What I Saw

13 Oct 2023


A manuscript has surfaced lately titled “Historic and Entertaining Letters on the Past and Present Conditions of the Island of Cyprus”. It was written by Namindiu, obviously a pseudonym, in 1785 in the form of fourteen letters, in Italian.

Namindiu travelled all over Cyprus and noted everything that impressed him. At Kykko Monastery he found the monks hospitable and excellent cooks, the food was good, fresh and cheap.

“There are sheep fed with barley which give good meat, the fattest of Europe cannot compare with them; tasteful poultry in abundance; turkey, geese, game of all kinds. Ham cooked in Cypriot wine that comes from the Paphos region, a white bread like snow done with semolina and baked artfully, excellent green peas and fresh beans.”

In the region of Lefkara village, the peasants produce ladanum. A kind of dew is exalted from a special species of cistus rosa, or Ladanifera as Namindiu calls it. The peasants send their goats early morning to pasture and the animals, browsing through the bushes collect in their hair the sticky “dew” substance. By collecting it from the hair and boiling it, the peasants end up with a sticky liquid which soon turns into paste. In older times this was regarded as a cure for the plague. It was sold in liquid form but also, less pure with the addition of olive oil and some earth particles, in the form of loaves. Sometimes a more arduous method was used to collect the ladanum. Villagers would go out in the mountains, with long wool ribbons tied at the end of sticks, brushing them over the shrubs, thus collecting the dew. Then when boiling the ribbons or cleaning the substance off them by running their palm tightly over them, the substance was collected, purified and sold.

The 'What I Saw...' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.

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