"A city cut in half." Nicosia by leics

Nicosia Travel Guide: 290 reviews and 680 photos

Nicosia remains a divided city, but gradually is is becoming easier to move from the Northern (Turkish) part to the southern (Greek).

A new pedestrian border crossing point has been opened in the middle of the city, where the buffer zone is only a few metres wide, so shoppers can easily pop over to the south to wander euro-chains such as Next, or Gap, or Marks & Spencers......or pop over to the north to find shops which are anything but euro-chains!

I was pleased to see this new freedom of movement available, and pleased to see plenty of people taking advantage of it on the day we visited.

But Nicosia is still truly a divided city, with a very obvious no-man's land........abandoned and decrepit buildings, fencing, plastic sheeting, warning signs.

It's not huge on the northern side, and could probably be explored in a day's sightseeing. Unless you wished to wander the area outside the city walls, with acres of suburbs, some partially-constructed, some rather desolate) We spent a longish half-day there, entering through the 'Kyrenia Gate' (now stuck in the middle of the road).

I've linked some places mentioned below to my travelogues with more photos.

First stop was Mevlevi Tekke, the ethnographic Museum housed in what the home of the Mevlei dervish order from the 1700s. It's a small but fascinating place, with models of dervishes whirling, accompanying music and rows of tombs belonging to past members of the order. Outside in the courtyard is a collection of Ottoman gravestones and gravemarkers.

From there to Ataturk Meyerdam square (known as Sarayonu), the centre of Turkish Nicosia with its granite column from ancient Salamis still standing amidst some British-built colonial-style architecture.

Through the narrow streets to the wonderful Buyuk Han. A 'han' was an inn for travellers, with stabling for their horses..the Buyuk Han dates from 1572, has been properly restored and is a superb place to explore. Both its upper levels (orignially the guestrooms) and its lower levels now house a variety of craft and handwork shops (not cheap), and a couple of cafes used by locals as well as visitors. In the centre of the courtyard is a small chapel set on 6 columns.

Onward to Dervis Pasa Konagi (Dervish Pasha Mansion), a mansion from the 1800s which once belonged to Dervis Pasa, the owner of Cyprus' first Turkish language newspaper. It's a lovely building, a two-storey set of rooms around a once-landscaped courtyard with cistern and well. Now acting as an ethnographical museum, the rooms have been fitted with appropriate furniture and furnishings (some wonderfully carved dowry chests) and mannequins in historical costume disport themselves as required. I especially liked the kitchen, full of unfamiliar tools and equipment whose use is just waiting to be explained. There are also displays of beautiful embroidery......including a large selection of embroidered woollen socks!

(Almost) finally to the Selimiye Camii, once a beautiful Gothic cathedral and now a mosque. It was begun in 1209 and took over 100 years to complete; in fact, its roof never was properly completed. When Nicosia was taken by the Ottomans in 1570 the interior furnishings were destroyed, the interioir walls whitewashed and two minarets erected. Strangely, the almost complete lack of decoration within what is a light and airy mosque means one can really appreciate the sweeping Gothic arches above.

Next door to the mosque stands the Bedestan, originally a Byzantine church from the 500s, then the Roman Catholic church of St Nicholas, then the Greek Orthodox cathedral when the Venetians ruled Cyprus. When the Ottoman rulers took over it was a store and market, and then it gradually decayed over the centuries. The Bedestan has quite recently been renovated and conserved, and is now not only open for visiting but also provides an indoor musical performance and exhibition space.

I liked north Nicosia. It was the first day of my holiday, and the first tour, and I did not really explore properly nor take in what I saw as I might otherwise have done. So, when I return to Cyprus, I'll try to go again and look in more detail...now the pedestrian border crossing is open that is more than possible. I just hope that matters continue to improve between the two communities, although I feel this is almost inevitably going to be a slow process.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:So much history to explore....
  • Cons:None that I came across
  • In a nutshell:A city cut in half.
  • Last visit to Nicosia: Dec 2009
  • Intro Updated Feb 26, 2011
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Comments (2)

  • Ramonq's Profile Photo
    Nov 1, 2010 at 3:46 AM

    Valuable tips on Nicosia! Thanks.

  • Mikebond's Profile Photo
    Jan 3, 2010 at 9:46 AM

    Nice start on Nicosia! I would like to visit Cyprus too and I hope its two sides will re-unite some day.


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