By Chris ELLIOTT
One of the delights of Lefkoşa I discovered a year or so ago, is the area of Samanbahçe which can be found by driving through the Kyrenia Gate and taking the first turning to the right and then taking the turning on the left into Fevzı Çakmak Square parking area. You have now arrived at the start of your walk around history.
Originally, Samanbahçe or “straw field” is thought to have been one of several gardens used for growing fruit and vegetables for the residents of the Walled City. As the demand for housing grew, Samanbahçe was developed into a social housing complex.
The exact date is not known but records show that by 1894, Samanbahçe was partially built during the British Administration period and functioning as social housing. The construction continued in phases and was completed in 1955.
The Samanbahçe Area covers about 2000 square meters and is located on the northern edges of the walled city of Nicosia, very close to Kyrenia Avenue, and to the bastion of Quirini.
It is a unique neighbourhood with defined geometric narrow roads and units of one storey mud-brick construction with red tile roofs. This was the first known social housing to have been constructed in Cyprus and consists of 72 separate units along 5 rows parallel to Kyrenia Avenue. A large domed fountain is located in the centre of the estate while a large parking area (former garden. Fevzı Çakmak Square) can be found in the northern corner.
Old Lefkoşa is very quiet but this area is so serene and full of natural beauty that the residents care for lovingly with the display and nurturing of potted plants and succulents outside their homes.
A plan of restoration works was funded by the European Union, through the Partnership for the Future Programme, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in collaboration with the Nicosia (Lefkoşa) Master Plan.
Work started in September 2003 and included upgrading of the facades, roofs, existing infrastructure and landscaping of the area as well as pedestrianisation of public and semi-private open spaces for public use and were completed in April 2004.
The beneficiaries of this project were the residents of the Samanbahçe area. In addition, the residents of Lefkoşa benefit from the improved condition of the overall area and preservation of the cultural heritage.
The area I walked through, whilst old, is very regimented and is really beautifully enhanced by the shrubs and flowers that the residents have planted in pots and tend with great care outside the doors of their properties. The variety and profusion of plants and succulents and colours can be truly breathtaking.
Venturing outside this area you see all around you old and fascinating buildings that speak more of the past and the treasures of Lefkoşa (Nicosia) and the past is just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.