Few countries can trade the course of their history over 9.000 years, but in approximately 6.800 BC the island of Cyprus was already inhabited and going through its Neolithic Age. Of all the momentous events that were to sweep the country through the next few thousand years, one of the most crucial was the discovery of cooper - or Kuprum in Latin - the mineral which was to give its name to the island and generate untold wealth.
Over the centuries Cyprus came under the sway of various rulers including the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, the successors to Alexander the Great and the Romans, before Cyprus became part of the Byzantine Empire. Later came the Crusaders, the Lusignans and Venetian, Ottomans and British. Cyprus won its independence in 1960, for the first time in 3.500 years, but the Greek identity of language and culture has been retained. In July 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus and since then 37% of the island in the north is being illegally occupied by Turkish troops who acted in violation of all principles governing international relations.
It is probably no surprise with a history so long, that Cyprus is remarkably rich in culture. Its importance has been honoured by UNESCO which has included nine of the island's Byzantine Mountain churches and the entire town of Kato Pafos in its World Cultural Heritage List.
Wherever you tread in Cyprus you are reminded of a strong traditio n that is kept alive from generation to generation through many events which are celebrated.
Hardly a week goes by in Cyprus without a celebration of some sort, whether it is a colourful festival or homage to a saint on one of the nunerous "name" days. The "Panigiri", a traditional open-air fete, takes place mainly in the villages on the occasion of a saint's name day.
Easter the most important Greek Orthodox religious event is celebrated with solemnity, joy and hope. Carnival is one of the best known Cypriot celebrations, along with "Anthestiria", the Spring Flower festival, and "kataklysmos" - the festival of the Flood - which coincides with Pentecost. Throughout the year there are also exhibitions, concerts, drama and folk festivals.
Cypriot culture is also reflected in the rich folk art of the island. Age-old crafts, handed down from one generation to another, are faithfully carried on to this day by skilful hands and nimble fingers, fashioning handicrafts, both decorative and useful, that would grace any home.
The Greek Orthodox Church has been the mainstay of religion in Cyprus since the 1st century AD, and in a society where the church continues to play an important role, old style values have been maintained and the family unit retains close-knit qualities that keep colourful customs alive, and underline the warmhearted character of Cyprus.