I did it. I finally got the opportunity to leave the Middle East behind and fly away for 20 minutes and enter Europe. The timing was perfect, not too into the summer season and weather wise bearable, as far as the region is concerned.
For those of you who don’t know, Cyprus is an island located in the Middle East with a European status. It shares the Mediterranean sea with its neighbors as well as the weather (among many other things). I am not going to go into details about the history/ geography of the country as there are many websites describing it perfectly. For those who know me well, they have come to realize on many occasions that my relationship with Beirut is rocky and often I need to getaway from it all. After 353 days my patience ran threw and I booked instantly a week long vacation to Limassol. It was my first time in that part of the country as I am more familiar with the famous party city of Aya Napa (during my younger years). To be honest I did not know what to expect. But what I witnessed took me by surprise. Cyprus, whether you like it or not, I believe you have a long lost twin across the sea. Lebanon don’t flatter yourself.
Here are the similarities between these two entities:
– First and foremost, although Cypriots drive from the right side just like their British ex-colonists, they do break the law as much as the Lebanese citizens. I was shocked since I, with my naive view of everything European standards, thought they would be more abiding citizens. I witnessed many U-Turns, a double park and speeding on lanes with speeding limit. Furthermore, pedestrians seem to cross the street when they feel like with no regards to the traffic lights.
(here a double park even for a few minutes).
– Cyprus and Greece share a certain animosity. I have no specific facts and figures on the subject matter. As a Greek friend put it not long ago, it is the same concept as with Lebanon and Syria’s relationship. However, you can notice more Greek flags around than Cypriot. Weird. But Cypriots we feel with you!!!
– Cypriots men reminded me a lot of Lebanese men. Physically they look alike. But most importantly they gaze at tourist girls intently and even cat call you when walking pass them. I wish I knew what those words meant so as to reply them back. Yet my vocabulary is limited to ‘malaka’ and ‘pousti’ which I kept to myself so as not to further give them an opportunity to engage in a conversation with me. I think having blond hair is a rare phenomena in this part of the globe. I need to mention the fact that being a blond in the Middle East (and Cyprus) will automatically label you as a Russian citizen.
– Limassol has its own two way avenue right next to the sea. It is the exact replica of the Lebanese Corniche, although I personally prefer Beirut’s lane (maybe because I am used to driving and jogging over there). I know I am shocked as well by admitting this to all of you, yet I believe that our corniche is more engaging and beautiful than the Cypriot’s. You can see cars driven by young locals passing with blasting music. Same concept with one major difference; local vs arabic music.
(ok the picture does not do justice to the Lebanese coast but it seems no one has ever taken an aerial shot of the corniche yet).
– The funniest and most shocking thing that I saw while sipping my coffee at the local Starbucks was hearing a convoy siren. At first I was puzzled and thought that my ears might have been spoilt from the sea salt dip earlier, but then I saw less than ten cars all black with tinted glasses pass by, surrounded by motorcycles. Of course my jaw dropped. In Lebanon at such sight, I would have been alarmed since it can only mean that a politician is passing by and given their life threatening status, my presence would be endangered from a sudden God forbid explosion. In Limassol, all I could do, after my initial shock, was laugh for a couple of minutes. Funny, right?!
– Another similar venue is the La Marina Limassol. According to their website, its is “an exclusive waterfront development combining elegant residences, and a full service marina with exclusive restaurants and shops to create a lifestyle uniquely shaped by living on the sea”. Although deserted during the daylight, it is packed with tourists and locals combined at night. Zeytuna Bay anyone??
– The clash between the Rich and Poor is obvious. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice the lack of luxurious cars in the streets. You rarely see any Mercedes- Benz and Range Rovers driven. And when you do, the men that come out of it act all high and mighty, kinda like back home. Even the architecture of the buildings connotes this disparity of wealth. Gorgeous villas are built in the outskirts of the city, compound- like, whereas short story building within the city itself. Do not take me for a snob, I am just stating what I saw. The development of limited luxurious apartments and villas around the Marina area is mostly directed to the rich foreign investors; Russians vs Arabs in Beirut.
– According to a friend , Cypriots way of life is the same as ours. They tend to live with their parents till marriage. I did not understand why though. It is very common in Lebanon since the rent is double the salary most of the time. But in Cyprus??? Furthermore, young adults love to spend their money on bling, show off and night outs instead of investing in a smart way. Struggle for work is the same. Nothing is easy as it seems. Living in Cyprus and being part of the European Union does not immune one from the struggles of daily life and survival. Hence, the rise of immigration and better opportunities abroad. I guess we all rock the same boat, at least in the same shared sea 🙂
– Cypriots working in the tourism sector are very charming and welcoming. They go beyond their way to help you out with directions and suggestions for sight seeing. They are surprised when they hear you are from Lebanon, especially when you don’t look like the typical Lebanese (Russian please!) and share their love to your homeland (clearly they haven’t visited nor lived long enough in it). Armenians living in Cyprus are not much but I did bump into a couple who instantly started talking to me in Armenian and gave protective advice on where not to wander (dodgy streets and all) and try a famous local restaurant. Souvlaki anyone? of course I cant not not mention the fact that they seem to want to introduce me to Armenian Cypriots….
– The villages around the mountains are cozy and small. The trees and the greenery breathtaking just like our Chouf mountains.. The rich history of each part of the rural area, a story out of an ancient book. Locals tend to spend their summer up in the mountains and the young drive by on weekends for a Sunday barbecue with the family.
At last I want to point out a few things;
Although similar in many aspects, Cyprus is a change of scenery from Lebanon. The ratio of foreigners exceeds the Arabs. Yes I am not a big fan of arabs, as many of them behave in an unpleasant way with women.
The beach front is beautiful and clean. The water is transparent and cold but pleasant. The beaches are public and you only pay a couple of euros for a ‘chaise longue’. Most of the people opt however in throwing their towel on the clean sand and tan. Lebanon needs to restore its beach front to the public as it is every citizen’s right to enjoy the beach and the summer season without having to pay ridiculous exorbitant entrance fees to specific beach resorts.
The internet is available to everyone anywhere you go. WIFI is free of charge. However connection is not always perfect. Yes Yes, there was a whole 12 hours of internet blockage in the area next to my hotel. It made me realize how hooked I am to social media. Scratch your disapproving looks.
The weather is amazing. Not too hot during the day but much available breeze to cool your tanning sessions. Nights are cooler. Just perfect for a winter lover (like yours truly!!).
I loved Cyprus and my getaway was much needed. Will I ever visit again? Yes probably but for a shorter period of time. The feeling that I conclude from my traveling experience to Aphrodite’s Island? Speechless & Amusing.
Note: Few of the pictures above are taken from the internet.