Muslim pilgrims cross to Tekke

OVER 1,200 Turkish Cypriots crossed to the government controlled areas yesterday to visit the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in Larnaca.

The Muslim pilgrims were ferried to the mosque in 23 coaches after crossing from the north shortly after 8am. They were celebrating the Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice.

Before being taken to the mosque on the outskirts of Larnaca, the Turkish Cypriots were first brought around by the Phinikoudes and then on to the old Turkish quarter of the town.

“I didn’t recognise anything in Larnaca,” said Leila Osman, a Turkish Cypriot woman originally from the town.

It was her first visit south of the Green Line in 25 years, she told Larnaca press at the Tekke.

Another Turkish Cypriot man said he had travelled all the way from London to make the visit.

The pilgrims were accompanied by heavy security – both Cyprus police and UN personnel – to the Tekke, a holy Islamic shrine dedicated to the aunt of the prophet Mohammed.

At the mosque, the Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers prayed and walked around the grounds, as they did on previous visits. Some ate at the restaurant and some preferred to picnic in the gardens of the mosque.

The pilgrims were taken back to the occupied areas late in the afternoon.

The visit is one of several made by Turkish Cypriots to the Tekke in the past two years. In return, Greek Cypriots are allowed to cross to the occupied areas to celebrate feast days at the Apostolos Andreas monastery in the occupied Karpass peninsula.

The next visit to Apostolos Andreas is on April 12, Easter Monday, when some 1,200 Greek Cypriots are expected to cross to the north.