Lefkosa Nicosia Lefkose - the Capital City of North Cyprus
Nicosia Cyprus, known locally as Lefkosa (Turkish), is the capital and the largest city of Northern Cyprus. It is located at 35°10' north, 33°21' east, roughly in the centre of the island.
Nicosia Cyprus is the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. It is the seat for the main government offices and headquarters.
Its population is more than 60,000 people, which is almost doubled during the working days.
Nicosia Cyprus is currently the only divided capital city in the world, with the northern (Turkish) and southern (Greek) parts divided by the "Green Line", a demilitarized zone maintained by the United Nations.
The head of the municipality of Lefkosa is Kutlay Erk. He is the executive authority of the Municipality, exercising overall control and managing the Municipal Council.
Being the main commercial and industrial town in Turkish Cyprus, Nicosia manufactures textiles, leather, pottery, plastic, and other products.
The origin of name
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 ("white goddess").
The name "Nicosia" appeared in the end of the 12th century A.D., when the city was under rule of the Knights Templar. The Crusaders conquerors could not pronounce the name Kallinikisis, as the city was called at that time, and they tended to say "Nikosia", which they spelled as "Nicosia".
It is believed that Nicosia Cyprus is about 2250 years old and dates back to the original settlement of Ledra (also spelled as Ledrae or Ledron). Moreover, archaeological finds have shown that modern Nicosia was inhabited already in 5000 B.C.
During the first millennium B.C., when Cyprus was divided into city-kingdoms, Nicosia Cyprus was a small town while other kingdoms prospered due to their coastline position. Only in the 4th century A.D., after the dissolution of the city-kingdoms, Nicosia started exploiting its natural resources and geographical location, in the centre of the island.
After the Arab raids in the 6th century A.D. on the coastal cities, the population moved to the centre of the island. Nicosia Cyprus probably became the centre of administration and the island's capital city in either the 9th or the 10th century. During the Byzantine period, it was the seat of the Byzantine governor of Cyprus. The last Byzantine governor was Isaac Komnenos.
In 1191 Richard the Lionheart defeated Isaac and became the ruler of the island. But soon he sold it to the Templars who made Nicosia their residence. In this period, the city expanded culturally.
Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, bought Cyprus from the Templars and brought many noble men from France, Jerusalem, Tripoli, the principality of Antioch and Kingdom of Armenia, to the island. Due to the destruction of Salamis and Famagusta, the Archbishop obtained the Pope's permission to move to Nicosia. Thus Nicosia was established as the capital city of the Kingdom of Lusignans. Under the rule of Lusignans the capital city expanded architecturally: it saw the erection of a number of palaces, mansions, churches and monasteries. The first Lusignan castle was built in 1211, during the reign of King Henry I. Peter II fortified the entire city by building the new walls with many gates.
During Venetian rule from 1489 to 1571, Nicosia was the administrative centre and the seat of the Venetian Governor. Feeling the threat from the Ottomans the Venetians decided to fortify the city in 1567. Julio Savorgnano, an architect and engineer, designed new fortifications for the capital city according to contemporary defence methods. The new walls had the shape of a star with eleven bastions. The walls had three gates: the North Kyrenia Gate, the west Paphos Gate and the east Famagusta Gate. The heart shape design of the bastion was more suitable for the new artillery and a better control for the defenders.
However, the new walls could not protect the capital city from the Ottomans. In 1570 they marched towards Nicosia and started the attack on the bastions. After the siege the city was deserted, the walls were ruined, the main Latin churches were converted into mosques. Nicosia Cyprus became the seat of the Pasa, the Greek Archbishop, the Dragoman and the Cadi.
The British gained control over the island in 1878, leaving Nicosia the colony's capital. At the time of the British occupation, Nicosia was still developing within its walls. A series of openings in the walls provided direct access to areas beyond the walls as they grew in importance. The opening at the Kyrenia Gate took place in 1931 after one of Nicosia's first buses proved too high to go through the original gate. Many more openings followed.
During the post-war period the villages around Nicosia began to expand. The old city was given over to shops and workshops, turning into a lower income area.
Nicosia Cyprus, as the seat of government, constituted the main place of political conflicts during the period of liberation from the British rule in 1955-1959. In 1960 Nicosia became the capital city of the Republic of Cyprus, whose constitution was based on the co-operation of the island's two communities, Greek and Turkish, in a ratio of seven to three.
After 1974 Nicosia was divided in two parts by the Green Line.
The architectural style of Nicosia Cyprus represents a mixture of modern offices, apartment blocks, detached houses and buildings dated by the 16th and 18th centuries erected during Venetian and British rule.
The heart of the city is enclosed by the 16th-century wall built by the Venetians to protect the city from the Ottomans. The 4.5 metres thick walls reveal a splendid gallery of historical places: Selimiye Mosque, an outstanding example of Gothic architecture dated by the 14th century, The Great Inn (Büyük Han) dated by the 16th century and looking marvellous especially at the night time.
Here you can get more information about Nicosia's places of interest.