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The first ever Saladin Days in Cyprus

Andreas Delsett

In May, the Saladin Days took a leap across the border as the first ever Saladin Days outside Norway were held in Nicosia, Cyprus May 5-7. The events were held in Home for Cooperation, situated in the buffer zone between the Greek-Cypriotic and Turkish-Cypriotic parts of the capital.

Conquered by Richard Lionheart on his way back from the Third Crusade, in which he had fought Saladin, and with a view of Syria across the waters, Cyprus has a physically close relationship to conflicts both old and new. And as a country made up of both Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, Cyprus is no stranger to complex identities, and the importance history, culture, literature and language has in shaping them. These were some of the referencing points for the lectures, talks and discussions, as well as the film screening and concert held during the Saladin Days in Nicosia.

From the theatrical reading of  Desert Storms  by Tariq Ali and Thorvald Steen.

From the theatrical reading of Desert Storms by Tariq Ali and Thorvald Steen.

Among the highlights were a panel a discussion about identity between the central Cypriotic academics Umut Bozkurt, Stavros Karayanni, Yael Navaro, and photographer Nicos Philippou, and a theatrical reading from Norwegian author Thorvald Steen and British historian Tariq Ali's play Desert Storms, about Saladin and Richard I's roles in the Third Crusade. Thorvald Steen, one of guests visiting the Saladin Days in Nicosia, elaborated on the history of they drew on for the play, in a breakfast talk entitled The Play Shakespeare Never Wrote. In his lecture Are The Crusades Over?, historian Tariq Ali connected the history of the Crusades to contemporary issues relating to the relationship between Christians and Muslims. The up-and-coming band DeynDar deomnstrated the value of cultural meetings through their music, mixing genres and languages in their songs, including tunes sung in Turkish, Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic and Armenian.

The Saladin Days in Nicosia was an impressive feat, generating interest both in national media and among the public with its thorough introduction to the history of the Crusades, and successful linking of history to contemporary issues and debates.