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Introducing North Nicosia (Lefkoşa)

The northern half of Cyprus’ capital, known as North Nicosia (Lefkoşa), is a dizzying labyrinth of narrow, old streets, punctuated by wonderful architecture. The Old City pulses with shoppers in the covered Belediye Pazarı market, and the Büyük Han (Great Inn), recently restored, is a busy centre for tourists and locals alike. The streets of the newly renovated Arabahmet neighbourhood abound with unkempt, screaming children, who want your attention and greetings; people sit outside their houses watching the city go by in the heat of midsummer; and women walk past, balancing a load on their heads.

Just as you might have decided, after a walk around the Old City, that here is an old-fashioned place steeped in quaint traditions, you discover a whole part of town that is heaving with shiny, dressed-up youths brandishing mobiles and listening to loud, pumping music. And when the call to prayer, blasting from the loudspeakers of the city’s many minarets, makes you think that religion is a big thing here, the luring neon winking from the mushrooming casinos offers a different story, with Greek and Turkish men losing big money side by side. Traditional eateries release the aroma of grilled kebabs, and modern restaurants serve top-quality international dishes.

North Nicosia (with a population of around 39, 000) has had a much-needed boost in terms of architectural renovation and infrastructure. Brussels is pouring money into the city: along with the already renovated parts of town, the current work on the city’s Turkish baths, the legendary Kumarcılar Han, and the beautiful old Bedesten, promises an exciting future for North Nicosia.