Limassol, the carnival city of Cyprus, kicked off 11 days of festivities this week, ahead of the big carnival procession on Feb. 18.
Limassol Mayor Nicos Nicolaides and his municipal council welcomed to the city the carnival’s “Royal Couple” who will have an overall command of the festivities until the end of the carnival.
Early in the evening, the mayor and the royal couple led a procession of hundreds of costumed revelers who danced and sang their way through the streets of downtown Limassol before ending in a central plaza for an all-night dancing event.
The carnival festivities of Limassol are such a strong tradition that the government had to bring a presidential election forward by two weeks, fearing the festivities would interfere with the electoral campaign and keep voters away from the polls.
Carnival festivities started in the morning of Thursday, known as smelling Thursday because of the scent of roasting meat. Municipal teams and hundreds of shopkeepers all over the city cooked skewered meat over charcoal on the pavement and offered it to passersby with a glass of wine.
Cooking meat over open fire is a tradition from ancient Greece, when people made offerings to the gods ahead of any major venture.
Thousands of people are estimated to take part in the procession aboard floats or in groups.