Cyprus, blessed with greenery, beaches and snow-capped mountains is just three-and-half hours away from the Gulf.
We found aromatic forests, breathed cool fresh air, dipped into warm blue waters, and met friendly people.
Equipped with modern amenities, Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, has Roman and Greek ruins, such as Amathus in Limassol and Aphrodite’s Rock outside of Paphos.
Cyprus, which welcomes more than 2.4 million tourists annually, is a dreamy spot for travelers who love romantic walks through cool pine forests, view of lush citrus orchards, meadows blanketed with wildflowers and a trip from rugged coasts to snow covered Troodos Mountains will be unforgettable.
“Without a tiring journey, a Gulf tourist can taste Europe here in Cyprus with a temperate climate and a laid-back lifestyle,” says Alexis, the Cypriot tour guide who was escorting us.
Nicosia, surrounded by a Venetian sandstone fortress wall, is a busy business center. The famous Cyprus Museum in Nicosia houses a large collection of Cypriot antiquities and art, from Neolithic times until they early Christian period.
The cultural heritage of Cyprus lives on the island’s folk art.
“Cyprus’ hospitable people, snow in the winter and fantastic beaches in summer, are all positives. We can reach on the top of mountain from the beach within 40 minutes. The traditional Cypriot mezze is equal to Arabic counterparts,” explained C.K. Husain, Gulf Manager of Cyprus Airways, while roaming in Limassol.
The islands’ second largest city is Limassol. It spreads out between two ancient city Kingdoms, Amathus to the east and Kourion to the west, two of the most spectacular archeological sites in Cyprus.
The Roman amphitheatre at Kourion is another must-see. Located just outside Limassol, the second century BC site has been restored and hosts a number of musical and theatrical performances in the summer.
The timeless verses of the ancient Greek playwrights still reverberate on balmy summer evenings at the ancient theatre of Kourion and the Pafos Odeion, where classical Greek plays are regularly staged.
Larnaca, the third largest city in the island, has an historic mosque, Hala Sultan Tekke, which was built to honor Prophet Mohammed’s (pbuh) aunt who died there after falling from her horse. When we passed Larnaca, we saw a number of Arab tourists mainly from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Pafos, on the southwest coast of Cyprus, is a pleasant harbor and medieval fort, combines a cosmopolitan holiday resort, spectacular countryside and historical sites. The Tombs of the Kings in Paphos are among the largest Roman ruins on the island. They are rock cut and date to the Hellenistic and early Roman periods.
All the four cities have high quality hotels to meet the needs of discerning visitors of the island.
A trip to snow covered Troodos Mountains is also interesting. At 2000 meters above sea level, the Troodos provide panoramic views and it is a place for skiing in winter. There are hiking trails winding through pine forests.
In the villages, we can still observe old ways of life, customs and traditions. We will find the quiet rhythms of country life and hearty hospitality of the village people.
In 2007, Cyprus attracted 53,232 arrivals from the Middle East, an increase of 74 percent over 2006 figures, pointing to the island’s increased popularity with regional travelers in recent years.
“This year we expect 10,000 visitors from UAE and a total 50,000 from ME, says Vassilis Theocharides, director of Cyprus Tourism Organization Middle East and Arabian Gulf office.
“We are going to focus on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, countries that already have a close connection with the Cyprus this year. Last year we received 45,000 visitors from the Middle East”.”
Currently, Cyprus, a member of European Union with Euro as its currency, is trying to attract business tourists under the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) scheme.