Located in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea is the beautiful island country of Cyprus. Divided into Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, the country has a fascinating, rich history and culture and is thus packed to the brim with attractions of all kinds, making it the ideal place for a holiday. But is Cyprus a Muslim country? What is the pre-dominant religion in Cyprus? Will it be a great destination for Muslim travelers? Read on to discover how Muslim-friendly Cyprus is!
Islam in Cyprus
Islam in Cyprus has been present since 649; when the island was conquered by Uthman - the third Caliph of the Arab Rashidun Empire, but settlers from Turkey, during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus strengthened the presence of the religion. Although most of the country is Christian, today, Muslims make up a large percentage of Cyprus’s population. Turkish Cypriots, Greek reverts, and settlers from Turkey and other countries now make up the population of Muslims in Cyprus. Northern Cyprus is home to a significant part of this Muslim population, and is therefore very Muslim-friendly and is frequented by Muslims from across the globe.
Mosques in Cyprus
There are quite a number of mosques in Cyprus, many of which were once Byzantine Churches and converted during Ottoman rule. Muslims visiting Cyprus will therefore be able to find mosques in Northern Cyprus, and a few in its Southern part.
The city of Nicosia is home to a large Muslim community. Mosques in Nicosia include the Selimiye Mosque; which is the city’s main mosque, and also a top tourist attraction. Arabahmet Mosque, Bayraktar Mosque, Arablar Mosque, Omerie Mosque and Taht-el-Kaleh Mosque are some of the other main mosques in Nicosia.
Also on the northern coast of Cyprus is the city of Kyrenia, which is predominantly Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot. Muslim visitors will therefore be able to find a mosque in Kyrenia, namely the beautiful Agha Cafer Pasha Mosque.
Muslims in search of mosques in Larnaka; on the southern coast of Cyprus, will also be able to find a couple. The Hala Sultan Tekke, situated on the shores of the Larnaka Salt Lake is one of the most well-known mosques in Larnaka and is also a popular tourist site. Other mosques in Larnaka include the Djámi Kebír, Zouhouri Mosque and Tousla Mosque.
Limassol, a city on Cyprus’s southern coast also houses a sizeable number of Muslims. The main mosque in Limassol is the Grand Mosque, which is located in its Old Town. Muslims visiting Limassol will also be able to offer their Friday prayers at Cami Cedid Masjid.
Also on the southern coast of Cyprus is the resort town of Ayia Napa, which is home to one mosque; Masjid Syedna Ibrahim.
Muslim tourists will also be able to find a few mosques in the Paphos district.
Although there are quite a few more than those mentioned above, many mosques in Cyprus are quite old, and are therefore closed or being used for other purposes.
Halal Food in Cyprus
Muslims in search of Halal food in Cyprus will be able to locate some in the areas mentioned above. While there are not many Halal restaurants in Cyprus, it is possible to locate some eateries that serve Halal dishes. Northern Cyprus is the best place for Muslims to find Halal food. Delicious Turkish dishes as well as Cypriot specialties are served at most restaurants. Must-tries include Halloumi cheese, kebabs and the famous Turkish Delight. The best way to try out the diverse local cuisine would be to order a ‘mezze’, which consists of a variety of small dishes containing a selection of delicious items ranging from salads, to creamy hummus and grilled meats.
While Halal food in Northern Cyprus will be easy to find, Muslim tourists will find it more difficult locating Halal food in Southern Cyprus. If unable to find any Halal restaurants in Southern Cyprus, Muslim visitors are sure to find numerous restaurants serving suitable vegetarian and seafood dishes, as both make up a huge part of Cypriot cuisine. There are also a few shops that sell Halal meat, throughout the island. Muslim visitors able to prepare their own meals can therefore buy meats from these butchers.