Living in the inner walled city of Nicosia
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Nicosia, (Lefkosia), the capital of Cyprus, one of the oldest cities in our part of the world, today is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan place in the Eastern Mediterranean, rich in history and culture and combines its historic past with the amenities of a modern city.

Nicosia was a city-state known as Ledra or Ledrae in ancient times. Ledra in Hellenic and Roman times was a small, unimportant town, also known as Lefkothea. By the time it received its first Christian bishop, Trifillios, in 348, the town was called Lefkousia or Ledra. 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.. Ledra is now the name of the most popular commercial street.

Still known as Lefkosia, the city became the island's capital around the 10th 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.

The oldest documentation that exists concerning Nicosia within the walls, dates back to 1567, when the Venetians took over the island, and built the fortification with the eleven bastions, that one can still see today. Nicosia though, has a history dating long before that period, and has been the capital of the island since 1192, when a French Royal family, the Lusignans, made it their capital. They built an important number of monuments, such as churches, monasteries, palaces etc. Nicosia had 250 churches and the town was much larger than the one built by the Venetians, who had destroyed a large number of original buildings to construct the fortifications. The tombs of the Lusignan kings are in the former Cathedral of St. Sophia, now a mosque in the northern sector.

Nicosia today, has nothing really left of the French period, except the churches, and the structure of the town after the Venetians. The town planning was a result of a way of living: narrow streets with houses built next to each other. The buildings that stand today basically date from the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, and they have all the characteristics of houses built within fortifications. Their design is also proof that architecture has managed to combine both worlds, the East and the West. Greek, French, Venetian and Turkish details, all mix in a typical Cypriot expression. The basic materials used for the buildings were wood, sandstone, and mud brick. The combination of all these different materials gives us today an example of fine architecture.



Until 1960, old Nicosia still retained all these characteristics, which gave the city its architectural character. In the next 20 years, Nicosia experienced a series of transformations both in the natural environment, as well as in the social environment, due to the demanding pressure for the development of the city. Nicosia was the scene of extreme violence in the period just prior to Cypriot independence in 1960. Since the Turkish invasion in 1974, part of the city's northern sector has been inside the boundary of a United Nations Buffer Zone.

The sudden change, found the city unprepared and unable to cope with the new needs. As a result of this change, the sudden development caused serious destruction to the historical character of the city. The "green line" divided the walled city, and aggravated the situation, by literally cutting in two the historical center, thus creating a problem to the city itself, and to all those who had to abandon their homes, because of the proximity of the green line. Gradually, the old town, - that once was full of life and commercial activity, was abandoned as people were looking for solutions outside the fortifications.

The old part of the city, the historical center, was withering away, and problems within the walls just increased every day - traffic, lack of green areas, difficult living conditions and other problems. The Government of Cyprus, being aware of the problem the old city faced every day, decided in 1977 to expropriate the area of Laiki Yitonia, a small area not bigger than 1000 square meters. The main aim was to breathe new life to the city within the walls, by creating a nucleus with a very strong folkloric character that would combine, commercial and cultural activities. The basic scope of the government was to give a real example for the revival of the old city and a guidance to the way the old city should be renovated and reconstructed safeguarding in this way, its architectural character and its tradition.
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