Located in the Eastern Mediterranean at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Cyprus’ strategic position has played a key role in shaping its history and in developing the island into a centre for trade and international business. Cyprus enjoys around 340 days of glorious sunshine a year and boasts a coastline teeming with endless stretches of golden sands, secluded bays and rocky coves. Surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the island is dotted with the fascinating remains of history from Neolithic settlements and ancient city-kingdoms to exquisite Byzantine art and magnificent Venetian architecture.
Cyprus has been coveted, conquered and colonised numerous times during its 10,000-year history. The island attracted the interest of a succession of dominant powers in the region, which battled for it through the millennia. The first of these are believed to have been the Achaean Greeks who arrived in around 1200 BC introducing their language, religion and customs to the island. Cyprus was subsequently colonised by the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Persians. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great claimed the island, which remained part of the Greek-Egyptian kingdom until 30 BC, when the Romans arrived and Cyprus became a senatorial province. It was during this period that Saint Paul was said to have visited the island and converted the Roman governor to Christianity. Cyprus remained a Roman possession until the empire began to disintegrate in 330AD, when it became part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. In 1191, Cyprus was conquered by the English king, Richard the Lionheart, while on his way to take part in the Third Crusade. He later sold the island to the Knights Templar, who consequently sold it on to the Franks or Lusignans, a dynasty which went on to rule Cyprus for almost 300 years, until the last of the Lusignans ceded the island to Venice in 1489. Despite building heavy fortifications around the island’s major cities of Famagusta and Nicosia, the Venetians were not able to withstand the invading Ottoman troops who conquered the island in 1571. Cyprus remained under Ottoman rule until the arrival of the British in 1878.
ClimateCyprus enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with long, warm, dry summers from May to October and mild winters with occasional rain, lasting from December to February. Summer and winter in Cyprus are separated by short autumn and spring seasons. The average daytime temperatures during summer range from +21.C to +34.C, although in high summer temperatures can reach as high as +40.C. During the cooler months, temperatures can range between +7.C and +15.C although even during the height of winter there are generally six hours of bright sunshine during the day.
LanguageCypriots are highly educated and multilingual. The official languages of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish, however English is widely spoken and written and is the language of international business. German, French and Russian are also widely spoken in commerce, due both to the number of Cypriot graduates from overseas universities and the island’s commercial ties with the global business community.
Culture & EntertainmentMore than a place just for lounging in the sun, there are lots of things happening in Cyprus all year round. From music concerts and cultural performances with big name stars, sports events, religious festivals with all the pomp and circumstance of the Greek Orthodox Church, to informative conferences where you can meet like minds. The Cyprus Rally has been held every year since 1970 and forms part of the World Rally Championship and the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, and attracts hordes of car enthusiasts, while the annual Historic Cyprus Rally draws crowds of vintage car enthusiasts. Cultural events such as the Pharos Chamber Music Festival, the Kypria International Festival, which comprises music, dance and performance arts, and the Thalassa International Festival, which includes photographic exhibitions, movie screenings and music performances, ensure there’s something to interest everyone on the annual calendar of events. 2017 also brings with it an additional programme of top-tier cultural events in the coastal town of Paphos, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite and UNESCO world heritage site, following the town’s win for the bid of the European Capital of Culture this year.
EducationThere is a wealth of excellent private schools on the island, the majority of which are English speaking, but there are also French, Russian and Greek-speaking private schools. Fees are generally less than for the equivalent education in the UK. Public schools are free, and teaching is conducted in Greek. Tertiary education is provided by the six universities in Cyprus as well as several other colleges that offer a variety of vocational and academic courses.
HealthcareRanked by the World Health Organisation as one of the healthiest countries in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has an excellent healthcare system provided through both the private and public sector. The public health service is funded through the social security payments of those who work on the island, whether Cypriots or foreign residents. The system provides free or low cost healthcare for those who contribute to social security, plus their families and retirees, as well as emergency treatment for everyone. However, the full public health service isn’t available to foreign visitors, who require private health insurance unless they wish to pay high medical bills. EU citizens who are visiting Cyprus can receive free outpatient or inpatient treatment with a European Health Card, an EHIC (the old E111), which is issued by the health authority in their home country. However, this covers only essential treatment and not routine treatment. Non-EU visitors must pay for healthcare. There are a number of private clinics throughout the island that specialise in all fields of healthcare and their fees are low compared to most European countries.
Key facts about CyprusCapital: Nicosia
Dialing code: +357
Driving side: left