There is certainly something special about book cafés. The combination of coffee and a good book is hard to beat. In Nicosia we have a favourite café with attached bookstore that we often visit. Rüstem Bookshop is a bookstore with a long history. It opened in 1937 and was the first Cypriot bookstore. At the time, it supplied books all over the island, including to schools. Today, it is a focal point for Nicosia city dwellers who like to sneak in for a coffee and a bit of peace and quiet, but also a stop for passing tourists who want to take a break on their tour inside the old city walls.
A smell of books strikes me as I step through the door. Rüstem Bookshop is located in what a hundred years ago was a family house. The gray stone walls are lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling and in the back of the room a wooden ladder is leaning on the wall waiting to be used. The atmosphere is spellbinding cosy and you feel that the house really has a soul. I meet the owner of book café, Ali Rüstem. We sit down with a cup of coffee and he talks about his ambitions for the venue.
“We are since seven years back not only bookstore but also a café and restaurant. The next step I would like to take is to make Rüstem Bookshop into a cultural centre for young and old.”
And he has already begun. The restaurant upstairs, which on weekdays serves traditional Cypriot food between the hours 12pm and 4pm, turns into an activity room on the weekends where children can come and watch puppet shows or listen to reading aloud. It also organises art exhibitions with different themes. Ali points toward the window where there is a glass case with a creatively designed artwork made with paper from the inside of a book.
“This is an exhibition of 28 sculptures of paper that we are showing now,” he says. “It is created by three artists from the US, England and France. I travel a lot to find inspiration and precisely these works, I came in contact with on a trip to London. I want to introduce a new dimension and spice up the cultural experience and therefore I bring with me art like this to North Cyprus.”
More guests drop through the door. Some continue through the room out the back to sit on the terrace. Others go directly to the window to order coffee. A father lifts his daughter onto his lap and together they scroll through a children’s book. Ali talks about the books:
“Most of the books we have are in English. Many of them are rare first editions from the 30s, 40s and 50s. We also have coffe-table books, newspapers, books about Cyprus and its history, politics and culture, guidebooks, novels, cookbooks and books on gardening and architecture.”
The café part is franchised by the international chain Gloria Jean’s Coffees. The coffee tastes great and you can order alternative to regular milk, such as soy milk.
7:30 to 17:30
Closed on Sundays.
The restaurant upstairs is open for lunch on weekdays between the hours 12:00 and 16:00. On weekends, you can rent the restaurant for private events. The food is traditional and served with salad, hummus, yogurt and local Cypriot bread. Homemade desserts are also served after the meal.
Phone: 0392 228 35 06 // 0533 863 88 88
Rüstem Bookshop on Facebook.