Nicosia in the nineteenth century was known as the little Damascus. Tall minarets protruding from its walls, beautiful serails and mansions, orchards and camel caravans and exotic bazaars.
When Archduke Louis Salvador visited in 1873, he was astonished by the maze of bazaars and products in the city. Nothing was missing and everything was to be found, mostly handmade, from quilts, to leather boots, to tin objects, semi-precious stones, materials, fruit and then of course all sorts of spices and herbs.
There were 23 different bazaars and each one expanded in its own street or side street, covered with matting and offered one kind of product. Salvador wrote: There is the Manufactures’ bazaar, the tailors, calico, hides and rugs, European shoemakers, shoemakers, Turkish shoes, yarns, cabinet-makers, carriages, copper articles, silversmiths, ironware, earthenware, haberdashery, taverns, vegetables and meat, fish, halava, womens’ bazaar, cotton, flour, wheat and barley and mules. In all these places the most motley crowd is hurrying up and down, especially before noon; peasants in showy dresses, veiled Turkish women, boys with wide opened eyes. Here we knock against an ambulant salep shop, there against roaming oil, salt, or water vendors, bakers carrying brown bread on wooden trays, pedlars with cakes, fellows offering dainty little bits of meat to the knowing purchaser. The shopkeepers alone are like statues, motionless, smoking in deep silence. Here and there you see a towel hanging from a stick, which is the characteristic signboard of all barbers, most of them Greeks. All coffee house keepers are Turks, lying about lazily on their benches waiting for guests. From one to the other shop round cages with turtle-doves or red-legged partridges are hanging over the pavement. Turkish mongrel street dogs are slinking about, especially in the evenings, when they choose the deserted bazaars for their playground….
Views of the bazaars can be found in the CVAR Research Centre where one can also read Salvador’s book ‘Levkosia the Capital of Cyprus’.
The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).