Kamilari

Located in the rolling hills of southern Crete at the western end of Asterousia mountains and at the tip of Messara plain, where Geropotamos river flows, the charming village of Kamilari offers a captivating blend of historical intrigue, serene beauty, and a fascinating story of population growth. Its name, of Byzantine origin, translates to “camel rider,” a moniker some believe reflects the village’s elevated position perched atop three hills: Evgora, Goulas, and Alevrota. From these vantage points, visitors are treated to panoramic vistas of the sprawling olive groves of the Messara Valley and the shimmering expanse of the Libyan Sea.

Mana Elia, "Mother Olive Tree", in Kamilari south Crete
Tholos Minoan Tomb in Kamilari south Crete
Tholos Minoan Tomb in Kamilari south Crete
Olive trees next to Mana Elia, "Mother Olive Tree", in Kamilari south Crete
Kamilari, Messara plain and Psiloritis mountain
Korfes apartments in Kamilari Crete

A Journey Through Time

Kamilari’s history stretches back to the Minoan era, a time when Crete was a flourishing civilization known for its advanced architecture, intricate artwork, and sophisticated writing system. Evidence of this ancient culture can be found nearby, with Minoan tombs nestled amongst the olive groves. The village itself has been continuously inhabited since then, with the wise man Epimenides, one of the Seven Sages of Greece, said to have resided in a small community just outside Kamilari called Metohi.

Unveiling the Minoan Legacy

Just a stone’s throw away from Kamilari lies the renowned archaeological site of Phaistos, a Minoan palace that dates back to the second millennium BC. Exploring Phaistos unveils the Minoan civilization’s impressive architecture, with its labyrinthine corridors, grand courtyards, and elaborate frescoes. The site also includes a vast storage area where clay tablets inscribed with the Linear B script, one of the earliest writing systems in Europe, were discovered.

Beyond the Minoans: A Tapestry of Cultures

The Messara Valley surrounding Kamilari has witnessed a rich tapestry of cultures over the centuries. Dorians, Romans, and Byzantines have all left their mark on the land, each contributing to the region’s unique cultural heritage. The village itself boasts traditional stone houses, many of which have been lovingly restored, showcasing the architectural heritage of the past.

A Haven for History Buffs and Nature Lovers

A visit to Kamilari is not just a chance to soak up the sun and serene atmosphere, but a journey through the fascinating history of Crete. From the Minoan era to the present day, this village and its surroundings offer a captivating glimpse into the island’s enduring story. For history buffs, exploring the archaeological sites of Phaistos and Kamilari provides a window into the lives of ancient civilizations. Nature lovers will find themselves enchanted by the village’s tranquil setting, surrounded by olive groves and offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

 

A Look at Population Growth

The provided text offers a detailed timeline of Kamilari’s evolution, which also includes a fascinating story of population growth:

  • Early Records: The earliest documented mention of the village as “Camilari” dates back to 1370, indicating its existence even during Venetian rule (1204-1669).
  • Ottoman Era: Census data from the Ottoman period (1669-1866) reveals a population of 21 households in 1671, further solidifying the village’s presence. The 1834 Egyptian census mentions “Khamelari” with 30 Christian families.
  • 19th Century Growth: Official population records from the 19th century onwards paint a picture of steady growth. In 1875, Kamilari had 250 Christian residents, rising to 313 by 1881. By the turn of the 20th century, the village boasted 386 inhabitants.
  • 20th & 21st Centuries: The 20th century saw a continued increase in population, with Kamilari reaching its peak of 515 residents in 1951. Since then, the population has fluctuated, with the 2011 census recording 481 inhabitants.

A Vibrant Present

Despite the population fluctuations, Kamilari remains a vibrant community. Today, it falls under the Municipality of Phaistos. The village boasts an active Cultural Association that organizes cultural events, preserving local traditions and customs.

Conclusion

Kamilari stands as a testament to Crete’s rich and enduring history, offering visitors a glimpse into the island’s past while also providing a tranquil escape amidst stunning natural beauty. From its ancient roots and fascinating population growth to its vibrant present, Kamilari promises an unforgettable experience for history buffs, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a unique Cretan adventure.

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