The Arabahmet District in Nicosia, North Cyprus.
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The Arabahmet District

Arabahmet Old House
photo by: Nick Leonard
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If you want to see the best Ottoman houses in North Cyprus on your holiday, head for the Arabahmet district of North Nicosia. The fine houses that line Zahra, Tanzimat and Salahi sevket streets have been restored, thanks to the 1995 Nicosia restoration Master Plan. Now, the renovated houses are rented out to businesses, and the area is coming alive after years of neglect and uncertainty. There is also Arabahmet Mosque.

British Homes in Victorian Nicosia

Salahi Sevket was once called Victoria Street, and needless to say it was the home of British officials after the annexing of 1878. The houses here have a distinctly colonial feel, right down to the ornate iron balconies that hang over the front doors. Some also bear Armenian inscriptions, a reminder of the Armenian community that lived around the Paphos Gate area.

The Armenian quarter of North Nicosia, Northern Cyprus

From the tenth century, the Arabahmet district of North Nicosia had been the Armenian quarter of the city. Their Church of the Virgin lies just north of the Green Lie dividing the city of Nicosia, and illustrates an ironic twist in the tale of Armenians in Cyprus. At the time of the Ottoman invasion, the Armenians were given the 14th century Benedictine monastery dedicated to St Mary of Tyre as their Church of the Virgin, for helping the Ottoman invaders in their campaign of 1571. Centuries later, the Armenian community was expelled in 1963 for allying themselves with the Greek Cypriots. The church has suffered from the change of favour too, with parts held up by scaffolding, although the incomplete cloister on the north side is unfinished building work from before 1571, not damage!

The Green Line: where north and south Nicosia meet

At the edge of the area is the Kaytazagi or Roccas Bastion. Until the recent relaxing of the border restrictions, this was the closest point between North Nicosia and the south. From the border that runs along the top of the landscaped park near the bastion, you could actually talk to pedestrians in south Nicosia thirty foot below, if you felt so inclined. Nowadays, citizens from both sides of the border can cross the Green Line at will, so the novelty of being so close to the south here has faded.

For an excellent lunch or evening meal to end your North Cyprus holiday trip to Nicosia, the Boghialian Konak restaurant serves traditional kebab-based dishes in a restored Victoria Street building. Enjoy a meal here and you’ll be dining just 100 metres from the Green Line itself.