You may wish to read an introductory page on the region and Philippi first.
Ascending the mountainous boundary of the plain on the north-eastern side of Philippi, by a broad antient paved-way, we had day-light enough to enjoy the fine prospect of the sea, and of the town of Cavallo upon a promontory. At some distance lies the Isle of Thasos, now called Tasso: it was indistinctly discerned by us; but every other object, excepting the town, began to disappear as we descended towards Cavallo; where we halted for the night. (..) The real history of its antient name is suggested by its situation; for, owing to its maritime position, and to the absence of any other city between Amphipolis and Aldera, excepting Philippi, which was at some distance from the coast, it is evident that Cavallo was Neapolis; the city mentioned by the "Acts of the Apostles," where St. Paul landed, after his voyage from Troas, and from the island of Samothrace.
Edward Daniel Clarke - Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa in 1799-1804
Museum of Kavala: (left) Byzantine capital; (right) Roman funerary relief
As to the modern name Cavallo, Cavalla, it may have been given in consequence of the most trivial circumstance; such as the existence of a statue of a horse: the Piraeus at Athens received the appellation of Porto Leone, from a statue of a lion. It is so obvious that it is marvellous it should have escaped the observation of such writers as Belon and Leunclavius. We had not time to make any careful inquiries for medals; but we observed other antiquities of more or less note. Clarke
According to XVIth century French traveller Pierre Belon the Ottomans relocated Jews from Hungary to the town; they formed a community named after Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great; he thought that Cavallo (horse in Italian) derived from the name of that community. Today's Kavala does not retain any evidence of its ancient past apart from some exhibits in the local museum.
Views of the old town: (above) its western side; (below) from the sea
The promontory, upon which Cavallo is built, stretches into the sea, so as to form a port on either side of it; hence the advantageous situation of Neapolis as an emporium of maritime commerce. The western port, where the town chiefly stands, is good, according to the report of the inhabitants, even for large vessels. Clarke
Cavalla presents a highly picturesque appearance, as seen from the sea. The peninsula which it occupies rises steeply to a lofty summit surrounded by a battlemented castle.
Henry Fanshawe Tozer - The islands of the Aegean Sea. Publ. 1890 but Tozer began his travels in 1874.
Southern section of the castle; the Greek flag is shown in the image used as background for this page
Neapolis was founded on a headland projecting into the sea which could be easily fortified; at some point in time, perhaps to distinguish it from the many other ports having the same name, the town was renamed Christoupolis and a fortress was built at the top of the hill to protect the inhabitants from raids by the Bulgarians. Towards the end of the XIVth century Christoupolis was conquered and burnt down by the Ottomans; for some time the site was abandoned; eventually the Ottomans repopulated it; the walls and castle were rebuilt and strengthened: a massive circular tower divided the castle into two sections one of which today houses an open air theatre.
Views from the castle: (above) towards the strait between the mainland (left) and the island of Thassos (right); in the background, under a white cloud, Samothrac is visible; (below-left) towards the end of the headland: (below-right) towards the mainland
Opposite the town lies the Isle of Thassos, famous for its quarries of a splendid white marble, which in all respects resembles the Parian. Clarke
Where the peninsula joins the mainland, the rocks descend abruptly, but are separated only by a slight interval from the heights behind. The depression thus formed is spanned by a fine aqueduct of two, and in some places of three, tiers of arches. The fine bay at the head of which Cavalla stands is environed on the land side by a wide sweep of mountains, while in the opposite direction the view is closed by the long line of Thasos, which forms a barrier to protect it from the open sea. Tozer
A very large aqueduct still remains upon two tiers of arches, and in perfect order: it now conducts water from Mount Pangaeus to the citadel. Clarke
In the XVIth century an imposing aqueduct ensured an abundant supply of water to the castle and the town; it was restored in the XIXth century; it was decorated with two sets of holes for birds to nest inside, a typical example of Muslim compassion, which can be noted in many minarets and mosques (you may wish to see another example at Ibni Neccar Camii in Kastamonu).
Muhammad Ali, the son of a tobacco merchant of Albanian origin, was born in Kavala in 1769; in 1805 he became the Wali (governor) of Egypt and he gradually gained autonomy from the central Ottoman government. During the Greek War of Independence he sent troops and ships to quell the rebellion and his son Ibrahim Pacha massacred the inhabitants of Psara, a small island near Chios, yet in the 1930s Greek authorities erected a monument to him with the aim of improving relations with Egypt where many Greeks lived. He is not to be confused with Ali Pacha of Tepeleni, the Albanian ruler of Epirus.
Imaret: (above) seen from the port; (below) seen from the castle
The outer walls of the town follow the line
of the cliffs at some little distance above the sea, and
immediately surmounting them, in the centre of the
western side, stand the colonnades and domes of
the charitable and educational institution founded by
Mehemet Ali of Egypt, who was a native of the place. Tozer
Muhammad Ali Pacha did not forget his hometown and he founded a large imaret; usually this word means just a soup kitchen, but in the case of Kavala it included a hostel/hospital for the poor which could house up to 300 guests/patients and a Koranic school.
Typical Ottoman houses; you may wish to see those of Safranbolu
Cavallo contains five hundred houses: its population consists of Turks and Greeks, but principally of Turks. The greater part of the town is contained within the walls of the citadel. Its commerce is confined solely to the exportation of tobacco and cotton, without any corn. Clarke
The remainder of the area within, extending upwards to the castle and as far as the point of the peninsula, is covered by picturesque wooden houses, from among which spiry minarets are seen to rise. Tozer
With the development of tobacco farming in its hinterland Kavala became an important export port of this commodity; Turmac, a brand of cigarettes manufactured by the Turkish-Macedonian Tobacco Co. in Holland, became very popular throughout Europe. Palea Poli (Old Town) still retains some picturesque streets and houses.
(left) A former mosque, today Agios Nikolaos; (right) Halil Bey Mosque
In 1923, in the frame of an agreement for the exchange of populations between the Kingdom of Greece and the Republic of Turkey, the Muslims of Kavala left the town and their mosques were turned into churches or used as schools or meeting halls; the mosques were relatively modern and they did not have a significant artistic or historical value.