An island in the far eastern Mediterranean Sea, below Turkey and to the west of Syria, Cyprus is is actually two countries - the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey) and the southern Republic of Cyprus. There are two large mountain ranges on the island: the Kyrenian Range in North Cyprus and the Troödos Massif in the centre of the Republic. The northern mountains are mainly limestone, the southern are volcanic rock. These ranges are separated by the Mesaoria Plain.
Cyprus has always been an island, and many Cypriot species, particularly plants, are found nowhere else in the world. There are three main habitats in Cyprus: the mountain ranges, the coastal plains and the cultivated lands. The coastal plains are irrigated by seasonal streams, and some support citrus orchards, but native flora and fauna have been largely displaced by tourism. The best areas to see wildlife are the mountainous areas of the island and the Akamas Peninsula (which, although not a national park, has been managed for conservation). The North, being less touristed, also has a larger population of native flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for griffon vultures, foxes, fruit-eating bats, sea turtles and moufflon, a wild sheep endemic to Cyprus.
The Cypriot climate is typically Mediterranean, with very hot summers in July and August. Most of the year is dry, with unpredictable rains falling in December, January and February. Cyprus often suffers drought years, and water is such a scarce commodity that it is often rationed.
Total area includes 3355 sq km in North Cyprus.
771,657 (July 2003 est.)
9,250 sq km (of which 3,355 sq km are in the Turkish Cypriot area)
Greek 85.2%, Turkish 11.6%, other 3.2% (2000)
Greek, Turkish, English
Greek Orthodox 78%, Muslim 18%, Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, and other 4%
Easter is among the greatest religious feasts in the Orthodox Church. The solemnity of the Holy Week, the week before Easter, in the Orthodox Church ends with the commencement of Easter celebrations, where the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is glorified.
On Holy Wednesday, housewives make flaunes, the traditional Cypriot cheese Easter cakes, while Holy Thursday is the day for dyeing eggs.
On Good Friday morning, girls undertake the decoration of the bier of Christ (Epitaphios) with flowers, so that it is ready to receive the image of the body of Christ when He is taken down from the cross. Good Friday is a day of mourning. The drama of the death of Christ is followed with great devoutness.
On Holy Saturday evening, the Resurrection mass (Anastasi) takes place. The Midnight service is without a doubt the most important day on the calendar. At midnight all the lights are extinguished in the church and the priest comes from behind the doors on the altar carrying a candle. People light their candles and carefully take home their lighted candles with the holy light of the Resurrection.
A huge bonfire is lighted in the churchyard to burn Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. On Easter Sunday, traditional entertainment events and games are organised all over Cyprus. Fasting has ended and huge dishes of souvla are enjoyed.