Leprosy, the disease

I have published earlier the story of the lepers on the island of Spinalonga, but what exactly is leprosy?

Well, it is a disease that exists already for over 2000 years and its name is as a matter of fact greek, it comes from an ancient greek word that means ‘peeling of’ or ‘peel’. The bad guy here is a bactery called Mycobacterium Leprea. This guy can live in the air for a few moments when he is breath out by someone, during sneezing, coughing, speaking or via nasal droplets. When he lands on your skin and you are not imune for him (95% of the people ARE imune) then he will settle on your skin and after a few months or even years (up to 20 years) the disease will start bothering you. Another way of getting the disease is by birth when it is given to you through your mothers placenta (that is why some of the children born on Spinalonga had the disease by birth.)

What happens when the disease comes out? Small stains appear on the skin and the bacterium destroys the nerves in the skin at these places ; your earlobes become thicker and you feel numb in your hands and feet. If the disease is found and treated early, then there will be no permanent lesions. If not, there will be paralysis and possibly also blindness.

Because the lepers had no feeling in certain parts of their body, they could not feel it if they had hurt themselves there in such a way that larger injuries were caused by infections, that were not felt and therefore not treated. As a result, it was sometimes necessary to amputate these parts of the body.

The Irish scientis Vincent Barry from Cork, played a very important role in the battle against this diseas, it was him who synthisesed a compound called Clofazimine that we find in the combination of drug treatment against Leprosy. He was leading at that time ( the 1870’s) a team of 9 scientists who were searching for a treatment for Leprosy.

According to infromation that was given to me by an official greek guide, there should exist mutated genes in the human body that adopt this bacterium, so only the people who have 1 or more of these mutated genes can have the disease. (and these would be the other 5%) This should be a theory that was given by experts in 2012. I have not been able to confirm this theory on the internet or anywhere else so I do not know if this is realy so, but as soon as I find a confirmation of it I will let you know.

The Egyptian lighthouse in the Venetian port of Chania

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Although the lighthouse was built during the Venetian occupation we call it an Egyptian lighthouse because it was restored by the Egyptians during their rule on Crete from 1830 until 1840, that’s right, during the Ottoman occupation.  It was the Protocol of England that granted Crete to Mehmet Ali who was Regent of Egypt at that time.

As you can see on the picture the base of the lighthouse has 8 angles, the part above the base has 16 angles and the highest part has a round shape.  During days of threat the entrance of the port was closed by tying a chain from the lighthouse to the Venetian fortress Firka that is situated opposit of it.

The Egyptian administration made big efforts to have equality on the island for both the Christians (Cretans) and the Moslims (Ottomans). They also achieved to have a time of peace on the island.  Because of these changes, many Moslims left Crete and went to Asia Minor and many Christians left to go live in Greece.

Besides a time of peace, this was also a period of the reconstruction of roads, aquaducts, bridges and harbours that had been destroyed during the many revolutions of the Cretans against the Ottomans.  Also education was organized again for both the Cretans and Moslims, even a newspaper was published (1931) in the 2 spoken languages of the island.