For the last several days, I have been in Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus. Since the reunification of Berlin, Nicosia is the only city in the world that is divided between two nations. (Istanbul is divided between two continents but, unlike Nicosia, it is one big happy family). I am staying on the Greek side but close enough to the Turkish side that I can hear the call to prayer from the Mosque on the other side of the “green line” while I am listening to the chanting from the local Greek Orthodox church.
Nicosia has been a nice surprise. My little apartment is in a beautiful historic house in a neighborhood that is being restored with the support of the European Union and the UN. My host, Paulo, has shared information about local points of interest and his career as an airline pilot. I have met several neighbors, including Itala (Italian) and Inga (Icelandic) who own a really good vegetarian restaurant down the street and have been together here for 23 years. I have already spent many hours at the cafe hanging out with them and their local patrons.
Nicosia has a small but thriving arts community, lots of outdoor cafes and a lot of older men playing tavli on the sidewalks. The economic situation nationwide has certainly hurt local businesses and there are signs that the restoration has resulted in more infrastructure than the economy can sustain. For example, many upscale new restaurants appear to have very little business. Still, Nicosia seems to be a city that will recover because it is livable — people I talk to mention how members of the community try to support each other and the economy relies less on tourism than other parts of the island.
The North side of Nicosia is Turkish, mostly Muslim. Casual access to and from the north part of the City for tourists and local business is quite recent. A walk through its old town suggests that this part of the city is struggling, although making some progress with historic restoration. I was hoping to find some public celebrations of Eid Al Adha, which honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (also celebrated by Jews and Christians) The Muslim tradition is to sacrifice a goat or lamb and barbecue it. In Nicosia at least, it is a private holiday of prayer and family feasting.
The Cyprus Museum has a great collection of archaeological artifacts from all over the island. I only had 40 minutes before the museum closed so I focused on one thing.