Heritage

North Cyprus – The Village of Arapkoy or Klepini

The Village of Arapköy or Klepini

 

By Chris Elliott
Pictures by Mary Day

Over the years I have been to Arapköy many times and in the early visits it was on business when I was visiting a number of housing developments. Perhaps because of that I did not take time to find out more of this village but now it’s time to do just that.

Arapkoy Mosque - Formerly St Lukes church 4

Arapkoy Mosque – Formerly St Lukes church

Klepini is the Greek name for the village which means “stolen or hidden” and the Turkish Cypriots call the village Arapköy which means “Arab village”. The name probably can be traced to the origins of the village, since it is believed that when the Ottomans arrived in Cyprus, Klepini was inhabited by Arabic-speaking Maronites.

George Jeffrey in his 1918 book “Historic Monuments of Cyprus” talks of Klepini perhaps having been the previous Maronite village of “Cleipiris” mentioned by Dandini in 1596. There is mention of two churches which are described more fully as follows.

Rupert Gunnis in his book “Historic Cyprus” in the 1936 edition talks of the village’s notable features being the Church of St Luke which is an 18th century building which had  the western section added in the 19th century and its southern door was blocked at some unknown date.

Also near the village Gunnis talks of a church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Byzantine origin that had been completely rebuilt with none of its original features remaining.

The original church that stood here was the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary 11

The original church that stood here was the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary

There is also mention of a curious local tradition which says that not more than forty families can ever live in the village; should there be more, death will inevitably level the number by the end of the year.

So what of the original inhabitants of the village? Well in the Ottoman period a census in 1831 records 5 Turkish Cypriot men and 15 Greek Cypriot men. With a change to a British administration women were also counted and by 1960 a census records 27 Turkish Cypriots and 206 Greek Cypriots.

In 1973 a census records 28 Turkish Cypriots and 173 Greek Cypriots and by 2006 a census shows 308 Turkish Cypriots and other nationalities living in the village and no Greek Cypriots.

So what can we find in the village today?

The church of St Luke has since been converted to a mosque and Mary Day went to take some photographs and to meet the Imam, Musa Gȕleç who has been Imam for 14 years and has a family with 3 children. Inside we can see the calm and peaceful sights that can be seen in any other mosque we may care to visit.

The original church that stood here was the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary 4

The original church that stood here was the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Just outside the village is the other church previously mentioned which has been refurbished and inside we have taken photographs and it seems the church is being used by perhaps Russians or Armenians but the great thing is this building, which has a long history, is still being used for the purpose it was originally built for.

For visitors coming to the village they can visit the Klepini Restaurant which we have written about in the past click here and if they wish, they can also sit and chat to the locals in the cafe bar opposite.

Arapköy or Klepini has grown with lots of new housing estates but in the centre of the village there are traces of old buildings but so far we have not been able to find out much about these and it is hoped by writing this introduction to the village it may encourage people to come forward with more information and photographs from times gone by.

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3 replies »

  1. Nice article, thanks. Can you say where it is in relation to GIRNE please. Thanks, Ian

    • Driving east past Catalkoy ignor the turnoff for Esentepe and continue up the mountain road and take either the first or second left turning which leads into the village.