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The Road to Ayia Napa

July 3, 2011

It was finally the Friday of the weekend we had all been waiting for since we arrived in Cyprus .. It was Ayia Napa weekend! In case you are wondering, Ayia Napa is basically the party capitol of Cyprus, filled with European tourists and a nightlife that would put most to shame. But in true GLS fashion, we wouldn’t be going straight to this magical place we had heard about for weeks, instead we would be spending Friday traveling to different sites on the island. Which, luckily for you ;), produced a lot of good pictures and came with a lot of interesting history.

Our first destination of the day was Hala Sultan Tekke right outside Larnaca. Hala Sultan Tekke is a Muslim shrine dedicated to Umm Haram, who was the Islamic Prophet Muhammad’s wet nurse. It is believed that she actually died there and a tomb has been placed inside the building to commemorate her. The architecture of the building was simply breathtaking, and being placed on a salt lake only added to the beauty. The feeling of walking through a building that is revered by such a large population was indescribable. The group walked around in an awe-like state, taking in every detail. We had to remove our shoes seeing as it is a mosque, however it is no longer used for that purpose. It was so hard to believe that the building, which was built thousands of years ago, was still standing, let alone in the great condition that it was.

Hala Sultan Tekke, the Mosque of Umm Haram

The tomb of Umm Haram

After the visit to the mosque, we drove into Larnaca to see the Church of Saint Lazarus. I’ll go ahead and say that since I’ve been in Cyprus, I’ve noticed something about the people and their devotion to their religion. One has to realize that Christianity in Cyprus has been strong since before the United States even existed. The churches here are miraculous, and whether you are religious or not, one can’t help but be moved by the history and mere age behind these sacred monuments. The Church of Lazarus was no different in this sense. Not only was the building itself simply beautiful, but once inside you could feel the faithfulness of those there worshiping. The Church of Saint Lazarus is names for Lazarus of Bethany, who in the Bible was raised from the dead by Jesus. It is believed that at some point in his life, he was forced to flee Judea and wound up in Cyprus. While in Cyprus, he was appointed the first bishop of Kittim (now Larnaca) and he lived out the rest of his life there, where he was finally buried for the second and final time. While Lazarus’ remains were moved to Constantinople after being found in Cyprus in 898, the Church of Saint Lazarus was erected over the tomb where the remains were originally found. Today, the church hold a piece of Lazarus’ skull which people come to pray over daily.

The Church of Saint Lazarus on a clear, blue day

Lazarus' tomb underneath the church

Part of Lazarus' skull which is housed in the church

After a long day of tours, we were all ready to get to our hotel and hit the pool! While we were sorely disappointed with our hotel, we got over it quickly because it at LEAST had a pool and they played American music outside haha. I can only describe Ayia Napa as .. Spring Break on steroids. There were so many European tourists and music was blaring from every street. After spending a few hours at the pool and having a few cocktails, we got  ready for dinner at Valentino’s. Valentino’s was opened by Giorgios Mavrogiannopoulos, a Top Chef finalist, and the menu featured foods that were actually presented on the show! Needless to say, the food was delicious and everyone seemed very pleased in the end 🙂

The menu at Valentino's

Owned by a Top Chef finalist

I ordered Halloumi kabobs for an appetizer ..

.. And a Margherita Pizza for dinner!

I was too exhausted after dinner to join everyone else who went out, so I turned in early .. But I definitely had an exciting day full of new experiences and beautiful places! And the weekend held more than enough fun so one night in wasn’t so bad 🙂 So until next time .. Stay tuned!

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