Thousands head to mountains on Cyprus holiday

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Thousands headed to the Cyprus mountains on Sunday as locals escaped the scorching summer heat and celebrated the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, one of the greatest feasts for the Greek Orthodox church.

Traditionally, it also marks the end of a two week fast, resulting in half of Cyprus being covered by smoke from the thousands of barbeques at homes and picnic sites.

Mass was celebrated at churches and monasteries, particularly those bearing the name of the Virgin Mary, subject to Covid limitations.

This includes limiting to 250 persons within churches if they show a SafePass and wear a mask or 450 if all are vaccinated, while for external gatherings this number is increased to 300 and 500, respectively.

Paphos Bishop Georgios was quoted as saying that at the Trooditissa monastery, there would be no litany of the icon of the Holy Virgin to avoid crowding.

Thousands are expected to flock to the Kykko Monastery throughout the day to kiss and pray at the historic icon, reported to be the work of the apostle Luke, showing Mary holding the Christ child on the right.

The biggest traffic jam, according to Cyprus police, was on the Nicosia-Troodos road, particularly on the Akaki to Astromeritis section.