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The population of the island is approximately 630.000 (2005), and over a third of it is found in the three major cities, Iraklion (~150.000), Hania(~50.000) and Rethymnon (~30.000) located on the north coast of the island.
Although globalisation, tourism and economic growth have inevitably changed the way of life in Crete, especially in the large urban centres, to a modern and cosmopolitan style, the Cretans still preserve the bonds with their rich folk traditions and cultural heritage. The Cretan dances, Pentozalis, Haniotikos, Pidihtos, Maleviziotikos etc, are still danced at every opportunity and the "madinades" and the "rizitika" songs resound in every celebration. The extra virgin olive oil the legumes and vegetables constitute the base of the local cuisine as did for thousands of years and made the Cretan Diet renowned worldwide for its benefits on longevity and good health. In the countryside, even in our days many old Cretan men and women wear the traditional costume and the Cretan idiom is widely spoken even in the large cities.
There is also an exceptional artistic production in traditional sectors such as pottery, embroidery, jewellery etc and of course the very special Cretan Music. The violin (Violi), the lyre (lyra) and the laouto remain the characteristic musical instruments and there are many remarkable new musicians, singers and composers who continue the work of the famous Nikos Xylouris, Thanassis Skordalos, Kostas Moundakis and others.
Arts and literature had always played a significant role in the life of the Cretan people, famous painters like El Greco, Michael Damaskinos, writers like Nikos Kazantzakis, poets like Vincenzos Kornaros and Odysseas Elitis, composers like Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hatzidakis and Giannis Markopoulos are Cretans or of Cretan origin. Today there are many important Cretans with significant contribution in all aspects of the cultural life in Greece.
The educational level of the Cretans is relatively high (compared to the other regions of Greece). The educational system consists of the following stages:
  • Primary School 6 years (obligatory)
  • High School 3 years (obligatory)
  • Lyceum 3 years
  • University 4-6 years
Public and private schools offer education from the primary school to the Lyceum and there are quite a few schools that offer proffessional education & training. For anyone who wants to continue his/her studies there are public Higher Technical Institutes (TEI) offering HND level diplomas and Universities. These institutions offer undergraduate , graduate and post graduate courses on a wide variety of disciplines.

Cretans love sports and there is plenty of choices from mountaineering to all kind of watersports to tennis, basketball and footbal which is the most popular. Two Cretan football (soccer) teams compete in the Greek Super Leage (2006-2007 - www.superleaguegreece.net/), OFI (ΟΦΗ: www.ofi.gr/) and Ergotelis (Εγοτέλης :www.ergotelis.gr/). Iraklion has one of the biggest stadia in Greece Pancretan Stadium with a capasity of 26.000 seated.

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