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Nicosia, known locally as Lefkosia (Greek: Λευκωσία ; also colloquially Khora,Χώρα see also List of traditional Greek place names) or Lefkoşa (Turkish), is the capital and largest city of Cyprus. Nicosia is located at 35°10' north, 33°21' east (35.1667, 33.35). [1] There have recently been some moves to use the Greek name Lefkosia as the official English name, but this has not been generally accepted.

Located on the Pedieos river and situated roughly in the centre of the island, it is the seat of government as well as the main business centre. Nicosia is the center of an administrative district, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and it is currently the only divided capital city in the world, with the northern (Turkish) and southern (Greek) portions divided by the "Green Line", a demilitarized zone maintained by the United Nations, although unlike Cold War East and West Berlin, few use the terms North Nicosia and South Nicosia.The 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of 36 % of the island's territory literally cut the capital in half. The Turkish Cypriots use it as capital of occupied area, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is a state not recognized by any country in the world, except Turkey

It has a population of 206.200 (end of 2001) in the sector controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus,, which means that over a quarter of the Republic's people live in the capital. At least three quarters of the city population live in the 'Greek' part, which is controlled by the Republic of Cyprus.

Nicosia is a modern, dynamic capital with lots of shops, restaurants and entertainment The city is a trade center and manufactures textiles, leather, pottery, plastic, and other products. Copper mines are nearby. Nicosia is the seat of the University of Cyprus (UCY) and of all the colleges and institutes of Republic of Cyprus.

The city is a trade center and manufactures textiles, leather, pottery, plastic, and other products. Copper mines are nearby. Nicosia is the seat of the University of Cyprus (UCY).

History

Main Article History of Nicosia

The Greek name of Nicosia, "Lefkosia", probably comes from Lefkos, son of Ptolemy I of Egypt, who rebuilt the city in the 3rd century B.C.. Another probability is that the name originated from the white poplar (lefki) which was abundant in the bed of the city's river. The city also bore the name of Lefkothea - the white goddess.Still known as Lefkosia, the city became the island's capital in the 11th century. It had grown in importance because of threats to the coastal cities Paphos and Salamis, which made many people flee to the centrally located Lefkosia.

Known as Ledra or Ledrae in ancient times, the city was the seat of the Lusignan kings of Cyprus since 1192, became a Venetian possession in 1489, and fell to the Turks in 1571. Ledra is now the actual name of the most popular commercial street.

The name "Nicosia" appeared towards the end of the 12th century, when the city was owned and run by the Knights Templar. In fact, it is this period of Frankish (Luisignan) rule that gave rise to the exonym Nicosia. The Crusaders conquerors could not, or did not care, to pronounce the name Kallinikisis, as the city was called at that time, and they tended to say "Nikosia", which they spelled as "Nicosia". In this era of the Franks, the city expanded culturally, while under the Lusignans in the 15th and 16th centuries, the capital saw the erection of a number of palaces, mansions, churches and monasteries.

Sir Garnet Wolseley in Nicosia

The Ottoman siege of 1570 caused 20,000 casualties, while the 19th century also observed tragedy. The Turks eliminated the 1821 revolt with bloodshed, cholera hit the city in 1835, and fire destroyed large parts of Nicosia in 1857. The British gained control over the island in 1878, leaving Nicosia the colony's capital.

Nicosia was the scene of extreme violence in the period just prior to Cypriot independence in 1960. Since the Greek supported coup and Turkish invasion which followed it in 1974, part of the city's northern sector has been inside the boundary of a United Nations buffer zone

The tombs of the Lusignan kings are in the former Cathedral of St. Sophia, now a mosque in the northern sector. The core of the city also has well-preserved Venetian fortifications, built in the 16th century, which encircle the old, medieval part of the city.


Old Photo from Nicosia

Administration

As the capital of the Republic, Nicosia is Cyprus's political, economic and cultural head. Greater Nicosia is subdivided into seven municipalities, but the metropolitan authority is the Municipality of Nicosia itself – within whose boundaries the Constitution states that the main government buildings and headquarters must be suited. The other municipalities in the city are Strovolos,Lakatamia,Latsia, Aglantzia,Engomi and Agios Dometios

According to the constitution of Cyprus Nicosia Municipality was divided into a Greek and Turkish sector with two Mayors a representative of the Greek Community which was the majority and a second one representing the Turkish community. The Mayors and the members of the Council were appointed by the President of the Republic. Since 1986 the Mayors and members of the Council are elected. The Mayor and the Municipal Councilors are elected by direct popular suffrage but into separate ballots – one for the Mayor and the other for all the Councilors. Municipal elections are held every five years. The end of 2001 schedules the next elections.

The Municipality of Nicosia is now headed by the Mayor, who is Mihalis Zambellas (supported by the conservative party Democratic Rally and the United Democrats) and the council comprising of 26 councilors, one of who is Deputy Mayor. Northern Sector has its own de facto municipality, whose mayor is Kutlay Erk, but that municipality is not internationally recognized because it is due to the laws of the non-recognized TRNC.

The Mayor and the Councilors exercise all the powers vested in them by the Municipal Corporation Law. Sub-committees consisting of members of the Municipal Council act only on an advisory level and according to the procedures and regulations issued by the Council.

The Mayor is the executive authority of the Municipality, exercising overall control and managing the Municipal Council. The Council is responsible for appointing personnel employed by the Municipality.

All municipalities in the Republic of Cyprus are members of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities. The executive Committee is the governing organ of the Union. This Committee is appointed from among the representatives of the Municipalities, for a term of two and a half years. The Mayor of Nicosia is the President of the Union and the Chairman of the Executive Committee.

Interesting Sites

Nicosia lies roughly at the center of the island, with a rich history that can be traced back to the Bronze Age. It only became Capital of the island in the 11th century AD. The Lousignians turned it into a magnificent city with a Royal Palace and over fifty churches. Today it blends its historic past brilliantly with the bustle of a modern city. The heart of the city, enclosed by 16th century Venetian walls, is dotted with museums, ancient churches and medieval buildings preserving the nostalgic atmosphere of years past. Yet this old heart is split in two, leaving Nicosia the only capital city in the world to remain divided by force.

The new Nicosia developed outside the walls became a contemporary, business and cultural center. Just a few miles away areenchanting places of interest such as Byzantine churches and monasteries, archaeological sites and charming villages.

The old walled city of Nicosia is unique and definitely the place to head for first. Encircled by strong fortress walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century, the enchanting old city is scattered with buildings and monuments of historical interest as well as little shops, cafés and tavernas.

To walk through the old city is to step backwards in time. Narrow streets and old houses with ornate balconies jut from weather beaten sandstone walls, smell of jasmine flowers in those long summer evenings, and craftsmen in small workshops practice trades unchanged for centuries. 'Laiki Yitonia' - Folk Neighborhood - is a pedestrian section, which has been carefully renovated to evoke the atmosphere of past days. The two main streets of old Nicosia, Ledra and Onasagorou, are lined with shops of every type, and both streets are pedestrian - only.

Although the city has been destroyed more than once by conquerors, there are still enough leftovers to enjoy the past.History is most strikingly experienced at the Venetian city wall, which was constructed between 1567 and 1570. The 4,5 metres thick wall used to have three gates. The Famagusta gate is now used as cultural centre. Some other parts of the wall contain administration offices. The historical centre is clearly present inside the walls, but the modern city has grown beyond.

The heart of the city is Eleftheria (Freedom) Square, with the city hall, the post office and the library. Adjacent Ledra street leads to the most lively part of the old city with narrow streets, boutiques, and cafés. Agia Fanomereni is a church built in 1872, constructed with the remains of an old castle and a convent. Here rest the Archbishop and the other Bishops who were killed by the Turks during the 1821 revolt. The Palace of the Archbishop can be found at Arkhiepiskopos Kyprianos Square. Although it seems very old, it's a wonderful imitation of typical Venetian style, built in 1956. Next to the palace is the late gothic Saint John cathedral (1665) with picturesque frescos.

Aphrodite of Soloi, Archaeological Museum, Nicosia Cyprus, 1st century BC


Nicosia is also known for its fine museums. The Archbishop's Palace contains a Byzantine museum where you can admire the largest collection of religious icons on the island. Leventis Municipal Museum Other interesting museums include the Folk Art Museum, National Struggle Museum (witnessing the rebellion against the British administration in the 1950s), Cyprus Ethnological Museum(House of Dragoman Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios) and the Handicrafts Centre. The Nicosia Jewels Museum and the Municipal Arts Center are both well worth a visit. The 'Levention' Municipal Museum, with an imaginative presentation of the capital's history, was awarded the title "1991 European Museum of the Year" and it is the only historical museum of Nicosia and revives the old ways of life in the capital from ancient times up to our days.

Not to be missed is the unique Cyprus Museum, housing island's most important collection of Cypriot antiquities and treasures from the Neolithic Age to the Roman Period. In contrast to these ancient finds is the State Collection of Contemporary Art, and on the other side of town, just off the main Limassol road, is the Cyprus Handicraft Center.

East Gate, Nicosia "Famagusta Gate", 1878 of the Venetian walls

Another award winner is the city's renovated 'Pyli Ammochostou' - Famagusta Gate - one of the original entrances to the old city, which won the Europa Nostra award for its restoration. Many old churches are to be found in this part of town, and other places of interest.

In Nicosia also there are mosques, like the Selimiye Mosque. This ancient church is the chief mosque in the turkish occupied part of Nicosia, and the great festivals of Bayram and other Moslem gatherings are conducted here. It was formerly the cathedral of St. Sophia which was built in the period 1209 A.D. to 1228, over the ruins of a previous building. Other famous mosques are Haydarpasha Mosque, and Arabahmet Mosque

Transportation

Nicosia has an organised network of Urban Busses that is managed by the Nicosia Bus Company Ltd. All the bus routes start at the Solomos Square terminal in the centre of the city and cover all the areas of the city. Buses run every 20 to 30 minutes depending on their destination while on weekends they run less frequently. For more information as well as for the current fares you can call the Nicosia Bus Company. In addition, Nicosia Municipality runs its own busses, the well-known Yellow Busses that cover the city within the walls. There is no fare charge for these routes.

There are many taxi companies in Nicosia. In order to take a taxi you have to call one of the taxi companies. The taxi will come pick you up from where you are. Besides the taxi companies, there is a taxi rank at the Eleftheria Square (City Centre) where you can find taxis twenty-four hours a day. Taxi fares are regulated by law and taxi drivers are obligated to use a taximeter.

Part of the Venetian Wall fortifications in the city of Nicosia

Sports

Football is the most important sport in Cyprus, and Nicosia is home of the two major teams of the island, AC Omonia and APOEL. The two teams dominate the Cypriot Football; Omonia has the record of championships and APOEL the record of the cups. Another team of Nicosia which had success in the past and plays in Cypriot First Division is Olympiakos Nicosia. All of these teams play at GSP Stadium, the biggest in Cyprus, with capacity of 23400. The other big stadium of Nicosia is Makario Stadium with capacity of 16 000 seats. EN THOI Lakatamia is another football team in First Division

Omonia and APOEL have their own basketball and volleyball sections. APOEL is successfull team in basketball as well, same with another team of the city, Keravnos Strovolos.In athletics the club of Nicosia is Gymnastic Club Pancypria (GSP)-the owner of the football stadium GSP. Also all the teams in the Futsal First Division are from Nicosia! There are also many other clubs in basketball, handball and other sports

Nicosia hosted the European Saporta Cup in 1997 and the 2005 FIBA Europe All Star Game in Eleftheria Stadium which is the biggest basketball stadium in Cyprus, with capacity of 6 500 seats. Lefkotheo is the volley ball stadium in Nicosia. Both Stadiums are the Omonia's and APOEL home.

Cyprus Archaeological Museum,

Nicosia Images

Beyond Nicosia

Visitors should visit the numerous attractions of the Nicosia District that are within easy reach from the island's capital. These include World Heritage sites in the Troodos Mountains, the picturesque village of Kakopetria and the marvelous Kykkos Monastery

Makarios statue in Nicosia, Photo : Augusta Stylianou

Kykkos Monastery

Faneromeni-Church

Twinnings

  • Municipality of Schwerin , Former German Democratic Republic (1974)
  • Municipality of Athens, Greece (1988)
  • Municipality of Odessa, Ukraine (1996)
  • Municipality of Shiraz, Iran (1999)
  • Municipality of Bucharest, Romania-2004
  • Municipality of Shanghai, China-2004

Collaborations

  • Municipality of Moscow, Russian Federation (2000)
  • Municipality of Nicosia, Sicily - Italy (2000)
  • Municipality of Qingdao, People's Republic of China (2001)
  • Municipality of Athens-Greece, 2002, 2003
  • Municipality of Helsinki-Finland, 2003
  • Municipality of Zagreb, Croatia, 2004

Famous Nicosians

The TRNC is not recognized internationally, except by Turkey.

Former Cathedral of St. Sophia, now a mosque in the northern sector of Nicosia, Cyprus

Eleni Mavrou, former mayor

Sport

AC Omonia (Athletic Club Omonia Nicosia, Αθλητικός Σύλλογος Ομόνοια Λευκωσίας)

APOEL F.C. (Greek: ΑΠΟΕΛ; short for Αθλητικός Ποδοσφαιρικός Όμιλος Ελλήνων Λευκωσίας – Athletikos Podosferikos Omilos Ellinon Lefkosias – "Athletic Football Club of Greeks of Nicosia")

Videos

Building Nicosia through the centuries

References

Detailed Map of Cyprus (PDF 2.4 MB) from The Cyprus Automobile Association

Links

English-language website for Greek Nicosia (Λευκωσια)

Images Cyprus, Nicosia District

Districts of Cyprus

Ancient Greece

Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire

Modern Greece

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