The Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque and its unique surroundings.
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MY YEAR IN CYPRUS
the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque
BY PHILIP DORR
There are some major salt flats on the outskirts of Larnaca that turn a beautiful, living pink during the rainy season. The colors move and undulate and sometimes take to the air, hovering, circling, before coming back down gracefully to the salton pool. For centuries these flats have been a winter feeding ground for pink flamingos. The birds get their color from the little crustaceans that thrive in the shallow briny waters. They form a spectacular picture frame for the Hala Sultan Tekke (convent) Mosque rising, shimmering, on the salt flat’s edge.
My visit there was characteristic of many mythologies that grow up around places of antiquity that gather a certain glow of glory in their mystic. It is no different here. When Cyprus was under siege by the Muslims, most accounts establish a connection between the site and the death of Umm Haram (Mohammad’s wet nurse) during the first Arab raids on Cyprus under the Caliph Muawiyah between 647 and 649. According to these accounts, Umm Haram (Hala Sultan), being of very old age, had fallen from her mule and had died during a siege of Larnaca. She was later buried where she died. Her tomb is cloaked in a heavy curtain atop which sits a menacing stone of some huge weight. My guide instructed me that the stone hung there suspended in its place by some mysterious power associated with the importance of the person buried within. In many accounts the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque is the third most holy site for Muslims in the world. Today it is not associated with any religious group but is open to all peoples for a small fee. I found it fascinating just to be able to go into a Mosque and see the layout. It is certainly worth visiting.