GIOVANNI MARITI. Travels in the Island of Cyprus
Translated from the Italian by Claude Delaval Cobham, C.M.G.,
at the University Press, 1909
Of the city of Larnaca
Larnaca, of which I am now to speak, should properly be called a large village, but as it is the commercial emporium of the whole island, and ranks officially next after Nicosia, though dependent on the Governor there, it can show reason for calling itself a city, being also the seat of a Greek bishopric and the residence of the consuls of the European Powers.
This city then lies at half an hour's distance from the houses of the Salines, to the north of the city of Citium: part of the foundations of the ancient walls are included in it. We know nothing of its origin: advantage may have been taken of the nearness of the harbour, and of the materials found in the ruins of Citium.
Lusignan tells us that it was already a place of some consequence when the island, in 1570, was taken by the Turks. Here are his words: "Half a league from the Marina is a large village, which is really a town, considering its merchants and trade: the government sends a Captain, a Venetian gentleman, who is changed every two years, and has already determined to make it a free town and give it some distinction." Lusignan does not give its name, but by various travellers it is called Arnica, Lamica, Larnaca, Arnaco or Larnaco.
The city is of semicircular shape, with its diameter facing south: you can walk round it in an hour. It contains no very ancient monument, merely buildings constructed by the Christians before, or the Moslem after, the conquest. The mosque was a Latin church dedicated to the Holy Cross, a small Gothic building with a porch supported by six columns of different marbles. The vault within rests on four pillars, which form three aisles: between the pillars are set little columns with their bases and capitals, well preserved but so daubed with whitewash that one cannot see of what stone or marble they are. On the left as you leave the mosque is a minaret built on the foundations of the old bell tower. This is a kind of tower, from which the Turks call the faithful to prayer. A garden adjoins the mosque, and within the same enclosure are buried the more distinguished Turks who die in the city.
Every mosque has its Imam, or Curate, who is bound to attend at the mosque at the hours of prayer. He is permitted to read the Qur'an and teach the people. The Muezzin are officials of lower rank, whose duty is to mount the minaret and call the people to prayer. They begin their call on the south side, then turn successively to the east, north and west. They shout as loudly as they can, stopping their ears with their fingers: the call is in Arabic, and invokes the names of God and Mohammad.
The Turks are bound to pray five times a day, at the dawn, at midday, at three o'clock, at sunset, and lastly at midnight. On Friday, their day of rest, they say a sixth prayer some hours after sunrise. Busy people omit to pray at some of these hours, and observe one or two only. Before prayer they wash very carefully their hands and feet and other parts of the body, and every place where they pray, be it in the open field, they hold to be sacred. When they begin to pray they kneel on a carpet or mat, or their own garment, having first made certain genuflexions, and with the face turned to the south they begin their prayer with great composure. In a quarter of an hour or little more, it is
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