The City of Nicosia (Lefkoşa), Cyprus  -


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Nicosia, Cyprus
Arabahmet District, Nicosia, Cyprus

Arabahmet streetsArabahmet quarter is one of the few parts of the walled city of Nicosia, which still to a great extent preserves its historic charm with streets pattern, buildings typical of the late Ottoman era and its old urban fabric.

Arabahmet lies at the western edge of the walled city, with easy access to the commercial centre and to civic and recreational facilities. However, this beautiful and historic area of great potential has been rapidly disintegrating into total physical and socio-economic collapse. This is due to the fact that almost 90 per cent of its inhabitants were Turkish-Cypriot refugees forced to leave their villages and settle in the area following the Greek-Cypriot attacks between 1963 and 1974. (During this period, one-third of the island's total Turkish-Cypriot population became refugees, was forced to settle in some 32 enclaves comprising a mere three per cent of the total area of Cyprus, abandoning 103 villages which were destroyed by the Greek-Cypriots.)

After 1974, Arabahmet's resident population declined dramatically, with some of the refugee families opting to return once more to rural life following the Turkish Peace Operation. According to a study conducted in 1987, most of the remaining residents were elderly and of low-income households. Buildings were becoming derelict and decayed and the residential environment was deteriorating or giving way to workshops and warehouses.

Inner yard of an old Arabahmet houseThe Arabahmet Conservation Project was put into practice not only to preserve the cultural and architectural legacy of the quarter but also to give impetus for private investment, to enhance quality of life in the district, to attract new residents, strengthen economic activity and ultimately to integrate the historic quarter into the contemporary city of Nicosia. For these reasons, a strong residential use was considered a necessary component of balanced development for the area.

The ultimate goal of the conservation project is to instigate a process of self- sustained rehabilitation, effectively enabling the historic area to resume a viable role within the contemporary city. Proposed works, therefore, involve the restoration of a significant section of the dilapidated housing stock and other physical structures; the provision of community facilities and public amenities; the improvement of the residential environment; the integration of the neighbourhood into the traffic system of the wider area; and the provision of greater opportunities for employment in Arabahmet, enriching the pattern of land use with functions that complement the predominantly residential surroundings. 

Gone to siesta....The works aim to increase the population of Arabahmet and to attract younger and economically active households into the area, as well as encouraging existing residents to remain and, simultaneously, stimulating owner-occupation by demonstrating specific conservation techniques which can be repeated both in the Arabahmet area and the other quarters of Nicosia and elsewhere.

Viability criteria impose capital cost restrictions on the project, since cost must come within the levels which can be afforded by the intended beneficiaries, who come from the lower-income strata of the population.

A concise description of the project's essential two-fold objective captures the sustainable revitalisation of the community of Arabahmet and to demonstrate the viability and the worth of using old, traditional buildings for contemporary needs and for preserving Nicosia's cultural and architectural heritage as an integral, living part of the contemporary city. 

Some building serve for social clubs such as the Fikir KulubuIn its original form, the project foresaw the restoration of 30 houses, construction of 12 new housing units, creation of two new units out of one large Ottoman mansion and three new units by extending capacity, and provision of repair grants to owners.

The ultimate aim is to provide the district with a kindergarten, community centre, library, museum, folk-art centre, a hotel/restaurant, nine shops and a car park for about 20 cars. A new road, pedestrianisation of a group of streets and landscaping of traffic-free areas and open spaces are all part of the project.

By the end of 1993, laborious restoration and construction had been completed on 11 units, enabling nine families to take up residence. By the end of 1994 the number of completed units had increased to 16. The work on the remaining units is under way.

This ambitious, yet very important, project is expected to be realised completely by the turn of the century.


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