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The Legacy of Ottoman Building in Nicosia: Hans as Spaces of Coexistence in Pre-conflict Cyprus

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The urban form of Nicosia has been heavily influenced by the conflict in Cyprus and the separation of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities since the late 1950s. The historic city centre, encircled within the sixteenth-century Venetian walls, is defined by an absence, the Buffer Zone, an inaccessible strip that divides it down the middle. This was once the city's main market area, its course laid out in the medieval period. Three centuries of Ottoman rule left an imprint on this urban fabric and resulted in the building of a large number of hans along these marketplace streets. As the Cyprus conflict remains unresolved, so do the divergent narratives, differing on each side of the border, regarding how this part of the city was lived in and used in the years prior to division. The nature of these streets, in terms of the degree of coexistence or separation that existed between the communities sharing them, is disputed. This article will look at material evidence and memories related to several of Nicosia's hans in order to provide an alternative narrative; looking to the material reality of these buildings, and the memories connected to them, to discuss the nature of coexistence in pre-conflict Cyprus in the 1940s and 1950s.

Keywords: Cyprus; Ottoman; coexistence; conflict; hans; memory

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Cambridge

Publication date: 2012-02-14

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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