Nicosia, also known as Lefkosia in Greek and Lefkoşa in Turkish, is the capital and largest city of Cyprus. It is the only divided capital city in the world, with the northern part of the city being the capital of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. Here are key points about Nicosia:
- Geography: Nicosia is situated roughly in the center of the island of Cyprus. The city is surrounded by a medieval Venetian wall, which is still largely intact and serves as a prominent historical landmark.
- Divided City: Nicosia has been divided since 1974 when Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. The division resulted in the creation of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north. The “Green Line” serves as the United Nations Buffer Zone separating the two parts of the city.
- Ledra Street: Ledra Street is a historic shopping street in the heart of Nicosia. It was previously divided by the Green Line, but after the easing of restrictions, pedestrian crossings were established, allowing people to move between the southern and northern parts of the city.
- Historical Landmarks: Nicosia boasts several historical landmarks, including the Venetian walls, Famagusta Gate (one of the original gates to the city), the Cyprus Museum (archaeological museum), and Selimiye Mosque (formerly St. Sophia Cathedral).
- United Nations Presence: The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has a significant presence in Nicosia, especially in the buffer zone. UNFICYP was established in 1964 and plays a role in maintaining stability and facilitating communication between the two sides.
- Economy and Business: Nicosia is the economic and financial center of Cyprus. It houses the Central Bank of Cyprus, various financial institutions, and international companies. The city has a modern business district with office buildings and commercial centers.
- Culture and Education: The city is home to cultural institutions, including theaters, galleries, and music venues. Nicosia is also a center for education with several universities and academic institutions.
- Green Spaces: Despite being a bustling city, Nicosia offers green spaces for relaxation. The public park of Pedieos River Linear Park provides a peaceful area for residents and visitors.
- Cypriot Cuisine: Nicosia offers a variety of dining experiences, with numerous restaurants serving traditional Cypriot cuisine. Local dishes include halloumi cheese, souvlaki, moussaka, and various mezze options.
- Multicultural Atmosphere: The city reflects the multicultural and multilingual character of Cyprus. Greek and Turkish are the primary languages spoken, and a diverse range of communities and expatriates contribute to the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
- Annual Events: Nicosia hosts various cultural events, festivals, and exhibitions throughout the year. These events showcase the city’s rich history, contemporary arts, and diverse cultural influences.
Nicosia’s unique status as a divided city adds an additional layer to its rich history and cultural identity. The city serves as a symbolic representation of the complexities and challenges faced by Cyprus, while also being a vibrant hub of economic, cultural, and educational activities.