Crete Halal-friendly holidays

Halal-friendly holidays

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Crete Halal-friendly holidays general information

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Halal-friendly holidays in Crete

Crete is considered the cradle of European civilization. The myths, art and archeology that surround this island located to the west of the Mediterranean at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and the Middle East are part of an intertwining and attractive heritage.

Crete bears witness to the existence of Roman, Arab, Venetian, Turkish and English civilizations. The Cretan Greek language is a mixture of Latin, Arabic, English and Greek. It is thus impossible to ignore the Islamic influence and foundations in Crete.

Crete has always had geopolitical and commercial importance and symbolises a gateway to the other Aegean islands. All this, without forgetting its lush agricultural landscape, its healing atmosphere prescribed by the father of medicine, Hippocrates, and its turquoise waters with its unique pink sand beaches make Crete an invaluable territory.

History of the Arabs in Crete

During the Arab expansion across the Mediterranean, Crete was recognized as a jewel among the first islands. Its influential geopolitical position in the Mediterranean, bordering the Aegean Sea and being the fifth largest island in the region, made Crete a prize to be won.

Although the Arabs tried to conquer Crete in the 600s, their victory did not occur until the 820s with Abu Hafs Umar al-Iqritshi leading the army. Modern historians estimate that 12,000 exiles from the Kingdom of Cordoba arrived to settle in Crete. The century of Arab rule in Crete was turbulent and lasted less than 130 years.

Islamic places to visit in Crete

Heraklion - Heraklion is the largest city on the island of Crete. This city was established and expanded by the Arabs of Andalusia, and named “Rabd el-Khandaq” meaning Dove Castle. The city of Heraklion was the main base for Arab pirates to attack the Byzantines. Islamic chroniclers described the city of Khandaq as a cultural centre.

Historical Museum of Crete - The largest and most important museum on the island, it exhibits the rich Islamic history through archaeological pieces of gold, silver and copper dating from the 820s to 940s.

Venetian Walls of Heraklion - Fortifications of Heraklion - The basis of the Venetian fortifications of Heraklion consists of 7 bastions with a length of 4.5 kilometres. The north of the walls offers a magnificent view overlooking the sea. The Arabs reinforced the fort with brick structures and increased the importance of the city until modern times. The Venetians developed the fort's defences against the risk of invasion by the Ottomans. In 1645, one of the longest sieges in history took place around the fort of Heraklion against the Ottomans. The Venetians resisted for almost 22 years, and in 1669 the Ottomans took control of Crete.

Souda Bay - A natural port used since antiquity. Historians debate whether the first Arabs invaded Crete from this location. In addition to historical debates, the bay tells plenty of military stories. In 1822, the Egyptian army arrived at the bay to crush the Cretan revolution and as a result built the Izzedine Fortress on the ruins of a Turkish castle.

Izzedine Fortress - Izzedine Fortress was used by the Ottomans to impose their presence and power. After the transfer of power during the final decades of the Ottoman Empire, the Greek government used the fortress as a prison, particularly during the political events of the 20th century. The views overlooking the cliffs and landscapes are spectacular.

Lerapetra Archaeological Museum - Founded under the Turkish Empire, the Ottoman commercial school located on Konopaki square near the town hall, is now a museum of Antiquities. A perfect family visit that highlights many objects from the Minoan and Roman civilizations.

Knossos Palace - A must-see site, considered the first seat of power of the Minoans, a kingdom mentioned in Homer's Odyssey for its wisdom, engineering and architecture. Knossos is considered the most ancient city in Europe. The archaeological remains demonstrate a wealth of architecture, art and luxury. Arthur Evans, the archaeologist who discovered Knossos, noted the decline of Muslim populations in Crete during the years 1898 until 1923. His writings incorporate the contemporary political situation between Christians and Muslims. The discovery of the Palace of Knossos paralleled the decline of Muslims in Crete.

Chania Mosque - One of the oldest Ottoman buildings in Crete, the mosque was for the Janissaries (Ottoman armies) and the minaret was destroyed during the bombing of the Second World War. It was converted into an exhibition hall for tourists due to its simple and airy architecture.

Rethymno Neratze Mosque - Also known as the Ghazi Hussein Pasha Mosque, it is located near Petichaki Square. It was first a Venetian church, then an Augustinian monastery, and when the Turks took control of Crete it became the Ghazi Hussein Pasha Mosque, named after their army leader. A minaret was added for the call to prayer. Today the name Rethymno Neratze connotes the place of the ancient church, monastery and mosque. The mosque now serves as a municipal musical conservatory and is open to tourists to attend musical concerts.

Veli Pasha Mosque - Paleontological Museum - The building of the Paleontological Museum in Rethymnon is an ancient Ottoman mosque, with its architectural style which mimics the mosques of Istanbul. The museum displays animal fossils and inspirations from creatures from Greek myths.

Prayer facilities and mosques in Crete

It is difficult to find functioning mosques in Crete, as most Ottoman mosques have been converted and are used for tourism purposes. You can ask Muslims you pass for directions to mosques and prayer rooms, often hidden in imperceptible buildings. Here are a few :

Al Rahma Mosque - Located in Chania, on the ground floor of a simple building, tourists can easily miss it if they don't see the sign in Arabic. It is open 24 hours a day for men.

Heraklion Mosque - A simple place of prayer with a men's room.

Quba Mosque - Located in the town of Chania, it is surrounded by a small Muslim community.

Cretan Gastronomy

Crete offers traditional Mediterranean cuisine which, although similar to the rest of Greece, is unique. The emphasis is on fresh fruits and vegetables, wild herbs, homemade or locally produced dairy products, and fresh fish and seafood from the Aegean and Libyan Seas. They also use high quality extra virgin olive oil in salads, dips and in most cooked dishes. Finally, they create delicious desserts with cheese, honey, yoghurt and seasonal fruits. You will easily find plenty of halal options. Here are some specialties:

Dakos- Soft bread made with olive oil, served as an aperitif or side dish.

Chaniotiko Boureki - A specialty made with layers of tasty pastry, zucchini slices and potatoes.

Cretan salads and dips like Tzatziki (Greek yoghurt and cucumber), Tahini (sesame paste) and Taramasalata (fish roe) are all halal.

Cretan Cheeses - Crete has a choice of cheeses such as Anthotyros, Kefalotyri, Mizithra and Gavieira. You can also taste Sarikopitakia, a kind of cheese quiche garnished with honey, Saganaki, fried cheese and Kalitsounia which resembles Lebanese Fatayer.

Please note: The Orfana version of the dishes means orphan, a meatless version of a dish that allows the consumption of vegetarian dishes.

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