Museums in North Cyprus


Museums in North Cyprus. WITH EVIDENCE of human settlers dating back to the Neolithic Age and written records spanning from the 8th century BC to modern day, Cyprus is an island rich with history and heritage. And what better place to learn about the cultures and civilisations that have occupied this island than one of the many museums located in the North. From displays of ancient pottery to the oldest trading shipwreck in the world, these museums tell a fascinating tale of Cypriot life over the centuries. Here is a glimpse of what three of the museums in North Cyprus has to offer…

The Shipwreck Museum, Kyrenia

Located inside Kyrenia castle, the shipwreck museum houses the oldest merchant vessel ever to be discovered. Dating back to the 4th century BC, the ship sank in open waters less than a mile from Anchorage at Kyrenia. Here, she and her cargo mysteriously lay for several centuries. Accidentally discovered by a local sponge diver in 1965, the ship was salvaged from the sea and placed inside Kyrenia’s magnificent castle. Visitors to the Ancient Shipwreck Museum will find a range of incredible cargo exhibits to explore, including jars of thousands of perfectly preserved almonds, as well as the merchant vessel itself.

The Mevlevî Tekke “Whirling Dervish” Museum, Nicosia

Built in the 17th Century, the Mevlevî Tekke in the capital was an important cultural center of the Ottoman era in Cyprus. Devoted to the Muslin sect widely known as the Whirling Dervishes, the Mevlevi order was founded in Turkey by the famous 13th-century mystical poet Rumi. Central to their beliefs was the ‘sema’, ie; the characteristic whirling dance thought to achieve a transcendental forgetting of the self and communion with God.

The museum depicts the sema in its central hall where a set of mannequins in traditional dress are frozen in time spinning to a mannequin band. Beyond here are the tombs of past Mevlevî Sheiks, archive photographs, prayer beads and trinkets. Whilst Whirling Dervish ceremonies were closed by decree in Turkey in 1925, British rule in Cyprus allowed them to continue until 1954. Now, at the Mevlevî Tekke Museum, a whirling ceremony is performed annually in honour of Rumi.

The St. Barnabas Icon & Archeology Museum, Salamis

Located near to the ancient ruins of Salamis is St. Barnabas Church and Monastery, now transformed into a fascinating Icon & Archaeology Museum. Saint Barnabas, the patron saint of Cyprus, was one of the early followers of Christianity and founder of the independent Greek Orthodox Church. He was captured by the Romans during a visit to Cyprus and met an untimely death, but not before converting the governor of the island to adopt the faith. Consequently, Cyprus became the first country in the world with a Christian ruler.

It is thought to have taken four centuries before the body of Saint Barnabas was finally discovered. To commemorate his name, a church was built on the site of his long-lost tomb, and a monastery later founded. Whilst this was mostly destroyed during Arab raids in the 8th century AD, the existing church was built over the original foundations. Inside there are four beautiful frescoes depicting the legend of how the remains of Saint Barnabas were discovered through a dream by the Bishop of Cyprus. The church also houses a rich collection of painted and gilt icons, mostly dating from the 18th century. The restored cloister of the monastery serves as the archaeological museum. Amongst other finds, this has an exquisite collection of ancient pottery, chronologically displaying the changes in artistic style from the Neolithic period to Roman times.

Of course, the North has many more museums, with relics and artifacts from ancient times to the modern day. All you need to do is hire a car and go exploring back through time. But be warned, the Museum of Barbarism is not for the faint-hearted.