Madeline Blount
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Complexity and the Beach

August 5, 2009 @ 9:31 AM | Permalink

 If you've heard of Salamis, the one-time capital of Cyprus and a Roman city of pretty considerable glory (on the scale of ancient city-state glory, it's got a few amphitheaters to its credit), you probably won't be surprised that it's still there.  You might be surprised that it is surrounded by a public beach, and its entrance sign looks like this:


On a recent sojourn up North ("Turkish side"), after crossing a checkpoint in the Eastern part of the island that is actually still a UK military base on British soil, I stopped at this beach with travel companions.  We didn't actually go to the ruins, but the beach nearby was covered with terra cotta pot sherds, some of which must have sifted through the sand from the site.

On complexity: in explaining the current division in Cyprus, you could say it's the Greeks versus the Turks.  But then to be more accurate you would have to say it's Greece and Turkey, and the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.  But then really you would add the British, the Americans, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and Greece, and Turkey.  Alright, most inclusive: Greece, Turkey, Britain, USA, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and immigrants from everywhere, including new "settlers" from mainland Turkey.  Not exactly the East versus West conflict that people may see if they want to see it.  This multiplicity of borders and identities caught up with me in my bathing suit at Salamis.

Observe this sign:

No bathing fully clothed, basically.  At first I was as confused as that guy.  But who would go swimming fully clothed, I asked myself.  The answer: devout Muslim women, who would not de-robe at a public beach.  This would certainly not apply to Turkish Cypriots, who don't tend to fill the many mosques that are being continually built on the Turkish side of the island.  They are not nearly as religious as the immigrants from Turkey, who are given incentives to move to Cyprus, some say in hopes of legitimizing the North as a more Turkish "state."  So, there is strife and anxiety surrounding the issue of Turkish settlers and Islam.  It is sometimes Turks vs. Turkish Cypriots.

And everyone was properly near-naked on the beach.



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Loved the ending on this. Related: I find that sometimes I remember a meeting or moment but can't recall what country it happened in. I also find that if I ...

Saleem Reshamwala on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-23

Thanks Saleem -- I've also experienced that tonguetied delirium from speaking multiple languages in the same conversation. . . interesting to think of meaning separate from words, does meaning require ...

Madeline Blount on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-26

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