Güzelyurt, which means `beautiful country’ in Turkish, is aptly named. Situated in the north-west with a population of 12,000; it is a charming little town which is surrounded by citrus groves; their wonderful heady scent is itself a good enough reason for a visit in blossom time.
Underwater springs nourish the apples, vegetables, grapefruit and melons for which the area is also famous. A large proportion of the citrus fruits are exported and the remainder are turned into fruit juice and canned for local consumption and export.
Güzelyurt is also famous for its annual Orange Festival, which is a major event lasting two weeks.
Places of Interest
St. Mamas Church and Icon Museum The many valuable historical artefacts are on display inside, which include the Sacrophagus of St. Mamas which according to folklore, was washed ashore and discovered by a peasant in the local bay. In a vision he was told to take the Sacrophagus to the place where it now stands and build a monastery there.
Museum of Archeological and Natural Sciences The museum contains mainly archeological artifacts from the Bronze Age as well as a section mainly concerned with geology, birds, reptiles, insects and some of the wildlife of the island.
Pighades: A Bronze Age Settlement
Guzelyurt Museum houses a rich collection of objects which show the ancient archaeological history of the island from prehistory to Roman times.
In the first room artefacts from various prehistoric sites of the island and pottery of the Bronze Age are displayed. Red on White Ware and Red Polished Ware of the Early Bronze Age (c 2300-1900 BC), Red on White Ware of the Middle Bronze Age (c 1900-1650 BC) and Red Lustruous Ware of the Late Bronze Age (c 1650-1050) are the major groups. The following three rooms contain the findings from the nearby Bronze Age settlement of Toumba tou Skourou. The fifth room is reserved for objects of art from Classical, Hellenistic and Roman times.
The town is thought to have been founded around 1600 BC on an artificial mound. Its name means the ‘Mound of Darkness’.
A piece of copper slag discovered has led some archaeologists to think that Toumba tou Skourou was probably one of the towns on the island where copper was worked and exported in the Bronze Age. The rich grave finds confirm the prosperity of the settlement.
The houses were built of mudbrick on stone foundations. Its handmade pottery is exceptionally good and includes White Slip Ware and Base Ring Ware. The first group is decorated with geometric motifs in orange or dark brown colour on white ground. The Base Ring Ware is mostly little jugs with tall necks bringing to mind the shape of the inverted opium poppy-head.
The origins of Soli are traced back to an Assyrian (c 700 BC) tribute list where it is referred to as Si-il-lu. It is also known that in 580 BC, King Philokypros moved his capital from Aepia to Si-il-lu on the advice of his mentor Solon, and renamed the town after the Athenian philosopher.
In 498 BC along with most of the other city kingdoms of Cyprus, Soli also rose against its Persian masters and at the end of the war it was captured.
Soli became a prosperous city during the Roman period. However by the 4th century its harbour was already silted up and the copper mines were closed. It was destroyed by Arab raids in the 7th century.
On the acropolis, which occupied the top of the hill high above the theatre, there was a royal palace similar to the one of Vouni, thought to date from a slightly later period. In addition to silver and gold jewellery of the Hellenistic period, excavations have brought to light a marble statue of Aphrodite from the 1st century BC and a frieze representing the war of the Amazons from the 2nd century BC (Cyprus Museum – Greek sector). The so-called Fugger sarcophagus in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna is also thought to have come from the necropolis of Soli.
Excavations have also brought to light some Hellenistic ruins such as the remains of a colonnaded paved street which leads to an agora with a marble monumental fountain.
Excavations have shown that a settlement was made here as early as the 11th century BC owing probably to the existence of a good water supply, fertile soil and a protected harbour, the nearby copper deposits and timber to smelt the copper.
Soli is known as the traditional place where St Mark received baptism and St Auxibius, a Roman who fled the city in the 1st century, was its first bishop. Its basilica was one of the earliest of its kind in Cyprus featuring its own individual characteristics.
The first church of Soli is thought to have been built in the second half of the 4th century. This was a three aisled building of approximately 200 m length. It began with a triple portal which led into a vestibule which was followed by a colonnaded atrium with a fountain. A second triple portal led into the narthex. Inside, twelve pairs of giant columns whose bases have survived separated the nave from the aisles. In the east the church ended with a triple apse. The tiers of the central apse were for the bishops and clergy. The floor of this first church was entirely laid with tesserae and opus sectile mosaics. A large part of these have survived to the present day. As is the case with the other churches of Cyprus, originally the mosaics were of geometric design. Gradually, animals and later opus sectile decoration – pavements made from small coloured stone tiles – were included in the repertoire. A goose-like swan surrounded with florals and four small dolphins in the floor of the nave catch one’s attention. The Greek inscription in mosaic set in the apse reads O Christ save those who gave this mosaic.
During the 5th and 6th centuries the building was enlarged. However, in the 7th century, it was razed to the ground. The church which was built on the ruins of the original one in the 12th century was smaller in size and occupied the eastern section.
The Roman theatre of Soli occupies the site of the original Greek theatre on the northern slope of a hill overlooking the sea below. The present theatre dates from the end of the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd century AD. It has a capacity of some 4,000 spectators. Its stage building was of two storeys, covered with marble panelling and decorated with statues. Its semi-circular auditorium where the spectators sat was partly cut into the rock, and access to it as well as to the orchestra was gained through two side entrances. A low wall of limestone slabs separated the orchestra from the auditorium. The last surviving seats were earned to Port Said in the 19th century and used to rebuild the quaysides. At present this section is restored halfway. From the stage building only the platform on which it was built has survived. At the west of the theatre on a nearby hill traces of the temples dedicated to Isis and Aphrodite have been discovered. The famous torso of the Aphrodite of Soli in the (Cyprus Museum – Greek sector) was found here.
This 137 room palace was built on a hilltop by the Phoenician pro-Persian king of the neighbouring city of Marion to watch over the pro-Greek city of Soli, following an unsuccessful revolt of the latter against the Persians in 498 BC. It was the headquarters of a garrison and consisted of state apartments, large storerooms and bathrooms. In 449 BC when the Persians were defeated and the Greek rule was established, and the ruler of Marion was replaced by a pro-Greek prince and alterations were made and a second storey with walls made from mud bricks was added. The pro-Persian and pro-Greek histories of this royal residence lasted for some 70 years and after it was destroyed by the inhabitants of Soli in a fire in 380 BC it was never rebuilt.
The entrance of the original palace of the first period was in the south-west. Here a porch led to the state apartments: a main room (1) and inner hall and on the two sides a series of connecting rooms (2 & 3). This section of the palace is thought to have had an official function. From here a broad stairway of seven steps led to a columned court surrounded with rooms on three sides. Water to almost all the main rooms was supplied from the underground cisterns cut into the living rock of the mountain, where the winter rain was collected. The stone stele designed to hold a windlass over the cistern in this central courtyard has an unfinished figure at its centre and is thought to have been brought from somewhere else. Some of the storerooms (6) contain holes in which the amphorae were sunk. In the north-west corner there is a water closet (7) beside another deep
cistern More storerooms (9) stood in the eastern corner. On this side also stood a hot bath (10), one
of the earliest of its kind. When the Persian rule was retraced by that of the Greek, El was closed and a new entrance (E2) was built. The ramp (11), as angled vestibule (12), a stairway and an anteroom (13) opening to the central courtyard were added. New storerooms (14) around a courtyard were also built.
During excavations a clay pot blackened by the
fire which destroyed Vouni, gold and silver
bracelets, silver bowls, and hundreds of coins
bearing stamps of Manion, Rition, Lapithos and
Piphos were discovered.
The small rock island of Petra tou Limniti visible
From the palace has traces of a pre-Neolithic settlement. At the top of the hill on which the place was built and towards the south are the remains of a temple built for Athena in the third quarter of the 5th century BC. This sanctuary consisted of two successive courtyards and a sacred enclosure. Here traces of the holes in which the statues were secured have survived.
This town is one of those unspoilt spots in North Cyprus and is established in a fertile pocket. The abundance of water is confirmed by the citrus groves and green plantations. The fruits of Lefke are known as the juiciest in Cyprus. The Mosque of Ottoman admiral Piri Osman Pasha (d 1839) whose courtyard houses many interesting marble :ombs is the main historical attraction in Lefke. The tomb of its founder is a perfect sample of Ottoman stone work and has been serving as an offering spot to invoke the favour of the saint-pasha. It is of marble and has an elaborately carved tall turbaned top. Its centre is blackened by the smoke of the lighted candles. The tomb was dedicated by the wife of the pasha.