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, buildings
typical of the late Ottoman era and its old urban fabric.
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. (During this period, one-third of the island's total Turkish-Cypriot
population became refugees, was forced to settle in some 32 enclaves comprising
a mere three per cent of the total area of Cyprus, abandoning 103 villages which
were destroyed by the Greek-Cypriots.)
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 is 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.
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
Viability criteria impose
capital cost restrictions on the project, since cost must come within the
levels which can be afforded by the intended beneficiaries, who come from
the lower-income strata of the population.
A concise description of
the project's essential two-fold objective captures the sustainable
revitalisation of the community of Arabahmet and to demonstrate 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.
In its original form, the
project foresaw the restoration of 30 houses, construction of 12 new housing units,
creation of two new units out of one large Ottoman mansion and three new units by
extending capacity, and provision of repair grants to owners.
The ultimate aim is to provide the district with a
kindergarten, community centre, library, museum, folk-art centre, a hotel/restaurant, nine
shops and a car park for about 20 cars. A new road, pedestrianisation of a group of streets
and landscaping of traffic-free areas and open spaces are all part of the project.
By the end of 1993, laborious restoration and construction
had been completed on 11 units, enabling nine families to take up residence. By the end of
1994 the number of completed units had increased to 16. The work on the remaining units is
This ambitious, yet very important, project is expected to
be realised completely by the turn of the century.