420 - Encounters in Nicosia
By Heidi Trautmann
Once in a while I enjoy the busy atmosphere of Nicosia, the vibrant scenes of history, the atoms of other times still hanging in the air with the noise of dove wings. Coming from Kyrenia Gate strolling down the main road past the Museum of the Whirling Dervishes, the Dr. Fazil Kücük Museum towards the Obelisk, I won’t miss to visit Isik Bookstore in the second side street to the right, one of the old beautiful bookstores where you are bound to meet writers, poets and journalists to talk to Nehide, the owner. The other famous bookstore further down the road opposite Saray Hotel, is the likewise old traditional Rüstem Bookstore in a beautiful old building with book shelves up to the roof, recently renovated and venue of the wonderful Turkish Cypriot film ‘The Key’. In the narrow passage and its back yard they have set up a small charming Café and on the shelves books are laid out for the guests to leaf through. In the area around you’ll find old established shops, silver shops which have been here for decades and can tell you many stories.
I realized that the Gamblers’ Inn which for years was left to fall to dust behind canvas covers is now being renovated, another piece of treasure coming to life again.
The Bandabuliya that is now reopened for some time, has obtained a beautiful wooden roof and all shops owners have shutters to let down in the evening, but somehow they seem to struggle to reanimate the daily traffic of a busy market; somehow the atmosphere has changed, as if people have not yet got accustomed to the new dress. UN organizations have undertaken some reactivation by inviting handicraft people and art groups, young people organizations to bring new life into the wide halls that resound with emptiness.
This last Saturday I met with young people of the ceramic art scene as I have mentioned in my column. On Fridays there are other groups showing the passersby how the one or other traditional handicraft is made, in cooperation with Hasder Folk Art Institute; Sidestreets had a very successful workshop where many of my friends have tried their hand in making a traditional fan from date palm leaves.
In Arasta Street I usually buy the material for dresses or other purposes; a shop which reminds me of the typical Bazaar atmosphere I have met in many countries, and there are two haberdashery shops I love going to purchase all kinds of things you will find nowhere else; there I get my beads for simple jewellery, leather straps, copper wire, buttons, material for knitting, embroidery and crocheting; a treasure trove you don’t encounter anymore in our modern times.
At the Büyük Han I usually have a dish of freshly made Börek, you can watch the Börek woman do them under the arches, filled with meat, cheese or sweet curd cheese. In the mornings you can meet some intellectuals having a coffee break and a chat with friends.
Have you been to the Stone Museum or the Mahmut II Library behind the Selemiye Mosque/St. Sofia Cathedral? It’s worth a visit, there you encounter treasures in stone and Ottoman documents respectively.
Sit down there for a while and watch the children play ball before you go back home and realize that our time is just a sand corn in the layers of times gone by.
Published in Cyprus Observer on Nov 3, 2012