As the Reverend Edward Daniel Clarke approached Nicosia in 1801, he had the surprise of his life…
"As we rode into the town, we met a long train of women, dressed in white robes, the beautiful costume of the capital, filling the air with their lamentations. Some of these were of middle age, but all were handsome; as they came on, they exposed their faces and breasts to public view, tearing their hair and weeping piteously. In the midst of the procession rode a Turk upon an ass, smoking his pipe in the most tranquil manner and wholly indifferent to the cries. Upon enquiring the cause of this tumult, we were told that these women were all prostitutes, whom the Governor had banished from the city and whom they were therefore conducting beyond the gates. Their dress was modelled after a very ancient form and highly elegant; it consisted entirely of fine white linen, so disposed as to veil at once the whole figure, unless when purposely cast aside; and it fell to the ground in long graceful folds.
We went to the house of Mr. Serkis, the Armenian dragoman, a palace possessing the highest degree of Oriental magnificence. The windows of the rooms, as in all Oriental houses were near the roof and small although numerous and placed close to each other. They had double casements, one being of painted glass, surrounded by carved work, as in the old Gothic palaces of England. The floors were furnished with the finest rugs brought from Grand Cairo and the divans were covered with satin, set around with embroidered cushions.
In Nicosia, our success in collecting gems was so great that the number exceeded the total of what we managed to procure since we left Constantinople. We also found silver medals of the Ptolemies, many intaglios and yeni madden crystal, otherwise known as Baffa diamonds, that are none other than ordinary specimens of quartz."
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