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ALM Feature

In divided Cyprus, century-old bookshop brings people together

Located in Europe's last divided city, a bookshop in Nicosia, Cyprus, has been weathering volatility since its inception in 1937.

NICOSIA, North Cyprus — Few public spaces reflect Cyprus’ volatile past as well as Rustem Bookshop-cafe, a two-story stone building whose floor-to-ceiling shelves hold books in English, Turkish, Greek and various other European languages.

The cramped “Cyprus” section has a slim book titled in Latin “Odi et Amo” or “I Hate and Love,” the 1990 memoirs of John Reddaway, a British diplomat who served more than 20 years in Cyprus while the island was under the British administration from the 19th to early 20th centuries.

An anthology of 20th-century poems, “When Are We Going to Achieve Peace, Brother?” contains the verses of poets on both sides of the island, divided for half a century between the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north. While Cyprus Republic in the south is a EU nation, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is only recognized by Turkey.

A stone’s throw away from a crossing linking the two sides, Rustem’s art gallery and concert hall is a meeting place for both communities. Its discreet restaurant provides a venue for opinion leaders and decision-makers from both sides to come together for informal discussions on the divided island. 

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