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Nicosia the last divided city in the world

Nicosia the last divided city in the world

Steeped in history, Nicosia can be traced back to the Bronze Age. It has been the capital of Cyprus since the 11th century AD when it was a spectacular city with a royal palace and over 50 churches. In the 16th century the city was enclosed by the Venetian wall which was built to ward of an Ottoman attack. This wall, that is still standing in part today, was circular with eleven bastions and three gates. Settlements in Nicosia can be traced back as far as 2500 years BC when the first inhabitants settled in Mesaoria. In this era, the town was known as Ledra and was probable renamed Lefkosia after the son of Ptolemy I of Egypt whose name was Lefkos. Nicosia became the centre of administration of the island in the 9th or 10th century and it was the seat of the Byzantine government during this period.

In 1191 Richard the Lionheart became the ruler of the island after leading a crusade that defeated the then ruler Isaac Comnenos. He sold the island to the Templars soon after but their rule did not last long as the Nicosians revolted and drove them out of the city. The King of Jerusalem bought Cyprus from the Templars and ruled the island until 1489AD when they were forced to hand over administration to the Venetians. They built the fortifying walls that still surround the city in 1567. In 1570 the Ottomans marched on the city and massacred those that defended the city and the rest of the population became prisoners.

In 1878 the administration of the island was transferred to the British Empire. The British remained in power until the struggle for liberation began in 1955. The majority of the Greek Cypriots wanted to be united with Greece and this caused conflict with the Turkish Cypriots on the island. After a long struggle with the underground movement EOKA the British finally relinquished control of the island in 1959. Archbishop Makarios returned from exile and the preparations were made for Cyprus’ independence. Makarios was elected president of the Republic of Cyprus and Nicosia was officially named the capital of Cyprus.

In 1963 skirmishes broke out between the Greek and Turkish communities and the City was divided into Greek and Turkish quarters, this was named the ‘green line’. In July 1974 a coup was attempted against the Cypriot government which gave Turkey the pretext to invade the island on the 20th July.  There was much bloodshed, which got worse after the second invasion on the 14th August 1974. The tragic results of this invasion resulted with thousands killed and over 180,000 displaced refugees. There were also 1619 missing in action. The dividing line that resulted saw 37% of the island under Turkish occupation. The Green line that still separates the country in two, also divided the city of Nicosia. In 1975 the Turkish Cypriot community declared the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus and in 1983 they proclaimed their independence and became the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognized worldwide by Turkey.

The Green Line that separated the two communities was closed off from 1974 to 2003 with no one allowed to cross on either side. In April 2003 the Ledra Palace crossing was opened and for the first time crossing over the green line was allowed. Nicosia still remains the only city in the world that has two time zones and is separated into two communities.

Nicosia is a very interesting city to visit, it has well preserved ancient Venetian style architecture, historical monuments and churches. Nicosia is well known for its cultural life with numerous interesting museums to see. Nicosia is a large city and it is administered by several municipalities. It is the largest city in Cyprus and offers a wide variety of cultural events including art exhibitions, musical and theatrical events. Nicosia also has excellent educational facilities with most of the universities on the island situated in and around the city. It has the largest student community on the island and 8 universities.

Nicosia is also the financial and business centre of Cyprus. Headquarters for all large financial establishments are all in Nicosia. There are many International businesses that have Nicosia as their base. Sports also play a big part in Cyprus, especially soccer. Nicosia is home to three of the major Cypriot league teams and has the biggest stadiums and venues on the island.