Arabahmet, the heart of Nicosia

Arabahmet, the heart of Nicosia

09/03/2018 11:29
Arabahmet 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 and buildings typical of the late Ottoman era.
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. 

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.

The 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 was 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.

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.

Arabahmet demonstrates 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.  

When you are there, make sure you don't miss Dervish Pasha Mansion, an ethnographical museum located on Belig Pasha street, which is off Salahi Shevket street.
It houses the island's richest collection of Ottoman artefacts. It is one of the hidden treasures of the city. 

Ahmed Dervish Pasha was a leading figure of the Turkish Cypriot community and a member of the small assembly that rubber-stamped the decisions of the British colonial administration. His mansion is a fine example of Ottoman domestic architecture. The whitewashed walls, plain yellow stone arches, terracotta-tiled roof and blue-stained woodwork reveal a disciplined restraint and classical love of order. The house is L-shaped, with a sturdy stone-arcaded basement which combines neatly with the arcade that defines the walled garden. The ground floor was devoted to the practical working of the household and spilled out into the shaded garden which contained a well, washroom, outdoor oven and bathhouse.

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