What are you doing this Sunday? It’s a holiday weekend in North Cyprus.

It’s the Muslim feast known locally as Şeker Bayrami, or Sugar Festival. For children, this means dressing up in new clothes and being showered with sweets. For the rest, it is time to pay respects to one’s elders, with perhaps a visit to the cemetery in order – then it’s party time.

For Turkish Cypriots, this means a big family get-together, centered on a barbeque. Wherever you go today, that tantalising whiff of charcoaled lamb and Mediterranean herbs will not be far from your nostrils.

Many will take their children to the park or the beach. One popular destination is the National Park, a lovely woodland surrounded by walkways opposite Escape Beach in Alsancak.

On the beach side of the road they will find a genuine tank landing craft from 1974, heavily restored as a tourist attraction, complete with mannequins. Youngsters will enjoy playing as sailors on the deck and scaling the ladders, while there is an audio-visual presentation for military buffs.

Decked out

For an even bigger lungful of fresh air, try the Lapta Coastal Walkway, one and a half miles of boardwalk and paving which runs along – and over- the sea. Great for a stroll, it’s also wheelchair accessible.

Lapta Walkway

Be sure to stop for a snack and a chat at Zihni’s café. The proprietor, known as Ziggy, always has a friendly word and if you are lucky, his wife’s homemade Pilauouna, a delicious cheese and raisin pastry, might be on the menu!

For some public-spirited locals and expats, the weekend is also beach time – but in their case this means black bags at the ready for a clean-up. One may well find groups, such as this party of Russian friends, picking up plastic and other rubbish from the coastline.

Their organiser, Sveta, told me: “Our volunteer organization arose spontaneously. It all started in 2018 when my sister, husband and one of our friends and I started cleaning our favorite Camelot beach on a regular basis. Gradually people began to join us.

“So in addition to our group in Alsancak, there is a group of volunteers in the Iskele region and in the Guzelyurt area, activists of the Aphrodite complex. “Our goal is the cleanest island – the Island of Cyprus. We understand that our future is in the hands of our children. We want to introduce entertaining lessons in schools on the importance of caring for the environment. Also important is the sorting and recycling of waste. All these projects are realisable and we are sure that many people will support us in our endeavours.”

Russian beach cleaners

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