Postcard from... North Nicosia


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The Independent Online


They advertise it like a tourist attraction. "The last divided capital in the world," signs boast, as rows of curious holidaymakers and bargain-seeking Cypriots queue at the small huts, waiting to cross the border.

There are few places where you can stroll up a pedestrianised shopping street in a largely Christian country and – after a couple of formalities – suddenly find yourself in the same street in a Muslim state, with the call to prayer ringing out.

Since the Turkish invaded the north in 1974, Cyprus has been divided in two. Brits go to party in Ayia Napa and Paphos in the south, while the north remains a breakaway state recognised only by Turkey.

Most tourists venture only a little way into North Nicosia to visit the shops or the mosque, but traumatic signs of the division are found farther north, where the ghost towns of villas are pocked with bullet holes and 210,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots still live as refugees on the wrong side of the border.

Sitting in his curios shop, Turgay Karamanli thinks Cypriots on both sides would benefit economically from unification, but that time alone will determine the fate of the island: "You and me, sitting here, we are just at one small point of the human story," he muses.