Geography and Geology of North Cyprus

The total area of the TRNC, covering the northern part of the island is 3355 sq. km, approximately one third of the whole island. Nearly half of coast-line of the island is also part of the TRNC.

About 45% of the area is arable land, 20% of which is irrigated. Nearly 20% of North Cyprus total area is wooded and there are extensive re-forestration programs in progress.

Cyprus is nearly 200 million years old. During the time the continent of Africa has been moving north-eastwards at a speed of about 2 cm. a year and Eurasia eastwards at about 0.3 cm. a year, Cyprus lying in the confrontation
zone between these two huge plates.

The Troodos mountains (Southern Range) were formed as an ocean ridge at depths of 2 to 4 km, beginning about 85 to 75 million years ago, in the Upper Creataceous period.

The Alphine chain of which the GIRNE range (Northern Range) is a part was caused by the folding and fracturing of the Sedimentary rocks that formed on the ocean (Tethys) floor between Africa and Eurasia. The GIRNE range is the backbone of North Cyprus, consisting mainly of marble and dolomite types of hard limestone. Its age is believed to be 100 million years.

About two million years ago Cyprus consisted of a chain of islands. The peaks of the Northern Range were separated from the Troodos island to the south by a shallow sea. The land continued to rise and the shallow sea gradually became the MESAORIA plain, making Cyprus one island.

The population of TRNC is around 200 000. The language of the TRNC is Turkish and the community adheres to Islam. Lefkosa, the thousand-year-old capital of Cyprus is better known to foreigners by its mediaeval name, Nicosia. It lies just to the north of the geographical centre of the island at an elevation of 160 metres and is the seat of government as well as the main business centre. The city`s origins go back in history as the earliest human settlements found in the vicinity of the modern city date back to the 3rd millennium BC. The first inhabitants were attracted by what was then a rich river. Today`s dried up stony river bed is a far cry of its former bygone glory. It was only about 1000 years ago that Lefkosa (Nicosia) became the capital of Cyprus at a time when the island`s rulers were forced to withdraw inland in order to protect themselves from the raiding Saracens, who were marauding the coastal towns. Ever since it has remained the capital sharing the country`s fate through the centuries.

Around the time when Lefkosa became capital, Richard the Lionheart of England claimed Cyprus from the Byzantines on the way to the Holy Land. It was then sold to the Knights Templar and later sovereignty was transferred to the Lusignans. Under the reign of the Frankish dynasty Lefkosia remained the feudal capital with a cosmopolitan array of contemporary buildings, palaces and churches. Among them the Gothic cathedral of Saint Sophia , modelled on the Notre Dame of Paris, later transformed by the Ottomans into a mosque, remains to this day a prominent landmark in the walled city.

Towards the end of the 15th century the island passed on to the Venetians, who built the fortifications around the city. In the process they had to destroy several buildings. The circular walls are 4.5 km long, contain 11 bastions each bearing the name of an aristocratic family, together with three Gates: Baf Gate on the SW edge of the walls now lying in the so-called green line dividing the city, Girne Gate to the NW and Magusa Gate to the South. In 1570 the Ottoman Turks conquered Lefkosa. The Ottomans built a number of mosques in the city while they converted two Roman Catholic churches into mosques.

The British, who took over from the Ottomans in 1878 and remained on the island as colonial masters until 1960, also left their mark on the face of the city. Lefkosa started expanding rapidly after the end of WW II and its population reached 100,000 in the early 60s. Lefkosa was divided into two by a green line following the ethnic cleansing operation against Turkish Cypriots which started on 21 December 1963. UN peacekeeping forces still maintain a buffer zone between the two sides. Except for occasional demonstrations or infrequent incidents between soldiers in the buffer zone, there had been no violent conflict since 1974.

The second largest town is Magusa. It is the main commercial port and an important tourist resort.

The third largest town is Girne which is the most important tourist resort on the north coast, and Güzelyurt is situated in the important agricultural area of western Messarya.