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Traditions of Northern Cyprus

North Cyprus is full of history, but not only in the architecture because the culture also reaches back to an easier time, with multiple popular beliefs and forms of entertainment still existing in modern times. From traditional hand crafted goods to folk dancing and backgammon, there are simply some things that the locals like to do as they always have done. Similarly, the western influence that has changed the south of the island still hasn't truly reached the north which is still evident in the quaint local cafes and the traditional Cypriot coffee that is still made in the manner it has been for hundreds of years. There are some things in life that are perfect as they are and the Turkish Cypriots have embraced this, leaving many traditional practices and past times exactly as they always have been. 


 Evil Eye Gem


Evil Eye Gems 

No matter where you go in the North of Cyprus, it is inevitable that you will see the evil eye gem - or Nazar - hanging around. From shops to cars, and even on people's jewellery, it's impossible to miss the bright blue gem. Meant to protect the wearer from the "evil eye", they are a tradition pre-dating Christianity from a time when it was believed that a negative look from another person could bring with it bad luck, or induce sickness. The blue beads are meant to protect the owner from receiving the negative results of these looks, known as the evil eye. It is believed that the blue beads, painted to have a blue eye in the centre repel the negative looks due to their smooth surface and for being blue, a colour which is deemed to have protective powers. Popular and beautiful throughout the Mediterranean region, don't forget to pick one up on your travels - you never know when you might need it. 



Backgammon is a two player board game that has been played for thousands of years and remains eternally popular, especially in Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, and no less important in North Cyprus. Visit Nicosia and see people playing in the local cafes!


Played with two sets of counters - one for each person, typically in red and black - the aim is for eirther player to remove their pieces from the board before the other by moving them around the board and then picking them up, depending on the roll of a pair of dice. It is also commonly bet upon and is especially popular with men, who can be found spending hours playing outside tea shops.


Backgammon is a very competitive and sometimes fast paced game that is passionately played in North Cyprus much like in Turkey. Backgammon boards can be bought almost anywhere around the world and are convenient because they fold in half and close shut in the manner of a briefcase (which keeps the counters safe). If you want to learn to play backgammon, it might be wise to fit in a few practice games before challenging a Cypriot; they take backgammon as seriously as poker or any other casino card game. 



Local Village Cafes




Originally based on a 16th Century game called whist, Bridge has been played since the 19th Century and is still a popular card game around the world. Because of the popularity of Bridge in Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots obviously also love the game and it is widely played. Involving four players typically who play in pairs against the other two, bridge requires a trustworthy partner and a good relationship. The aim of the game is for a pair of players to fulfil the bid decided on during an auction after the cards have been dealt through multiple turns. Said to encourage mental activity and therefore benefit players' concentration, Bridge like backgammon, is played for money and therefore very passionately. 


Local Village Cafes 

Throughout the regions of North Cyprus there is an abundance of small villages that offer a perfect rest stop for those touring the regions in a car, or as a great place to stay for your entire break. But no matter how long your visit, it's impossible to deny that the heart of the village will always be a cafe or restaurant. Largely, the local village cafes in North Cyprus are small businesses that are run by families or friends making the atmosphere fantastically welcoming.


On most days you'll find a few people sitting outside gambling over games of Bridge or Backgammon (a fun staple in the lives of many) and the cafes are the perfect places to get a traditional cup of tea or coffee, but not as you know it. One thing to keep in mind is the current customers, if they happen to all be men, it might be a men's only tea house where the village elders and those in charge meet to talk about local issues. But don't worry if this is the case, there will almost always be a corresponding cafe where families and children are welcome.


Generally the larger the village, the larger the number of cafes and therefore the wider range of options such as in Guzelyurt. In towns and cities for example, it's fairly easy to find western coffee and teas as well as a wider range of cuisine options whilst in the smallest villages it will most likely only be traditional Turkish and Cypriot food and beverages. But no matter where you go, you can be assured in the knowledge that the town centre will always have at least one cafe - the perfect place to stop for an affordable lunch in a beautiful quiet part of North Cyprus. 



local Olive Oil




Olive Leaf Burning 

Known as Tutsu, the burning of olive leaves is a symbolic act for warding off the evil eye and to protect from harm, and is traditionally carried out during celebrations. A family member gather leaves into a metal pot and then burn them, wafting the smoke around people for protection. Another reason people burn olive leaves is in an attempt to view the future; it is believed that Cypriots throw leaves onto hot ashes and depending on how the leaf curls you are able to tell whether or not your dreams will come true. 


Folk Dancing 

Many countries around the world have a traditional dance that has been passed down through the generations and North Cyprus is certainly no different. Their folk dance is a group performance generally involving both men and women - but not always - who dance in perfect timing with the men and women typically doing different but complimentary moves. The men can perform high kicks whilst the women's moves involve hand movements and delicate dance steps sometimes in lines or circles, depending on the type of folklore dance. The performers wear traditional dress, including a headscarf for women as well as colourful jewellery and a dress in a bright and eye-catching colour. The men wear traditional white shirts and knee length trousers tucked into knee high socks with red fabric wrap around belts. Overall the dance is beautiful and a fantastic chance to immerse yourself in an ancient tradition. 




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