Category: Nicosia or Lefkoşa

According to Assyrian sources from the 7th Century BC, today’s Nicosia then used to be a city named Ledra. In about 300 BC, the son of the Egyptian king Ptolemy, Lefkos, rebuilt the city, and his name is immortalised in the modern local name of Lefkosa (Turkish) or Lefkosia (Greek). Nicosia is the Frankish name of the city, and is thought to have appeared in the late 1100s. The name is mostly used by foreigners. The capital of the island, it is divided into Turkish and Greek sectors by a boundary known as the green Line, which runs in an East-west direction.
The Kyrenia gate in the venetian walls of Nicosia, North Cyprus
The Kyrenia Gate In 1191, Richard the Lionheart, on his way to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, captured the island as a response to actions against his fleet by the King of Cyprus. It was in Cyprus that Richard married Berengaria of Navarre, who was chosen as his wife by his mother, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Cyprus remained under Richard’s rule for only a year. In 1192, he sold it to the Knights Templars who ruled the island from Nicosia. Life under the Templars was harsh, and they quickly incurred the hatred of the islanders. Unable to hold the island by force, the Templars begged Richard to take the island off their hands, and he quickly sold it to Guy de Lusignan who had lost his Kingdom of Jerusalem. Nicosia has been the capital city of Cyprus since this time, and it flourished during the Lusignan era. Churches and palaces were built, and Nicosia grew in size and population. This glorious period in the history of the city ended in 1489 when the Venetians captured Cyprus.

The Lusignan House

The Lusignan House is about 100 metres away and is one of the finest examples of Lusignan residential architecture in the city. The coats of arms over the main street entrance have been defaced bar one and this is probably of the Rocheouart family. There have been Ottoman additions, most noticeably the “Kiosk” that hangs over the street. In the 1950’s the house was lived in by a family of Russian émigrés called Classen and it was used as a weaving workshop. After partition of the city it was used by refugees and was eventually evacuated in the late 1980’s.

In 1997 after extensive restoration that included the detailed repair of the beautiful Ottoman period ceilings the house was opened to the public. It is decorated with reproduction furniture of the Lusignan and Ottoman eras. Taht-el-kale is the neighbourhood, near Famagusta Gate. The Ottomans named it as “Taht-el-kale”, meaning the lower part of the fortress, i.e. Famagusta Gate. But the word was corrupted as “Tahtakale or Tahtagala”, meaning wooden fortress. The street going from the gate to the west was called Çarşı (Market) Street, now called Famagusta Street. This is the main thoroughfare in the walled city part of the neighbourhood and it was rated by Louis Salvator in the 19th century as the second most important street in Nicosia after Trypiotis/Ledra Street. Taht-el-kale was traditionally one of the biggest mixed neighbourhoods, but now the only sign of this coexistence is the Taht-el-kale Mosque and the Koran School.

Getting there

Getting to North Cyprus couldn’t be easier; with flights from the UK and many other countries to Ercan Airport in the North (via Turkey) or Larnaca Airport in the South, Cyprus is accessible to everyone. Most of the flights you will see below are available for certain periods of the year, with most flights to Larnaca Airport starting around March / April time. The peak months for visiting Cyprus are May, June, September and October, due to the fine weather and sunshine. Cyprus can reach around 40-45C in the hottest months of July and August, so those months are perfect for sun seekers. During the winter months of January and February, the Cyprus weather is comparible to the UK, with temperatures around 10C. With on average, 300 days of sunshine per year, a holiday in Cyprus is an ideal destination.
The currency in North Cyprus is the Turkish Lira, which has a constantly fluctuating exchange rate. For this reason, shopkeepers and restaurant owners are fully conversant with all major currencies and bills can be paid in UK Sterling, Euros and US Dollars as well as local currency.

If you change your money into Turkish Lira in North Cyprus, you will generally get a much better exchange rate than you would otherwise get in the UK.

Leisure in North Cyprus

National Park
Wild donkeys in the Karpaz National Park
Karpaz Donkeys

North Cyprus has one National Park in the Karpaz Peninsula. The park is alive with a variety of wildlife, from birds to the elusive mouflon, a shy, elusive and highly protected species of wild sheep. The famous Cypriot wild donkeys live in a stunning, ragged landscape that is bordered by wonderful beaches. They are easy to spot, and are irresistible for nature lovers, but don’t get too close; their bad temper is legendary.

Mountain walking
Walking in the Kyrenia Mountains is a great way to experience the abundance of wildlife in North Cyprus. Hiking and trekking tours on the Kyrenia Mountain Range are organised by a number of centres in the Kyrenia area.

Camping
There are several official camping sites in the Kyrenia and Famagusta areas which offer services such as washrooms, toilets, restaurants and bars. However the more intrepid visitor may wish to venture out into the wild, where there are no such facilities. There are no restrictions on such activities except that lighting fires in forest areas is an offence.

Horse riding
There are several stables offering riding lessons in the Girne and Gazimagusa areas. Some stables also allow customers to hire horses to take out.
Incirli Cave, near Iskele, North Cyprus
Incirli Cave

Caving
There are several caves in Northern Cyprus that you are free to explore. One, known as the Hot Cave, north of Agirdag village on the southern slopes of the Five Finger mountains, is a partially collapsed natural formation. Warm air emanates from the cave, hence the name. Do not attempt to enter the cave. Another natural cave in Girne area is the Guvercinlik Cave near Alevkayasi. Access to the cave involves some fairly difficult climbing. Proceed with caution. There are three more caves in the Famagusta area. Probably the most beautiful cave is Incirli Cave, a hundred metre long passage which contains an amazing collection of stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is opened on Sundays. There is a small entrance fee. Gastro Cave between Kuruova and Kaleburnu villages is a man made cave containing three rooms. Finally the ominously named Execution Cave, near Kaleburnu. There is said to be a golden earthenware jar hidden somewhere in the cave.

Hunting
Hunting is the greatest passion of many a Turkish Cypriot man. The season runs from October to February and is limited to Sundays only. Hunting areas are strictly controlled by the government and hunters must be licensed. The most popular prey for hunters are partridge, wood pigeon and hare.

Shooting
TRNC Shooting Federation was first born in 1974 under the name of Hunting and Shooting Federation. In 1996 Hunting and Shooting was divided into two different federations, Hunting Federation and Shooting Federation, which is the Federation standing now. According to the embargo which is held against TRNC, we are not able to participate in any international competitions, which we have been struggling for many years. Considering all these negativity, we are still continuing to stand on our own feet. Shooting in TRNC is done with the rules of ISSF and International norms with international, modern and high technology ranges. Gonyeli Shooting Range has Trap Range, Trap-Skeet Range, Compaq Sporting Range, Skeet Range and Magosa Shooting Range has Trap Range and Skeet Range

Where should you travel in August?

The calendar of public holidays in North Cyprus is a mixture of official patriotic commemorations, many imported from Turkey, and religious festival holidays.
January 1 – New Year’s Day

Like elsewhere in the world, the New Year’s Day is preceded by enormous celebrations on New Year’s Eve. In North Cyprus the joyful night is accompanied with heavy parting, drinking, singing and breathtaking fireworks to welcome the New Year. Although some families label it a secular holiday, there are Christmas trees glittering in some houses and schools and present exchanging is sometimes carried out.
April 23 – Turkish National Sovereignty and Children’s Day

All over Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus the day is celebrated along with vast ceremonies and performance. April 23 is, in accordance with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, dedicated to the children of the country to emphasize that they represent the future of the new nation. It was on April 23, 1920, during the War of Independence, that the Grand National Assembly was established in Ankara and subsequently laid on the foundations for a new, independent, secular, and modern republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
May 1 – Labour Day

A Labour Day, also known as May Day, is celebrated in most countries of Europe. It is billed as a holiday that resulted from efforts of the labour union movement, to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. In North Cyprus, however, represents a movable public holiday. Only the government officials are closed on this day.
May 19 – Atatürk Commemoration and Youth & Sports Day

This annual Turkish national holiday is celebrated to memorialize the beginning of Turkish War of Independence launched by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk landing in Samsun, the best landing point on the Black Sea coast on May 19, 1919. The day commemorates the liberation of Anatolia and Istanbul which were occupied by the naval forces of foreign countries. Atatürk himself proclaimed May 19 as “Youth and Sports Day” and it thus serves to honour the country’s founder. During this holiday ceremonies are held across all Turkey as well as North Cyprus and top civilian and military officials attend a ceremony at Anitkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara.
July 20 – Turkish Intervention (Peace and Freedom Day)

The date of July 20, 1974 recollects an important milestone in history of Cyprus. The division of the island which can be perceived until present days has its roots in violent struggle between Greek and Turkish invaders. On 15 July, 1974 a coup d’état was organized by the Greek army forces against the then Archbishop Makarios and his government, with the aim of uniting the island with Greece. During the days following the overthrow, many Turkish Cypriot villages were razed and their inhabitants slaughtered by Greek Cypriots. 5 days later, Turkey responded to the massacre and on 20 July, 1974 the Turkish military intervention was launched, also known as Turkish Peace Operation. The troops of Turkey invaded the north of island to stop the bloodshed and to provide safety for Turkish Cypriots. Since the gruesome event of 1974, Cyprus has remained divided, one third of the north part being occupied by Turkish Cypriots and the two-third southern part of island controlled by Greek Cypriots. In North Cyprus, Peace and Freedom Day is celebrated as an anniversary of the occupation of the island’s northern part by Turkish troops of 1974 and is accompanied with Turkish and Northern Cyprus flag-waving ceremonies and significant military flight parades.
August 1 – Establishment date of T.M.T (Social Resistance Day)

After 1956 the political situation of Cyprus, then a British colony, remained tense as there was persistent unrest between Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority. The TMT (Turk Mukavement Teskilati or Turkish Resistance Organization) was founded early in 1958 to face EOKA’s (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypríon Agonistós or National Organization of Cypriot Fighters) aim and struggle for partition of the island between Greece and Turkey. TMT organized a boycott of Greek-Cypriot products and shops, just as EOKA was presiding over a Greek-Cypriot boycott of British products.
August 30 – Zafer Bayram (Victory Day)

Led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish forces successfully won the liberation effort and great offensive against invading (Greek) troops that started on 26th August 1922 and ended four days later on 30th August, 1922 in absolute victory. On Victory Day, the president, force commanders, top generals and military cadets attend the ceremony of laying wreaths at Atatürk’s mausoleum in Anitkabir.
October 29 – Turkish Republic Day

Linked with the Youth and Sports Day and Victory Day, the Turkish Republic Day makes a final piece of chain events that happened during the War of Independence launched on 19 May, 1919. After Anatolia was freed from foreign rule in 1919, the subsequent victory of Turkish troops on 30 August 1922 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk paved its way to the later declaration of independent Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923.
November 15 – Republic Day of T. R. N. C.

Turkish Cypriots ratified their own constitution first in 1975, a year after the blood and fierce fighting with Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was established on 15 November 1983, by the Turkish Cypriot community. An independent state is, however, recognised only by Turkey. A new constitution was drafted and adopted two years later, in 1985.
Ramazan (End of Ramadan) or Seker Bayram (Sugar Bayram)

Seker Bayram, which is also called the Sugar Festival, takes place at the end of fasting month of Ramazan and lasts for three days. This religious feast is celebrated with family reunions and giving the presents and sweets to visitor. During the feast of Seker Bayram older members of the family are respected by kissing their hands and many Turkish Cypriots if not most of them, attend mosques. At northern outskirts of Nicosia, there is a fun-fair area with lunapark rides for children and traditional food and crafts. The restaurants in North Cyprus are usually empty on the 27th night of Ramazan, which is known as Kadir Gecesi, or the night the Koran was revealed to Muhammad.
Kurban Bayram (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Kurban Bayram occurs two months after the Seker Bayram, and lasts for four days. This feast commemorates the thwarted sacrifice of Ishmael by Abraham, which is a Koranic version of the Abraham-and-Isaac story, and used to be distinguished with the dispatch and roasting of vast numbers of sheep. The custom, however, has faded in Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are said to belong to the laxest Muslims world-wide in terms of observance. Many of them, if not most of them, attend the mosques, but almost everybody makes the effort to abstain from alcohol at this feast.

Bliss of travel

The Girne Fine Arts Museum is situated to the west of the town, near the military hospital. The building was erected in 1938, and opened as a museum in 1975. The museum contains European paintings and ceramics, together with objects from the Far East. Interior of Girne fine arts museum Fine Arts Museum Display. The items in the museum are displayed in three groups. There are various styles of oil paintings in the first group, some of which are original, and some are simply copies. The second group is the richest displayed in the museum. These works are from the Far East, and give us some idea of the captivating elegance of the art. Decorated with mother of pearl and ivory on a lacquered surface, silk materials decorated with colourful silk threads, handiworks, pictures on material and paper, metal and porcelain works are some of the products which can be seen.
European porcelain works can be seen in the third group, especially dinner sets, jugs, vases and various lamps.
Cypriots have come to think of the beauty of the Karpaz as sacred, like the Apostolos Andreas Monastery at the tip of the peninsula. The monastery is a key religious site, and the focus for Greek Cypriot pilgrimages on the important festivals of Orthodox Easter and St Andrew’s day. A fortified monastery stood on this craggy shoreline in the 12th century, from where Isaac Commenos negotiated his surrender to Richard the Lionheart. The oldest surviving building is a 15th century seaside chapel, now essentially a crypt below the main icon-decorated church.
To the north of Dipkarpaz lie the spectacular seafront ruins of Ayios Philon, part of what was once Carpasia. Stones from the ancient city were used to build a 10th century church, the ruins of which still stand, and mosaics are still visible from a far earlier basilica.

Just five miles away are the remnants of Aphendrika, said to have been one of the island’s foremost cities, where you can see Cyprus’s oldest surviving domed church.
Mediterranean on your right, your left, and ahead! Don’t forget to take your camera with you!

Readers’ travel photography competition

In many societies there are important distinctions between holidays designated by governments and holidays designated by religious institutions. For example, in many predominantly Christian nations, government-designed holidays may center on Christian holidays, though non-Christians may instead observe religious holidays associated with their faith. In some cases, a holiday may only be nominally observed. For example, many Jews in the Americas and Europe treat the relatively minor Jewish holiday of Hanukkah as a “working holiday”, changing very little of their daily routines for this day.

A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations. The degree to which normal activities are reduced by a holiday may depend on local laws, customs, the type of job being held or personal choices.

The concept of holidays often originated in connection with religious observances. The intention of a holiday was typically to allow individuals to tend to religious duties associated with important dates on the calendar. In most modern societies, however, holidays serve as much of a recreational function as any other weekend days or activities.

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