I am not sure exactly how many minaret towers are still standing in the villages and towns of Cyprus’ southern coastal zone. Unfortunately, due to current restrictions on movement connected to the Covid situation and “Lockdown Light” etc, one cannot easily drive around to check the exact number standing minarets. Can you imagine if you were pulled over by the police who want to check your reason for driving out of your home District: “You see, Officer, I am simply driving around to check out the mosques with minaret towers…isn’t that covered in Reason Number 8?”
That said, and bearing in mind that minaret towers are a sign of community affluence so some south coast villages might have a mosque but no minaret tower (e.g. Kato Paphos and Kouklia), just off the top of my head (working from west to east/left to right, as it were), I can think of these South Coast minarets:
- Paphos-Mouttallos: 2 or 3
- Phasoula: 1
- Avdimou: 1
- Paramali: 1
- Episkopi: 1 (
- Kantou: 1
- Lemessos: 2 or 3 (that’s from memory, maybe they have another?)
- Kalavasos: 1
- Pano Lefkara: 1
- Menoyia: 1
- Larnaca: 2 or 3
Once again, this is just from memory, so there may well be some not listed above, either because I do not know about them or cannot remember.
Of all the South Coast minarets I remember, by far my favourite is the Minaret Tower of Kalavasos Village. Quite simply a true masterpiece of stone construction and the most ornate as it bears incredibly well preserved stone-carved motifs on its balcony. In my opinion, the minaret tower in Kalavasos blows away all the competition in terms of beauty, decoration and just sheer power of its presence.
I also think it stands as a testimony to how a community like Kalavasos was a perfect example of good old-fashioned Cypriot village bi-communal harmony and mutual respect. Kalavasiotes, regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation, all shared a community spirit. You never saw any attempt by the Greek-speaking inhabitants wishing to tear down the minaret or deface it in any way. That’s why I consider Kalavasos one of the most “true and pure” Cypriot villages on the island. Ironically, I met several former Turkish Cypriot Kalavasiotes living since the late 1970s in Bellapais Village, outside Kyrenia. That is where they, and people from Mari Village, ended up after 1974. I spoke to several Turkish-speaking Kalavasiotes in exile as I wondered the streets of Bellapais. Now elderly in age, they still spoke Greek, and they remembered their home village and former Greek-speaking Kalavasos neighbours with great affection.
It is true that my assessment might possibly result from personal bias, as I lived in Kalavasos for over ten years and partly consider myself a Kalavasiotis or “Son of Kalavasos”. It is my home village in Cyprus, at least emotionally (which is to me more important than any biological connection). But even to the objective eye, this a Tower of Power. It still stands today as a true landmark of Cyprus’ South Coast.
We can trace the trajectory of population growth in Kalavasos over recent times by reviewing these figures taken from historical sources:
- 1862: 200+ inhabitants (no specific details available)
- 1879: 520 inhabitants (346 Greek Cypriots, 156 Turkish Cypriots)
- 1960: 1124 inhabitants (881 Greek Cypriots, 243 Turkish Cypriots)
It seems obvious to conclude that the steady increase in population regardless of demographic affiliations was due at least in part to mining operations carried out at the rich copper deposits at the “Platies” locality, just a few kilometres north of the village. The employment opportunities offered by these Kalavasos Mines proved to be a major attraction for workers from all over the island. Throughout the first half of the 20th century and beyond, many young men originally from settlements in the Paphos, Lefkosia and Limassol Districts came to Kalavasos to work in the mines. Several of them ended up marrying in Kalavasos and never left. The composition of some great Kalavasos families reflects this history even today. The affluence of the community in general, and that of the Muslim Kalavasiotes specifically, stems directly from the Mines and probably explains the existence of such a superb minaret tower, one of the most ornate in Cyprus, which today stands as a proud monument overlooking the great village Plateia (“Village Square”).
In the “good old days” (i.e. before the mid-1990s, it used to be possible to climb up the great stone-cut spiral staircase of the Kalavasos Minaret to reach and stand on the verandah. From here, one could enjoy fantastic, breath-taking views over the village and surrounding Vasilikos river valley. However, this is no longer possible, or even encouraged, due to safety concerns. Nevertheless, if you visit Kalavasos today, you will be able to experience the delights of this monumental stone building from the outside.