Walking, talking, explaining and gazing at the rich cultural heritage of my city is my goal. Nicosia, was the jewel of the crown of the kingdom of Cyprus, a city home to kings and queens who had lost their kingdom to Saladin…But it was also home to Cypriots, to the natives, the poor folk that all of a sudden acquired royal families that did not speak their language, did not share their religion, had different clothes and eating manners….Nevertheless, they survived watching from afar as the Lusignans in their efforts to rule from within tried to embellish the city, build gothic cathedrals and churches, palaces and bridges over the Pedieos river that cut the town in two. Markets and squares, narrow roads and alleys, all withing the first walls of the Lusignan kings. As the Venetians took over after the Lusignans, they felt the danger of the Ottoman threat and they built a new wall around the city, inspired from the Renaissance and the «citta ideale». An ideal city, with a new enceinte with 11 bastions all built of the rubble of the previous Lusignan walls, and the ruins of 99 churches and monasteries and 1800 houses. Before the new walls were finished in 1570, the Ottomans sieged the city and captured it 4 months later….Three centuries of Ottoman Rule and another one of British Rule did’nt really change the topography of the medieval capital.
This is the city, or the remnants of a city I show my guests. A european city, within an oriental background.
Since 1974 another division split once more my city in two. Unfortunately for us the Greek Cypriots, the most important part of the city lies within the occupied part. It is the northern bank of the Pediaios river, there where the palaces stood, the cathedrals and the churches. One can only understand and appreciate the history of the city if one sees it in its entity, as a whole, as a city that lived and prospered for more than 10.000 years.
I walk with my guests and talk a lot, try and explain how Nicosia, within the two mountain ranges was the safest place to be during the Arab raids, how the river was essential to its growth and wealth, how the lords mingled with the natives, I tell stories of everyday life, in a city that was and is the centre of the island.