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NICOSIA yesterday opened the gates of its ancient walls to both locals and tourists, who got a close-up look at the capital’s history, tradition and culture.

Named, ‘Come to meet Nicosia,’ the day-long event coincided with International Tourism Day, and was aimed at enjoying many of the attractions which are often overlooked.

Organised by local authorities and tourism organisations, buses left Ochi roundabout every half an hour, beginning from 9.30am, taking visitors on a tour of the old town.

“It’s going to be a very successful day judging from the huge interest shown in the first couple of hours,” explained one guide Louisa Ierodiaconou.

“Even the early morning buses were full and I expect the afternoon to be even busier.”

She added that people were free to remain on the bus or get off at a particular place of interest, with everything free of charge.

“I would describe it as a kind of hop on, hop off service,” she said.

Jumping on one of the buses, I noticed that passengers were mostly tourists. We were initially driven along the outskirts of the Venetian walls, with our guide, Koula Vassiliou providing a comprehensive and interesting history of the walls, in both English and Greek.

We passed through Famagusta Gate and then stopped at the Archbishopric, from where all of the passengers proceeded to the Byzantine and Folk Art museums.

Guided tours were also provided at the Museums of the Pancyprian Gymnasium, Cyprus Archaeological Museum and Classic Motorcycle Museum.

Walking tours were available to those interested, as well as a UNESCO Living Heritage outdoor exhibition.

A live gastronomic show took place later in the day, as well as a concert by the Cyprus Police Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Cyprus Handicraft Service showed off the local arts and crafts of the island, with the Nicosia Municipal Choir rounding off the day’s events with a special performance in the gardens of the Town Hall.

President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce Christodoulos Angastiniotis said that the event had been organised to show people ‘the true spirit’ of the only divided city in Europe.

“Nicosia may not have a beach, but it has many other features that will attract tourists,” said. Angastiniotis. “Visitors will learn about the history of our unique city and experience our culture firsthand.”

He added that the event was part of an economic development initiative that aspired to increase tourism in Nicosia, which only three per cent of the island’s tourists visit.

“Unlike most other countries, our capital has never been a major tourist attraction,” said Angastiniotis. “It does, however, have the potential to draw in tourists during both the summer and winter.”

Since 1980, September 27 is celebrated by the World Tourism Organisation as World Tourism Day. The purpose is to display awareness that tourism is vital to the international community and to show how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.

By Leo Leonidou, 28/9/08 Cyprus Mail
|||On the bus for a history lesson
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