Nicosia

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For the Italian town, see Nicosia, Sicily

Coordinates: 35°10′N 33°21′E

Image:Flag of Cyprus.svg Nicosia (Λευκωσία, Lefkoşa)
Image:Nicosia emblem.gif
Nicosia Municipality
Image:Cyprus Nicosia Map.jpg
Coordinates 35°10′ N 33°21′ E
CountryCyprus
District Nicosia District
Population 206,200 (2001)
Elevation 160 m
Mayor Michael Zampelas
Website http://www.nicosia.org.cy/
Image:Platia-eleftherias.jpg
Platia Eleftherias (Freedom square) Nicosia, Cyprus
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Satellite photo of Nicosia, Cyprus

Nicosia, known locally as Lefkosia (Greek: Λευκωσία , also colloquially Khora, Χώρα or Turkish: Lefkoşa) is the capital and largest city of Cyprus. Nicosia is located at 35°10' north, 33°21' east (35.1667, 33.35). [1] 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 and capital of an administrative district (Nicosia District), and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 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 percent of the island's territory literally cut the capital in half. The Turkish Cypriots use it as the capital of the area known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is a state not recognized by any country in the world, except Turkey.

The population of the part of the city under the control of the Republic of Cyprus is 206,200 (end of 2001).

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View of Nicosia from the Town Hall park.
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Residential area at the outskirts of the town.

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.

Contents

[edit] 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 possibility 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 Ottoman Empire 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.

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the Nicosia town hall with the Venetian Walls on the front
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The former Cathedral of St. Sophia, which became the Selimiye Mosque in the 16th century.

Some 20,000 residents died as a result of the Ottoman siege of 1570. Man-made and natural disasters further struck the city during the 19th century. The Turks crushed the 1821 anti-Ottoman revolt in blood. Cholera hit the city in 1835, and fire destroyed large parts of Nicosia in 1857. The British Empire gained control over the island in 1878, with Nicosia serving as the capital of the new British colony.

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.

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

[edit] 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 are enchanting 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 vestiges to enjoy the past. History is most strikingly experienced at the Venetian city wall, which was built between 1567 and 1570. The 4.5 metres thick wall once had three gates. The Famagusta Gate is now used as a cultural centre. Some other parts of the wall contain administrative offices. The historic heart of the city is clearly found 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, built with the remains of an old castle and a convent. Here lay the remains of 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 appears very old, it is in fact a wonderful imitation of typical Venetian style, built in 1956. Next to the palace is the late gothic St John Cathedral cathedral (1665) with picturesque frescos.

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 the 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 Centre.

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.

Image:Cipro-Nicosia06.jpg
The minarets of the Selimiye Mosque

In Nicosia there are also mosques, like the Selimiye Mosque (Nicosia). This ancient church is the chief mosque in the northern (TRNC-administered) sector of Nicosia, and the 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.

[edit] Transportation

Nicosia International Airport has not been used since 1974 as it lies within the U.N. Buffer Zone separating the two parts of Nicosia. The de facto TRNC has an airport to the east of Nicosia called Ercan (Greek: Tymvou), while planes to (Greek) Nicosia land at Larnaca. The Ercan Airport is used only by aeroplanes coming from Turkey since it is considered an illegal airport by the international community.

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 obliged to use a taximeter.

[edit] Sports

Football is the most important sport in Cyprus, and Nicosia is home of 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, whereas EN THOI Lakatamia was recenlty moved to the second division. All of these teams play at Neo GSP Stadium, the biggest in Cyprus, with capacity of 23400. The other big stadium of Nicosia is Makario Stadium with capacity of 16000 seats.

Omonia and APOEL have their own basketball and volleyball sections. APOEL is successful 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 2000 ISSF World Cup Final about shooting events for the shotgun. Also the town hosted two basketball events; the European Saporta Cup in 1997 and the 2005 FIBA Europe All Star Game in Eleftheria Indoor Hall which is the biggest basketball stadium in Cyprus, with capacity of 6500 seats. Lefkotheo is the volleyball stadium in Nicosia. Both stadiums are the Omonia's and APOEL home. Another sport even which was hosted in Nicosis were the Games of the Small States of Europe in 1989.

[edit] Culture

In 2006 the Manifesta Biennale was scheduled to be held in Nicosia for a duration of three months. The project was cancelled, however, with the overseas and local organisers blaming each other for its collapse.

The city also hosted the competition of Miss Universe 2000 in Eleftheria Indoor Hall.

[edit] Twinnings

[edit] Collaborations

[edit] Famous Nicosians

¹ The TRNC is not recognized internationally, but only by Turkey.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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