Old Market, New Life: Nicosia's Bandabuliya

Keziban Kral, a poultry seller in Bandabuliya
Keziban Kral, a poultry seller in Bandabuliya, was the first woman to introduce modernization to the market by selling packaged poultry instead of live-poultry. UNDP Photo / Kerim Belet

When Keziban Kral opened her poultry shop, the Bandabuliya was the centre of Nicosia city-life. In those years, Keziban witnessed progress arriving to the market. She herself was the first woman to introduce modernization by selling packaged poultry instead of live-poultry.

But as the Cyprus problem  slowly redefined the topography of the walled city of Nicosia, she also witnessed the decline of what was once the most crowded and popular bazar of Nicosia. Bandabuliya was gradually pushed to the periphery. As Nicosia continued to grow and new residential areas were built outside the city walls, modern supermarkets began to be preferred by locals to traditional market places, putting at stake the future of Keziban’s and other marketers business. With time Bandabuliya started to become more and more structurally unsafe.


  • 77 stalls and more than 4500m2 renovated and upgraded
  • 38 butchers, green grocers, restaurant owners and market food inspectors trained on how to adhere and comply with European Union food hygiene standards
  • 14 cultural activities projects implemented to revitalize the market and promote as a cultural/community space

In 2010, thanks to European Union funds, UNDP Partnership for the Future Programme set forth a 2.5 million Euro renovation project to reverse this tendency. By 2012, 77 stalls, over more than 4,500 square meters, were renovated and upgraded.
Water facilities were provided to green grocers, delicatessens and butchers as well as cold rooms and refrigerators. 38 amongst butchers, green grocers, restaurant owners and market food inspectors were trained on how to adhere and comply with European Union food hygiene standards. At different stage of the constraction works several meetings with representatives of the local organization of persons with disabilities in order to ensure accessibility to most market facilities to persons with disabilities.
On 20 June 2012, the market was re-opened to the public.

"When Bandabuliya reopened its gates in July 2012, it was a big challenge for us. The first months were difficult as Cypriots were not used to come to Bandabuliya for grocery shopping anymore and many days we would not sell anything” –says Baki Manav, green grocer. Old habits are hard to break. And despite the renovation efforts, Bandabuliya needed some additional support to regain its once very dynamic atmosphere.

In July 2012, thanks to additional EU funding, UNDP launched a call for proposals for cultural activities to help revitalising the old market and promoting it not only as a shopping place but also as a social and cultural space. "We wanted to help the marketers to reinstall the sense of belonging with Bandabuliya that the locals had started losing due to the increasing number of modern day supermarkets. We wanted Nicosians to have more and more reasons to come here!” says Tiziana Zennaro of the UNDP-PFF.

Ayten Hüseyin is one of the first Bandabuliya Fund small grants recipient who used this call as an opportunity to generate a lot of visitor traffic to Bandabuliya by simply using her talent for creating arts and crafts.
"Bandabuliya is the place where I grew up; I was born and raised in the old town of Nicosia and have so many memories of this place! I came back to Cyprus after living abroad for 35 years, and Bandabuliya was just the place where I wanted to be” – explains Ayten Huseyin sitting in front of her sewing machine. "My vision for Bandabuliya is big’’ says Ayten. "I see Bandabuliya not just for tourists but also as a place where locals can also meet as was the case I remember from my childhood” she adds.
Ayten used her vast experience in handicrafts to create a wide variety of products which she in turn combined with the products of others, turning the scene into a one-of-its kind crafts market, attracting big crowds from both communities to Bandabuliya. "We should find new ways of bringing people to Bandabuliya without simply surrendering to the allure of supermarkets. Sometimes organizing a crafts market can prove to be the magic key for opening up the doors to many people’’ says Ayten.

Pursuing her goals, Ayten also applied to the second call for proposals, this time in partnership with her Greek Cypriot friend Christina and throuh the NGO Support Centre, and together they developed the Bandabuliya Shopping Bag. Yet another innovative cultural activity to promote the Bandabuliya. A unique market bag to be sold only at the market and a visual identity for Bandabuliya. As part of the project, 60 women took active part in the bag making workshops while the sessions about marketing and sustainability were attended by 45 shopkeepers, the majority of which were women.

Nowadays, it is not a rare view to see people going downtown with a custom-made shopping bag on their shoulders. There are likely to be others following their footsteps, not just to do their grocery shopping but also to engage in one of the innovative cultural activities that the renovated Bandabuliya has to offer.

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