For the whole time during my stay in Cyprus I wondered what it would be like on the Turkish side of the island. Is it like the Greek part or is it like Turkey? Is it everyday life or anarchy?
As always, there is only one way to find out: go there yourself! After seeing the Greek part of Nicosia I cross the border to the Turkish part.
Am I entering a war zone or is the world normal?
My experience will be that both are somehow true. The first impression is that I seem to have entered Turkey from the border with Greece on the mainland. Crossing the border is very easy. The border officials of both countries quickly scan the ID and I’m in the other country. Along with groups of tourists, grannies in Birkenstock sandals and young teenagers shopping or visiting friends.
However, the short corridor between the border posts looks like a death zone. The shops here have been closed for a long time. Graffiti was not scrawled on the walls by artists. garbage is lying around. Soldiers converse in a corner, their weapons at the ready. Quickly go on behind the border, where the ideal world welcomes me again with restaurants and candy shops.
Soldiers ready to fight here, candy shops and tourists there
Friends told me that the Turkish part of Cyprus is much more run down than the Greek part. This is not confirmed directly behind the border. Clean restaurants, bars and kebab shops are available to tourists. There is also beer. Baklava stands promise sweet pastries. It’s pretty here, I think. The narrow streets are full of fruits, vegetables or clothes offered by vendors. I already feel like I’ve arrived in the Orient.
A different picture emerges in other side streets.
Again, many shops are closed and windows are shattered, although the border does not run through the buildings.
While the Greek flag – and not the Cypriot one – is everywhere on the Greek side, people here do it the other way around. The Turkish and the similar-looking flags of Turkish Cyprus flutter side by side in the same size and at the same height.
To Do’s in Nicosia (Turkish)
Stroll through the old town within the city walls (free)
Visit to the old Büyük Han caravanserai (free)
Visit de Selimiye Mosque (free)
Visit to Bandabuliya Bazaar (free)
Try the Turkish-Cypriot cuisine
As on the other side, I am particularly interested in the people here. I’m getting back into street photography and taking a series of spontaneous shots with young women I meet on the street.
Sirina is waiting for friends while standing in front of a bazaar. Cisem works in her parents’ restaurant. It’s still early and there aren’t many guests there yet. Her parents laugh their heads off when I invite their daughter to a photo shoot.
The origins of this conflict date back to the late 19th century when Cyprus came under British colonial rule. The Greek and Turkish populations on the island had different visions for the future of Cyprus, leading to growing tensions.
After Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, a constitution was introduced that provided for power-sharing government between the Greek and Turkish communities. However, this system proved unstable and relations between the two communities increasingly deteriorated. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup supported by the military junta in Greece led to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. In response, the island split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north.
Despite numerous peace efforts and mediation attempts, no final solution to the conflict has yet been found.
The United Nations has conducted various peacekeeping missions on the island since the 1960s, including the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), to monitor tensions and encourage dialogue between the parties.
The Cyprus conflict has had a serious impact on the daily lives of people on the island. There remains a division between the two communities, marked by political divisions, ethnic prejudice and territorial disputes. There is also the question of property rights and the return of refugees. The conflict has had a major impact on economic development and coexistence in Cyprus.
Despite the challenges, there is hope for a lasting solution to the conflict. Recent efforts to revive negotiations between leaders of the two communities have shown some progress. (as of 2023)
The division of the city affects half of the circle around the old town, which is defined by the city walls. This means that half of the sights are in one of the two parts. The two special buildings that a visitor should see in the Turkish part are the old caravanserai called Buyuk Han and the Selimiye Mosque.
Unfortunately, the latter is being renovated during my stay and it is not worth taking a photo either from the outside or from the inside.
However, there is much to see in the caravanserai. There are restaurants and souvenir shops, barbers and artists. The building is really beautiful and invites you to take a break.
Time for a small glass of Tea!
Buyuk Han, also known as the Grand Bazaar, was built in the 16th century during Ottoman rule and originally served as a caravanserai to provide accommodation and trading opportunities for travelers. The impressive structure consists of an arcaded courtyard and two floors with numerous shops and workshops.
Today, Büyük Han is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike who want to enjoy the traditional ambiance, handicraft shops and cozy cafes. It is a place that combines history, culture and hospitality, offering a glimpse into the city’s past.
The street art in the Turkish part of Nicosia has its own dynamic and expression compared to the street art in the Greek part. While talented artists can be found in both parts of the city, their work often differs in style, subject matter and expression. In the Turkish part of Nicosia, street art is often influenced by Turkish culture and history. One finds ornate calligraphy, traditional patterns and motifs that reflect the identity and values of the Turkish community.
In contrast, street art in the Greek part of Nicosia tends to focus more on local history, political commentary and societal issues. The artistic expressions in both parts of the city reflect the different perspectives, identities and stories that converge in Nicosia. However, there are also overlaps and collaborative efforts to build bridges and encourage dialogue between communities through street art.
I’m glad I got to see that part of the city too. As always, there is not only black and white in life. I’m curious to see how the country’s history and the separation will continue. Nobody is happy with that. But nobody wants to change anything.
In every city there is a bus stop from which buses to the other cities depart regularly. From Larnaca to Paphos there are (as of 2023) three connections in the morning and three connections in the afternoon. The price is just 7 euros. There are also private companies that offer the ride, but they are much more expensive.
You can pay for your trip directly to the bus driver on site and, in my experience, you don’t have to worry about not getting a seat.
All roads lead to Nicosia. Most connections go to and from the capital, sometimes every 15 minutes.