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In Cyprus, this is what we call the little shop we come across in the city's neighbourhoods and in the villages. In "kafenes" you are served cold and hot beverages.
For many years, "kafenes", in the form of a public meeting - place restricted to men, played an important socio-economic role in the community. A small "kafenes" is typical of all villages, although in larger villages we come across more than just one such shop. In villages, "kafenes" or "kafenedes" (coffee shops) are located in the central square or the central street of the village. Quite often the whole area is called "kafenedes".
The "kafenes" is strictly for men. Men have their dinner at home and then at dawn they gather there before starting off to work. Usually the "Kafenes" is open all day long. It becomes the gathering place for the elders and for those who do not go to work (e.g. when due to bad weather conditions going to work in the fields is impossible). In some small villages the "kafenes" often serves as a "bakaliko", namely a grocery, selling a limited number of goods. Sometimes the "kafenes" serves as a post office.
During the day when the owner of the "kafenes" is away working in his fields or elsewhere, his wife, the "kafedgina" (the wife of the coffee-shop owner), replaces him in the "kafenes". The "Kafedgina" must be either middle - aged or old otherwise she cannot work in the "kafenes" because the shop is a meeting place for men.
In the traditional "kafenes" you are served beverages mainly made of herbs growing on the mountains (e.g. "spadgia" tea, mint tea, anise tea, e.t.c.) and of course, the traditional coffee. A few decades ago people used to smoke narghile. Many other things are being served there, e.g. "lokkoumin" or "lizon" (turkish delights). Until recently they were the main offering to foreign visitors along with "afroza" (a kind of soda) to cool their thirst. On some rare occasions local alcohol beverages were served (e.g. "zivania", wine and cognac) along with nuts.
From an architectural point of view, the "kafenes"is not noteworthy, it is mainly a huge room. Its entrance faces the street or the village square. The "kafenes" constists of tables and chairs and a fireplace (which was later replaced by a paraffin stove).
In the past, when neither modern means of entertainment (radio, television) nor contemporary means of communication were available, the "kafenes" played an essential part in village life. It was the only place where men could relax either playing chess, cards and others traditional games like "pilota". Given the fact that work was over after sunset, and since there was no electricity, talking and telling stories during the long winter night was a favourite pastime. Money did not exist back then, therefore, people did not place any bets. Instead, the prize for a game was a local product (raisins, walnuts, almonds,e.t.c.).
When "Karangiozis" performers (puppet show performers) toured the countryside, they would often end up in the "kafenes" where they would perform. The "Kafenes" was the scene of entertainment for the whole village; that was one of the rare occasions when children and women would go to the "kafenes". A few years following the end of the World War II, feature films were screned in some or the "Kafenedes" thus, the "kafenes" became the main source of information for the whole village. Later, televisions appeared in the "kafenedes" (from 1956 onwards), and so the "kafenes"became the main source of entertainment in the village where no household had the luxury of a television set.
Newspapers, with some delay, would always come to the "kafenes". The "Kafenes" sometimes served for auctions, for meeting to discuss community problems, for loan and payment arrangements and even for match-making. Economic, ecclesiastic and political issues were also discussed.
Women would never sit and chat in "kafenes", apart from specials occasions (karangiozis performance, film). In fact, when women were walking in the village,they were careful not to pass by any street leading to "kafenedes". On the contrary, they would walk the other way, especially if they were young women. When men were in "kafenes", women would usually gather in the neihbourhood where they would knit and chat.
During Sundays and holidays after the Mass, "kafenes" was the favourite meeting place for almost every man in the village.
For many years "kafenes" was the heart of village life. Today it is a place where people meet to talk and play games, however, its importance is considerably reduced.