Nicosia, (Lefkosia), the capital of Cyprus, one of the oldest cities in our part of the world, today is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan place in the Eastern Mediterranean, rich in history and culture and combines its historic past with the amenities of a modern city.
Nicosia was a city-state known as Ledra or Ledrae in ancient times. Ledra in Hellenic and Roman times was a small, unimportant town, also known as Lefkothea. By the time it received its first Christian bishop, Trifillios, in 348, the town was called Lefkousia or Ledra. The Greek name of Nicosia, "Lefkosia", probably comes from Lefkos, son of Ptolemy I of Egypt, who rebuilt the city in the 3rd century B.C.. Ledra is now the name of the most popular commercial street.
Still known as Lefkosia, the city became the island's capital around the 10th century. It had grown in importance because of threats to the coastal cities Paphos and Salamis, which made many people flee to the centrally located Lefkosia.
The oldest documentation that exists concerning Nicosia within the walls, dates back to 1567, when the Venetians took over the island, and built the fortification with the eleven bastions, that one can still see today. The fortification has been designed by the famous Venetian architects Savorgnano and Barbaro. The perimeter of the walls reached 4.5 km and these were defended by eleven bastions. Each bastion carried the name of one of the families (pillars of the Italian aristocracy of the town) which funded its construction. These patrons, knights and counts, were called d'Avila
, Tripoli, Roccas, Mula, Quirini, Barbaro
, Flatro, Caraffa, Podocatoro and Costanza
Nicosia though, has a history dating long before that period, and has been the capital of the island since 1192, when a French Royal family, the Lusignans, made it their capital. They built an important number of monuments, such as churches, monasteries, palaces etc. Nicosia had 250 churches and the town was much larger than the one built by the Venetians, who had destroyed a large number of original buildings to construct the fortifications. The tombs of the Lusignan kings are in the former Cathedral of St. Sophia, now a mosque in the northern sector.
Nicosia today, has nothing really left of the French period, except the churches, and the structure of the town after the Venetians. The town planning was a result of a way of living: narrow streets with houses built next to each other. The buildings that stand today basically date from the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, and they have all the characteristics of houses built within fortifications. Their design is also proof that architecture has managed to combine both worlds, the East and the West. Greek, French, Venetian and Turkish details, all mix in a typical Cypriot expression. The basic materials used for the buildings were wood, sandstone, and mud brick. The combination of all these different materials gives us today an example of fine architecture.
All of Europe is paying close attention to Cyprus now as as of 1st July 2012 Cyprus is championing the European Presidency for the second half of 2012. The culture, history and politics of the island and specifically Nicosia are intricately woven throughout the passage of time. The most advertised and marketable trait of the island is the fact that location wise it is perfectly nested among three continents and thus a gateway to so much more than just sea, sun and fun.
Nicosia, the island’s capital has become the hub of many offshore companies. As Cyprus is ideally suited for international business due to its competitive tax system and open investment policies operating within the framework of the European Union a number of international businesses have operated offices in Nicosia among them Deloitte, KPMG, Barclays Wealth, HSBC International, Ernst & Young, PwC and international technology businesses such as NCR and TSYS who actually have their regional headquarters in Nicosia.