Heritage

A Cyprus grandfather and his famous camels

By Ismail Veli….

This a tribute by Aysh Nafi a member of the Facebook group Frozen Cypriots to her grandfather Deveci Hussein. A way of life we can only see in the old photos of Cyprus. Thank you Aysh for sharing these amazing photos of your grandfather. I have no doubt he is looking down and smiling from heaven in keeping his legacy alive.

This is her story about her grandfather, may he Rest in Peace.

“My first encounter with the camels that belonged to my dede was in the summer of 1973. I was seven years old. I had never seen such huge animals before, growing up in North London there wasn’t many of them around.

The day we arrived in the village I remember my late grandmother Ayşe saying dede was working he was carrying goods on his three camels to another part of Cyprus. I didn’t see him for days, but when he finally arrived he first made sure his beloved camels were fed watered and settled after their long journey.

The next day I was introduced to the camels. My dede made one kneel down then put my sister and I on the camel’s back. Once he finally stood up I felt like a giant had picked us both up we were so high up nearly reaching the hot sunny sky.

Over the years we visited Cyprus many times, each year watching dede with his beloved camels. Dede had one eye I asked my mum why and she said he was reaping saman (hay) for the camels to eat and a thorn went in his eye.

I knew that my grandfather wasn’t a wealthy man making ends meet carrying goods travelling around Cyprus. My mum was one of 9 children 7 girls and 2 boys, I’m sure they didn’t have much but according to my mum, they had a togetherness that can’t be bought with any amount of money.

Dede was born in the village of Singrasi, probably in the year 1900 he was 82 when he passed away in 1982. During his lifetime he appeared on postcards, he even appeared in a short BBC2 film of Cyprus in the early 1970s. I’ve typed in Google – camels in Cyprus and his pictures appear.

As the years went by the three camels grew old, sadly one passed away, he still had two more he would let the tourists ride on the camels and take pictures in return for a pound that’s how he made his living I guess. One day in the late 1970s I remember my mum receiving a letter from my aunt in Famagusta saying dede’s other camels had died. I remember my mum being so upset, crying, she had grown up with those creatures, I suppose it would be like losing a family pet. Everyone knew him as Deveci Hūseyin without them he was lost. In 1980 dede had a stroke when I last saw him in front of me was a frail old man, a man that once was so jolly and full of life now sitting in a chair watching the world go by. Every now and then he would sing a Turku (Poem, Biima) song in Greek we would all sit and smile when he smiled.

My baby sister only two at the time, taking his walking stick away from him then saying al dede al. (take it dede, take it)

Shortly after one of our visits to Cyprus, we received a letter saying my beloved dede had taken a turn for the worse, mum tried to get a flight back to see him for the last time, but didn’t make it. He passed away on 7th August 1982. Mum used to say he died of a broken heart.

He is buried in his village next to his brother his wife Ayşe and recently my mum in 2010. I recently had his gravestone renewed, his picture on marble smiling happily with his camels.”

Another memory of Deveci Hussein

Bariş Manco photo courtesy of Vedat Ozgurhan of Halkin Sesi

In 1970-71 the late singer Bariş Manco came to Cyprus. On his visit he visited the Namik Kemal prison museum in Famagusta (seen standing by the door) and followed this with a camel ride which may have inspired him to write his famous unforgettable song ”iste Hendek işte deve” (Here’s a ditch here’s a camel) In 1971, Baris Manco was no ordinary singer he was an internationally respected singer whose songs were translated into English, French, Japanese, Greek, Italian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Persian, Hebrew, Urdu, Arabic, and German to name a few.

This then is the great man who may have been inspired to write his famous song ”Iste Hendek Iste Deve” of Huseyin Deveci, a simple Cypriot Camel drover whose legacy has lived on in many photos of the past way of life buried into the annals and heart of our beautiful island. For that, we are eternally grateful.

Editor’s Note: We would like to thank Aysh Nafi and Ismail Veli for sharing this fascinating article and photographs from the Facebook group Frozen Cypriots which currently has a membership of 13,864.

Photos below were taken of Huseyin Deveci by Richard Chamberlain and published in his book: 
“Cyprus Scenes And Way Of Life In 1954/55 and sixty years later in 2014”

1 reply »

  1. Our last abode In Guzel Yurt was opposites Ay Mama’s Church and tree doors to the right was a yard and at one end was stables for horses, but occasionally a heard of Camels would arrive and stay there for a while.
    They where definitely a sight as they marched in a row with the rider seated up very high, for I was quite young at the time.
    Happy Days.

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