Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
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GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus


Larnaca on rising ground just outside the town, found many tombs of soft marble, large enough to hold a body at full length. They bore no inscriptions, but in some were several skulls, and round them little vases of terra cotta, full of such small bones that one might think they were those of birds. The Turks affected to have a claim upon Sr Zambelli as though he had disturbed the bodies of deceased Moslem here buried, but they were made to see that the tombs were much older than their time, and that the bodies in them were not arranged in their fashion, so they held their peace, finding that they could not exact money, as they were probably prepared to do had their suspicions been verified.
To the north-west of Larnaca, a few paces outside the town there is a small mosque called by the Moslem "Arab," and by the Greeks "St Arab": both sects hold it in great veneration, the one deeming it dedicated to one of their Dervishes, the other to some saint. The Turks respect the mosque, or rather little chapel which they say was built by the said Arab, and the Greeks devoutly visit the sepulchre, a subterranean grotto in which they hold that for many years lay the body of their supposed holy hermit.
Now that we have mentioned the Dervishes it is well to say that they are a kind of Turkish monk, as are also their Santons and Abdali. The Dervishes wear a coarse woollen garment of various colours, quite open at the breast, and over it an Abba, or cloak of fine white wool which they bind in at the waist in different ways. On their heads they have a large cap of white felt, of sugar loaf shape, with a strip of the same stuff twisted round it. They wear no shirt, but they are never­theless neat and clean, and their manners very courteous. They are commonly given to unnatural vice, and their feigned devoutness helps them to indulge their unhallowed tastes. They recognise as their founder a certain Molla Khunkiar, under whose rule they are formed into sundry convents and mosques. They preach in these twice a week, and admit to their sermons men and women, a thing not usually allowed in other mosques. One of them begins his discourse with a passage from the Qur'an, generally in condemnation of the very vices from which they themselves never abstain. The other Dervishes stand listening, separated from the people by a grating. When the sermon is over some of them begin to sing a hymn, accompanied by the music of reed-flutes, and by a dance which their chief begins and the others join in. They begin to turn very gently round the mosque, one after another, gradually increasing the pace until they circle round close together with such speed that the eye can scarcely follow them. The dance over they squat down on their heels, and wait very demurely until their chief begins the dance anew, when all follow him.    This function lasts an hour and a half.
Although some persons not well versed in the subject confound Dervishes and Santons, there is a great difference between them in their dress, habits and worship. The Santons who called Hazreti Mevlana their founder, dress like Dervishes, but they are dirty, always untidy, often half naked, sometimes wholly so: their appearance is revolting, their manners very coarse and rude. Their religious exercises take place three hours after sunset, and consist in whirlings and contortions and howls which become bestial bellowings, terrible to hear. One of them meanwhile clashes cymbals or beats a drum, shouting continually Allah (God): at last they fall faint from fatigue, and foam fearfully at the mouth : it is now that Mohammadans believe that the Santons are conversing with God and Mohammad. Recovered from their swoon they feast and consort with youths and women after a most unseemly fashion. These monks however enjoy no great credit with their fellow Mohammadans. Their convents are chiefly in Anatolia.
The third order of monks, the Abdali, have no convents, but wander over Asia from one city to another, as they find more or less sympathy with their manner of life, which is much the same as that of the Santons; with this difference, that the Abdali are visited with great devotion by women, who have such faith in them that even in the public streets and markets they yield themselves to their lusts, merely taking care to cover both parties with a large cloth. In many parts of Syria such monstrous indecency is forbidden, but in Cairo they are frequently guilty of it. This may give the reader some small idea of these Turkish monks.
To return to Larnaca: about a mile to the north-west of the city is a small church dedicated to St. George, which is called the little St George to distinguish it from another and large church, with the same dedication, a mile to the west of it, which is one of the most ancient in the diocese of Citium. In these churches a Papas or Greek priest officiates on feast-days only, when Mass is said there. They are adorned with various pictures, painted on the walls and on panels; there is nothing else remarkable about them.
Throughout the island and kingdom of Cyprus there is no part so bare of trees as the neighbourhood of Larnaca.   There are a few mulberry trees and palms, but the country is entirely barren from the lack of springs of fresh water, and the abund­ance of stones· Barley however grows well there. Its orchards, into which sweet water is brought in channels, are full of grass, and the gardens, for the same reason, of flowers, oranges and lemons.

1- No trace of these existed in 1878, but on January 5, 1900, in digging out stone from the wall opposite Ant. Vondiziano's house (once the consu late of Great Britain and of Russia) a stone was found rudely inscribed

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