CAARI at 40: Undergoing Restoration

An early memory of CAARI from Nassos Papalexandrou:

I will always remember very fondly the first time I was resident at CAARI, one unforgettable night of summer 1990. I was a first-year graduate student participating in an intensive session run by Professors William A. P. Childs and Nancy Serwint at Polis tis Chrysochou (Marion/Arsinoe in antiquity). I do not remember now what exactly occasioned a collective trip to Nicosia but the first thing we did upon our arrival, all full of enthusiasm and anticipation, was pay a visit at 11 Andrea Dimitriou Street in order to witness in person the soon-to-be-home of CAARI at Nicosia.

The colonial-era building was undergoing restoration, it was therefore full of scaffolding and building materials. But this did not prevent Dr Swiny, then director, from giving us a detailed tour that stirred our imagination to envisage the exciting future of this promising abode. It was obvious that installation of plumbing was ongoing, paint was fresh on the walls, and one could detect under the protective floor covers colorful tiles, mosaic and wooden floors tinted with the wonderful lasting qualities of older times. In other words, the old mansion shone through as something special and very welcoming already before completion and occupation. Of course there was no electricity but we, the younger ones of the group, felt so at home in this solid, yet incomplete house, that without thinking twice we immediately made the decision to camp out during the overnight stay inside it.

The attractions? Well, there was a working bathroom upstairs, there were several rooms ready to accommodate us (no dirt or dust or any “finds”), and the air-conditioning was functioning very well (aka cross-breezes in openings that had yet to be furnished with glass panes and shutters). On the other hand, we had to step out in the garden to brush our teeth and for the morning wash but we all turned out to be good sports in enduring these minor “hardships.” It was a delight for each of us to be able to unroll our sleeping bags in a private room upstairs—a reprise, to say the least, from the unavoidable collectivity of the excavations’ accommodations. At Polis my sleeping corner was in the so-called “sheep-shed,” so sleeping overnight inside the mansion had a momentary taste of “rags-to-riches.” Why not relish it then?  It was also very pleasant to experience the distinctly suburban feel of the surrounding area, nicely populated with green gardens, cypresses, and little groves of mimozas—I remember well the ambient fragrance of jasmine and agioklima, which might still be there against all odds. It is regrettable that all this is gone now as Nicosia has sprawled out to engulf the mansion and the surrounding quiet suburb has morphed into an open-air commercial mall. Nevertheless, the Andrea Dimitriou CAARI building is still there preserving its classy atmosphere, and, as I had the chance to experience on several occasions ever since that early July night of 1990, it is always welcoming and replete with enduring qualities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *