides brothers had their store e in Lefka. Helen, my Mom, enjoyed Aposto Apostolides and his brother, George. I loved Mr. Apostolides name. I could really get my mouth around it: you slid down "Aposto" and cruised on "-lides". Helen used to get after me, "you don't need to say Mr. Apostolides name 6 times!'

"But it sounds so great!"

She would, "tut, tut..." and look apologetically at Aposto Apostolides and he would look right into my eyes and mouthe "MARY-ANGELA, Mary-Angela, MARY_ANGELA" We made a chorus. I would say Aposto, Aposto Apostolides" He would answer, "Mary-Angela." My mother would watch and shake her head. When I was small we went to the store in Lefka and then after the troubles the Apostolides brothers moved their grocery store to Xeros.

Cyprus is in my heart. It was my home and everything I am: I owe to the magical garden I inhabited as a child.

I learned history in the lab so to speak, by being there, by visiting the ruins and swimming in the underwater cities & baptizing myself in Aphrodite's pool. I felt one of the most fortunate humans to be able to frolic where a goddess had slipped through dimensions and allowed herself to be worshipped.

Reality and magic dance together in the eyes of a child. When we become adults we squint out magic believing we are ready for reality, ready for the truth. But what is truth? Not reality. Truth is an interpretation of what we see. Magic is better.

When I was 4, my mother packed me off to Mrs. Session's Boarding school in Nicosia. They didn't take children that young but my mother could talk anyone into doing anything. She talked me into behaving until I was 18! The girls were very nice to me at Mrs. Sessions but I missed my Mom. So I took drastic measures. I stood out in the rain at until I caught bronchitis. Then Mom came and took me home. I thought my friend, Drama would get me home, and she did!

One day, we went to visit Aunt Eleni, my Mom's best friend. They were talking in the kitchen. I asked what they were doing. Mom said they were "talking and it was none of your business, young lady." I wandered around the garden and played solitaire at the table under the olive tree and clattered the tric trac (backgammon) board. Finally they came out and brought lemon squash and Easter cakes dusted with icing sugar. Eleni Pittas was a friend of my Mom's. She had a house in Karavostasi surrounded by orange groves. Her husband, Uncle Alleccon was in the timber business. He had a sawmill; Nicky and I would go to the sawmill with him and the wood shavings of cedar and camphor smelled wonderful. They were 4 children: Dotis, Akis, Irena and Nick. My aunt Eleni and Uncle Alleccon were my favorite aunt and uncle. We weren't related by blood but by birthplace, we are all Cypriots. Alleccon's eyes crinkled behind his glasses when he smiled and laughed and he did that a lot around us kids.

As a child I understood everything about the Cypriot situation: the adults didn't think we knew but children know. I knew "They" were the British and "they" were fighting over Cyprus.

There was a British man who ran the "Stores" for the company. My father always joked that Ian could outfit a continent. It was not that big a stretch to imagine Cyprus as a store house being plundered by pirates for the things they had, pyrites and oranges and sun and beaches. The British Colonial government giving the bounty of the colonies away as if it belonged to them. It stuck in my craw.

I understood that there were 3 languages spoken on the island and there were lots of religions and that Turkish villages had red shutters and the Greek villages were painted blue and white. But I didn't see those things. I saw how the people treated me. Everyone was so nice to me, they would stroke my hair and say "Yassoo, pethia." I would reply, "Yassoo, Kyrie or Kyrios, poss is e, Cala. Ine calo ef caristo. Adios." I assumed I was Aphrodite and born from the foam!

In 1956 the British army bivouacked company property. I heard my folks discussing it at lunch. My dad said, "The British act as if the mine needs protection by them. It sends the wrong signal."

She patted his hand and made an eye signal that I was listening.

My father handed me a piece of the Cyprus Mail, the newspaper and said, "Baby, that article on the jack-ass that got hit by the truck is on page 2!"

I said "What?"

"I know, I know," he said. "Read up you won't believe it!"

Aunt Eleni had confided to my mother that Akis was going to join the resistance. Akis was handsome and had a low gentle voice. You could jump on him and hang on him and he just sat there, he was really patient. "Grivas is still in the mountains, I'm surprised young Akis hasn't already joined them."

She looked at him questioningly, my Dad said, "He told me last weekend that he was going to go. It's the right thing to do. Dotis needs to stay, be in evidence and help the family. Akis will be missed but it's less conspicuous than both of them going at the same time. There could be repercussions. Can't have that. Dotis will not agree to Akis going alone so Akis is slipping away, this weekend I believe."

Dotis went to fight later.


My Dad had been a guerrilla fighter in North Luzon during the Second World War. He understood fighting for freedom and hiding out on a mountain rather than surrendering. He was very upright. My Mom confided in me that dad had done a deal with the Virgin Mary, during a particularly vexing ambush, that if the Virgin Mary spared him he would say a rosary every night for the rest of his life and he did. In the evenings he would walk around the garden saying his rosary. My mom prayed for Dotis and Akis and the Pittas' family. But they were way ahead of us. Aunt Eleni and Uncle Alleccon were already safely in Canada. They would return after independence.

Eleni & Alleccon took us to to Vouni palace, we went to the tip of the island St. Andrea's point. We visited the churches with the eyes of the saints scratched out by the Ottoman conquerors. We swam where Aphrodite came out of the waves. We were so entranced with the birthplace of Aphrodite; we went to Paphos to see the temple dedicated to her. Paphos resonates of the Phoenicians. The island is a historical wonderland.

Gods & Goddesses

Phoenicia is now Lebanon and there are only 60 miles between Cyprus and the Lebanese coast. Sooner or later the Phoenicians would come and visit not necessarily to conquer. They were astute merchants and traders. "Elissa was a Phoenician princess. Perhaps her story was real, perhaps not. But the Phoenicians were very real indeed. They were the greatest seafarers of the ancient world, the greatest explorers. They were merchants and manufacturers, colonizers and civilizers. They developed and spread the alphabet, the symbols by which I write this account.

From a handful of tiny kingdoms along the eastern Mediterranean-Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, Byblos-the Phoenicians sailed and rowed the most advanced ships of their day to the limits of the known world and beyond. They grew rich on commerce, on hewing the timber that covered their home mountains, on skillful working of Bronze and iron and glass, gold and ivory, on dying purple cloth with an extract of sea snails. They traded with Egypt's Pharaohs, brought King Solomon's gold from Ophir, fought for Xerxes against the Greeks, were besieged by Nebuchadnezar and Alexander the Great, and from Carthage, their greatest colony, sent Hannibal to beset the Romans in their own land.

From about 1200BC to the razing of Carthage in 146BC, the Phoenicians wrote into history and legend a thousand years of daring voyages, of tireless productivity, of sure genius in trade and diplomacy. Then they fell submerged by more militant empires." During the Trojan wars, a Phoenician prince named Cinyras and a group of courtiers landed on the western shore of Cyprus. They found pastures to their liking and friendly, hospitable natives. They built Paphos and Cinyras made himself king and high priest"(Source NationalGeographic August 1974 The Phoenicians, Sealords of Antiquity by Samuel Mathews,Winfield Parks and Robert Magis)

Cinyras had not been there long when the locals told him of Aphrodite, a local heroine who emerged from the waves on a cockleshell where Cinyras and his crew had landed. Cinyras erected a temple to the fabled goddess to honor his good fortune. The temple was his mortality insurance. For all he knew the story of Aphrodite could be true...were not all the petals of the spiny burnet stained pink with the blood she shed when rushing to help her boyfriend, Adonis, who had been gored to death by a wild bull. Before long the fame of Aphrodite and the new temple in Paphos became a center of worship throughout the Middle East. The visitors and pilgrims needed a manifestation of the power of Aphrodite. Cinyras installed beautiful priestesses whose duties included officiating at temple ceremonies and entertaining the temple's enthusiastic patrons. A night "spent" on Aphrodite's priestesses was rumored to result in great prosperity.

But the place that took your breath away was the Troodos mountain range. It was cold enough in winter to attract the skiers and cool enough in the summer to attract those looking for a respite from the heat. Every summer my dad would lose a lot of weight and no matter how hard the safety engineer kept after them to take their salt pills and drink a lot of water, the summers were hot and you needed to go to the mountains or the sea for a week. Persuading my father to take his week's vacation per year was my mother's job.

She persuaded him to go for his health. We went to the Berengaria hotel for a week. It is a colonial government house, I believe, I'm not sure but there were verandahs all around the building. The floors were polished wood and there were oriental carpets in the halls and lobby. The dining room looked out over the forest. There was a reading room where you could always find my dad except when he was napping. Siestas were big at the Berengaria hotel and we children were supposed to be quiet until teatime and so we would race around the pine trees and stay away from the boring, sleeping adults! We played hide and seek and had so much fun. We got into a lot of trouble for waking up the adults! Hah! You can tell I don't feel badly about that!

Heavy leather chairs were scattered through the lobby. There was no elevator, I remember the building was 3 floors. You could get some speed up on those wide stone stairs! On the verandah, were chairs and tables overlooking the pine forests. The trees invited you to explore. I never wanted to go home, I wanted to run around on Troodos with Akis and General Grivas and be a freedom fighter!

Trouble in Paradise

In 1963, life in Cyprus was shaken up. Unable to reach a political status quo due to a cumbersome constitution, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots were drawn into a bloody conflict. This conflict precipitated the militarization of the island: The Greek Cypriots formed a National Guard. In order to deter a Turkish invasion, an army division was sent from mainland Greece. The Turkish Cypriots formed territorial enclaves. Turkish officers from the mainland handled the defense of these enclaves.

In 1964, the Turks attacked the CMC jetty chasing a Cypriot naval vessel. The Turkish air force flew over Xeros made a second pass and strafed the Cypriot U boat. The jetty was used to load freighters with copper pyrites. They killed some of the sailors, a few escaped. I was out in the garden at the time and I watched the Turkish planes fly over from Morphou it looked like to me. When they turned and headed for the mill and the jetty I crouched down next to the mint bush at the back gate and watched until I heard my mother screaming at me, "Get inside. If they see you are a target" I didn't argue and ran inside.

I collected all the passports, money and jewelry took a box of cornflakes and hid them in the middle of the cereal. "Are you ready, Mom? Dad's going to be here in a minute, for us to leave? Remember he called about the evacuation?" My mother looked stunned. We had lived with it for so many years I accepted the fact that someone's patience had given out and ordered an attack. We knew it was the mainland Turks.

The company evacuated the overseas staff and their families to Skouriotissa. We fled in convoy to the mountains. For a week we knew nothing. There was no communication except the BBC world service. Then we went back to Xeros and life continued. I had a lot to tell my friends at boarding school when I got back after the summer. At Christmas time that year I was home for the holidays and so was Tom Bakewell. He invited me to go to his house in Mavrovouni. We had fun, worked on his ham radio until my folks were to pick me up around 7.30 or 8.00 p.m. They never came. Tom's folks said they had called, something had come up and they could not pick me up that evening. Alan offered to take me back home in the morning. That's when I heard what happened.

Around 6.30 p.m., it was already dark. As my parents approached the Turkish checkpoint in their Morris Minor, 3 shots rang out. The first pierced the windscreen of the car. Shattered glass covered my mother's head and shoulders and her face and knees. My father put his head back and a second shot took out the driver's side window and the third shot went wild. My father said he turned that car around so fast and put the pedal to the metal, but understand we are talking a Morris Minor here, they raced back to the safety of Xeros. There were rumors that Turkish officers from the mainland set this up to test the loyalty of the Turkish Cypriot recruits they were training. Their loyalty to Turkey wasn't that strong because my father said there was no way they could have missed if they had really wanted to hit him. The shots were close together and well positioned.

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe somebody had tried and nearly succeeded to assassinate my parents. My mother was not in good shape, sedated at the CMC hospital. After that debacle, my Mom spent time in England. She was pretty upset that they had shot at her and dad. The next summer I went out with TJ. the American Ambassador's son. The American Embassy & the American Club were all in Nicosia.


Nicosia is the capital of the island and has been for a thousand years. It is the seat of government and cultural and diplomatic affairs for the island. "Inside the walls are the busy pedestrian shopping streets of Ledra and Onasagorou streets, crammed with stores and roadside stalls. At the end of these streets is the so-called green line, the demarcation line from the northern part, which is under Turkish occupation." ("The World of Cyprus"-Cyprus Tourism organization pamphlet)

My mom and I used to drive into Nicosia every 6 weeks or so and go shopping. Sometimes my dad would take the day off work and come with us. We would park the car and enter Ledra Street at Metaxas square. Our travel agent, Nicos Simeonides was on the right before you went down Ledra St. Then we would go to my friend Michael Frixos' shoe store. I would get several pairs of fabulous shoes they made in Cyprus. We went to the fabric shops on Onasagoros St. and looked at the bangles and gold charms in the jewelry and goldsmith stores.

Then it was time to visit my mother's friend the carpet man, Mr. Bijulian and have a "Kean", orange soda from the oranges grown in Cyprus and bottled by the KEO Company. My mom had Turkish coffee "metrio" with Mr. Bijulian and they would discuss life and carpets. Bijulian discussed what needed to be done to remedy the Cypriot situation. The Armenians, of which Mr. Bijulian was a proud representative, were wary of Turkish intentions. They had already been forced to flee the Turkish wrath once.

My mother as per company policy could not venture an opinion but sipped coffee and repeated, "Ah, Mr. Bijulian I cannot give an opinion." They would get back to looking at carpets. This whole procedure took an hour at least. I had time to go to 3 more stores while they chatted. Finally, Helen would get up and shaking hands; she would herd me towards the door, as if I was the one who had kept us there for an hour! They bartered for a lot of carpets over the years! "Until next time," she would say and wave to Mr. Bijulian.

Then we would go to Charlie's bar for sandwiches. This place was half way down Ledra Street and Charlie or whoever the chef was had invented the ultimate sandwich, ham or roast pork or roast beef with tomatoes and olives and onions squashed and heated in a clamp like iron. The sides sizzled, the cheese melted, the whole thing got hot and heaven was biting mustard and meat products. Once revived with a sandwich around 11a.m. The rush was on.

Everything closed at 1.00 p.m. until 4.00. We had to get the bulk of the errands done before we went to the American club for a swim while the city closed down. When Dad came with us, this was the moment he disappeared to the bar at the Regina hotel to read and eat peanuts and drink a beer.

The Hurricane caf» had exquisite phyllo cheesecakes, with mint and haloumi and feta. They were so good. The summer I was 14, I met this guy at the American Club pool, TJ. I started to go out with him and my view of Cyprus changed because I didn't have to go everywhere with my parents. Sometimes TJ would come and get me from Xeros and we would drive in his red convertible to Nicosia. After lunch we would drive to the coast, a welcome change from the heat of Nicosia, to Kyrenia for the weekend with his parents at their beach house. The 60s were happening even in Cyprus! There were bands playing in Nicosia and Kyrenia and that's where we wanted to be. It was too much fun.


I met kids from the English School in Nicosia and became familiar with the Dive for the oldest Greek/Byzantine ship ever found which was just outside Kyrenia. They recovered numerous amphorae used for storing wine, oil and grain. The ship was fourth century; Michael L Khatzev was a graduate student at Princeton at the time and worked on the dig. He recorded the experience for the National Geographic Magazine. "The National Geographic Society provided the funds and the Cypriot Museum of Antiquities, Dr. Vassos Karageorghis granted his government's approval. They were other sponsors: The Cook Foundation, Cyprus Mining Corporation and the Ford Foundation. One of the most interesting discoveries were in the contents of the amphorae, several were full of almonds. Almonds formed a regular part of the ancient Greek diet and here was more proof of that fact." (NGM)

There are several castles in the Kyrenia vicinity; St. Hilarion castle, Buffavento castle and the Kyrenia castle. The North Cyprus government printout informs me that there is now A shipwreck museum and that one of the places to see is the harbor and the harbor walls. It was in Kyrenia, I met Shahe and Karl Tateossian. They had a pop band at the English school. I can't remember what it was called. Shahe played guitar and Karl sang. They booked a charter schooner, it looked like a pirate ship, and we went on an overnight party, sailing around the bay. It was magic. Karl's band entertained on deck. We sang and talked and danced all night. In 1972 my then husband, David Bowie and I rented a villa and vacationed with the band in Kyrenia. David was very taken with the island. The first time I went back to Cyprus with him and our son, he drove me to Lefkara and bought beautiful hand-made lace for our dining room table and for the vanity in the bedroom. He was very sweet.

Famagusta & Salamis

In 1954, I experienced my first earthquake in Cyprus. At dawn, there was a rumbling and the earth rattled and rolled. We stood outside in the garden and watched the palms and orange trees sway. My Mom was a little surprised by this. My Dad paid it no mind; I kind of liked it. For the next few years I was constantly nagging to go to carnivals or fun fairs anywhere there were body-shaking rides. The summer I was 8, we went to Famagusta and spent a week at a hotel on the beach. Close to Famagusta are the underwater ruins of the ancient city of Salamis. It was founded in 1185 BC. Up from the hotel, was a beach that consisted of hundreds of volcanic pools, fed by the tides. I would lie on my stomach on the beach with my mask in the water and watch the fishes and crabs and sea horses in their perfect little eco-systems. I was sunburned to death when I finished 3 or 4 days of this joyous underwater exploration.

Then we went snorkeling in Salamis and I cannot tell you what a thrill it is to wander around a city under water. It's a rush, right? It was destroyed by Arab invaders in the 7th. Century and never rebuilt because an earthquake tipped the plate on which Salamis was perched until the seawater rushed in to reclaim the town.

"Salamis became one of the most important cities of Cyprus and its magnificent remains still bear witness to its past glory. There are well-preserved Roman forums, Roman baths and gymnasium. Visitors can rent snorkeling equipment and explore the ruined underwater city In 449 BC Salamis was the site for a Greek defeat of the Persians. The Byzantine period lasted a thousand years and firmly established Cyprus as part of the Greek Christian world. The city of Salamis is the oldest relic of human settlement in the area of Famagusta."(AOL Travel Report)

Famagusta is a garrisoned town now. The Turks patrol a ghost town. The Cyprus information office lists the area of Famagusta, they don't even talk about Kyrenia. In 1489, Famagusta was one of the biggest trade centers of the eastern Mediterranean. The Venetians took control of the island in that year and moved the capital to Famagusta. The change in weapons and the introduction of gunpowder made it necessary for them to remodel the city's defenses. The castle's square ramparts were replaced with round ones. In 1571, The Turks laid siege to Famagusta and after a year the island fell to them.

The city is full of architectural and religious markers testifying to the cultural influences of the city. Massive walls encircle Famagusta: 60 feet high and 30 feet thick. The St. Nicholas Cathedral has been turned into the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. In 1571 the Venetian palace was turned into a prison and renamed Namik Kemal prison after the detention of Turkey's most important writer Namik Kemal who was incarcerated in it for 3 years for having the temerity to criticize the sultan. There is a bronze bust of the poet facing the square and a museum about him and his work.

In Cyprus 2000 & Cyprus: Jewel of the Med, Let's take a look at the exotic past with a cast of heroes and heroines to enchant any interest. We'll analyze the romantic but deadly fight for freedom from the British, the successful comeback staged by the republic of Cyprus after the devastating invasion of the northern third of the island by the Turkish mainland.

I remember staying at the LEDRA palace hotel waiting for a seat to get out in 1974. I remember making love, it was dusk and then I had to go to the airport. We kissed our childhood goodbye. I have never been back. But now after writing this, I want to go back. I just can't go as a tourist. I want to see my house and the places where I played. I don't think they are there any more. So maybe one day, when I am content with lying on the beach, I'll go visit the jewel of the Med. "Visit" not "Go home."