An Island located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus is stepped in history and has many ancient religious monuments that live up to this claim. Whilst the Island has a long history when it comes to Christianity and Churches, it wasn’t until the 15th century that Mosques started appearing throughout the Island. It is for this reason that historians tell us that Cyprus is one of the best examples of peaceful religious coexistence which is reflected in the ancient and abandoned mosques of Cyprus.
It was not until 1571 that Islam was officially introduced to the Island through the Ottoman Empire, which meant that more and more Mosques started appearing throughout the Island. A large majority still stand today; however, it is only the Mosques located in the southern part of the country that are operational and active. Driving around the north of the Island, visitors will see many Mosques that have been abandoned due to the forcible division of Cyprus by the Turkish Invasion in 1974. Whilst there are a number of Mosques that are still active, many have closed their doors as the majority of Muslims moved towards the north of the Island.
Cyprus is a unique place when it comes to ancient religious monuments. The Cypriot government and people truly believe that these abandoned and active mosques represent an integral part of the heritage of Cyprus.
There were converted Mosques that were previously Gothic and Byzantine churches and then New Mosques; those that were built from scratch. It’s quite simple to distinguish between both as many converted churches retain their former architecture and design. However, in some cases minarets were erected on the side of the Mosque.
Many of the abandoned Mosques which lie in the Southern part of the Island are located mainly in Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos. There are several other villages surrounding these areas in which you’ll find more. Larnaca in specific has some of the oldest mosques in the Island with many of them being permanently closed.
One such example is the Klavdia Mosque in Klavdia Village in Larnaca. This is a converted church and was formerly known as the Holy Church of Agia Aikaterini. Visiting this Mosque was somewhat surreal as the exterior was beautiful and inviting located in a relaxed neighbourhood, yet walking up toward the doors to enter the Mosque and finding it locked was dejecting.
Further west, after a ten-minute drive we arrive in the almost deserted village Kofinou. Prior to entering the village, visitors will notice the exceptionally tall minaret. Built in the 1960s, this is one of the newest built Mosques in Cyprus. After the Turkish Invasion in 1974, the Mosque has been abandoned and therefore visitors will notice graffiti on the walls and a lack of maintenance within the garden of the Mosque.
It really is quite fascinating to drive around and visit these abandoned Mosques which were once thriving with the call to prayer from their minarets. There are many more Mosques that are still open or have been left abandoned on this small Island. The memories of the invasion are still ripe for the Cypriots and the Turkish and both parties hope to see the mend of what was once a great relationship in the near future. Through visiting this island and the mosques, we can hope to ignite a spark which could hopefully result in a more hopeful future, inshaAllah.