Culture and sport in Northern Cyprus
Northern Cyprus has a history of culture dating back centuries and largely rooted in folk traditions. The country has produced many notable artists, musicians and writers who encompass a vast range of styles and activities. Cultural heritage is extremely important to Cypriot people, and there are many festivals held throughout the year, together with exhibitions and performances. Although many of these are small events, often centred around villages, there are some notable performances with international artists and world-wide appeal. Some of these are held at ancient historical sites and watching Shakespeare performed in the amphitheatre at Salamis is a sublime experience. Every year, Bellapais Abbey plays host to the Bellapais Music Festival, which attracts classical musicians and singers of international repute.
There is a very strong tradition of folk music in Northern Cyprus and a surprising number of local people are actively involved. In fact, most older Cypriots love their heritage in this regard and in the smaller restaurants and tavernas, especially in villages, it is by no means unusual for a few locals to turn up in the evening with instruments far older than themselves, and start playing and singing. The history of the island means that Turkish Cypriot folk music is a combination of influences, and all the richer because of that. There is also a significant history here with regard to classical music. The State Symphony Orchestra and Chorus has been active for over 40 years and holds regular concerts throughout the year and the country is home to a number of internationally-recognised performs, such as the pianist Ruya Taner and the French horn player, Turgay Hilmi. Contemporary music is not forgotten though and the jazz-fusion guitarist Okan Ersan was recognist by Guitarist Magazine in 2003 as one of the best five guitar players in the world. North Cyprus has also produced its share of pop music artists, probably the most notable of whom is Nil Burak, an actress and singer who is now comparatively well known on the international stage. Today, there is a thriving music scene in North Cyprus, and as well as the International Bellapais Music Festival, there are annual jazz festivals and many contemporary events.
One look at the foyer of any of the North Cyprus hotels will immediately show that Cypriots are extremely good at art and design and have a natural feel for materials and colours. In modern terms, although born in England, it is worth remembering that Tracey Emin has Turkish Cypriot parenthood and although her work might not be to everybody’s taste, she has certainly achieved a degree of fame! For the more traditionally inclined, there have been numerous North Cyprus artists, most notably twentieth-century impressionist painters and classicists. These include Necati Ozkan, Ismet Guney and Hasan Ozturk, all of whom have exhibited internationally. There are many art galleries and shops selling local paintings throughout the island and you may well be tempted to come home with a reminder of your North Cyprus holiday that will be an asset in the future! The typically Mediterranean light seems particularly vibrant here, and North Cyprus remains a favourite spot for painters and photographers.
Other cultural activities
North Cyprus has a thriving cinema and theatre culture, though these generally tend not to be mainstream. The trend here again leans towards the traditional, often worked around historical events and ways of life, although a few have won world acclaim, with awards and prizes at the Venice Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival. Ancient ‘shadow plays’ and puppetry feature prominently in the history of theatre, but the performing arts are widely supported and the Turkish Cypriot State Theater offers many events throughout the year. Modern theatre is well represented too, but with the historical influences of the Byzantines, Lusignans and particularly the Venetians, it should come as no surprise that Shakespeare’s plays are often performed. These are frequently held in open-air venues, and often taking advantage of monumental settings to add that extra bit of magic. Again, veering toward the traditional, there is a history of poetry here, usually working around old Cypriot culture and legend.
As with many parts of the world, football is probably the most popular sport in Northern Cyprus. The country has a number of proper stadiums, the largest of which seats over 30,000 people, however, you will find football pitches in many places and youth players train with near religious fervour! Sport in general, however, is very popular. There are many tennis clubs, badminton and squash courts around, together with basketball, handball and table tennis facilities. In fact, there are thirty plus federations governing various sports in the country and all have active participation. Considering the climate and the coastline, it will come as no surprise to learn that water sports are relatively popular here. Kyrenia Harbour is a stop-off point for various world yachting events, and to see the harbour full of beautiful sailing craft is wonderful. Although golf has always been very popular in Turkey, with many superb courses, it was relatively unknown in North Cyprus until a few years ago. That changed completely with the opening of the Korineum Golf and Country Club in 2007. The club revolves around its magnificent course and has all the facilities the keen golfer could wish for, with resident professionals, practice greens, a driving range and a well-stocked pro shop. Over 6,200 metres in total, it was designed by David Hemstock and is a challenging play, with plenty of hazards, but offset by stunning views and is maintained to the highest standards. The club also has full spa facilities and for other sports, offers tennis courts (with coaching available) and numerous other activities.