Friday, January 13, 2006

Cyprus fieldwork: Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque

Cyprus fieldwork notes extracts

On the 5th of January 2006, my fieldwork notes started early, as I wrote up a chat I'd just had in a pub and finished late, as I wrote up a visit to Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, one of the holiest sites of Islam.

Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque has a barbed wire fence and night-watchmen to protect it from desecration through ethnic, religious, or ethno-religious nationalists, but which tourists may enter as long as they take off their shoes (not requiring them to wash their feet, etc.).

When I got back from the pub at 3.05am, I noted that I was:
glad I went for that pint now; still, I wish there were places that were open that were local. Anyway, I went to this Irish bar (after being ripped off by the only, tourist-orientated fast food outlet open) and had a pint of Guinness. The conversation was run-of-the-mill, until about 2.15am.
Tired and cozy in the comfortable, warm hotel (unlike the bare, cold hostel I'd stayed in the night before), I fell asleep with my fieldwork diary on my lap, then awoke at 6.55am and, it being too early for breakfast, I continued:
After I was offered a cigarette, we got onto the smoking ban, then onto the euro. I repeated the media opinion that the plan offered at the referendum was reasonable and that, "the Greek Cypriot government rejected it [backed the no campaign] to spite the Turkish Cypriots", because "they get the EU, the euro, development, aid and the Turkish Cypriots get nothing".

The barman asked the other Irish customers, "when you're here, do you feel European?" They gave a non-committal shrug. "Do you think we're all European now? [Here] you're not. They want to be European, but they don't want anybody else to be."

When I protested, "it just depends who you talk to", he declared, "I've been here long enough, I know who to talk to, it doesn't". Then, he burst out, "they're the thickest people in the world, the thickest people in the world! They don't understand anything".

He continued, rather contrarily, that, "they thieve and they steal and they lie; they're the worst in the world; they'll screw you however they can". When I protested again, "it just depends; I always get called 'the kid [to paidi]' and I seem to do all right by it", he warned, "you'll see. Come back and see me, after Nicosia. You'll see, mark my words."

I shrugged and said that, "I think I've been fucked in enough other places to know when I'm being fucked". He responded that, "you'll see. Downtown Larnaka, uptown Nicosia (Nikosia?); it's like a different world." General conversation continued 'til I left.
At 2.15pm, on my way to some archaeological remains at the site of Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, exposed underneath the attendants' complex, I copied out the sign for them:
"Ereipia Arxaiou Oikismou
Remains of Ancient Settlement
Eski Yerlesi Kalintilari

P.S. Is this site contemporary with the nearby Late Bronze Age (LBA) town?
Back at the hotel, at 10.55pm, I recorded that I:
went to Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque; went by bus, too, as I did in Decan/Decani, but unlike there, the bus driver didn't drop me off a mile away from my stop. We talked a little as I waited; he asked if I was Cypriot, as everyone does, then what I was doing here; we even discussed what family we had where on the way.

It's in a strange setting, on a salt lake, with palms and cypresses all around, almost like a [stereotype of a] mirage; now, an expensive bar intrudes, cashing in on the relative remoteness of the site (1km from the [main] road, 5km from the town).

It's stranger, though - or, given my recent visit to Kosovo, not strange at all - to see it surrounded by gauge wire fencing topped with barbed wire. I guess it wasn't strange at all, to me, as I only paid it any mind when I read it in the guidebook, even though I'd been inside the cage for a fair few minutes; the place has guards too.

You can enter the mosque if you take your shoes off; I probably didn't do it in the right order, but I did wash my feet, face, ears, neck and hands three times before I entered, which is what I remember being the necessary cleansing ritual.

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