The Ottoman Waqf Built Heritage in Cyprus: Transitions in Upkeep and Conservation Practices during the British Colonial Era (1878-1960)

  • Reyhan Sabri

Student thesis: Phd


AbstractThe Ottoman Waqf had a key role in history as the institution responsible for the formation of religious endowments within Ottoman imperial territories. Key urban facilities such as religious properties and income-generating commercial assets were created through its well-established legal frameworks, and resources were endowed for their upkeep and maintenance. The continuity of the facilities was thus ensured in a self-sustained system. Similarly, the Ottoman Waqf on Cyprus had established practices for maintaining, repairing and re-constructing its endowed buildings, including their re-adaptation for new purposes. The buildings thus continued to operate as urban public facilities generating an income that was fully or partially re-invested in their upkeep and maintenance. The beginning of the British Colonial era in Cyprus (1878 to 1960) coincided both with major changes in the administrative structure of the originally autonomous Ottoman Waqf institution which for centuries had owned and managed a large number of heritage buildings, and also with the evolution of Western concepts on heritage and architectural conservation. Core conservation principles enabled a selection of functioning buildings to be labelled as ancient monuments. This research drew upon extensive discrete data available at the hitherto neglected colonial-era archives belonging to the Cyprus Evkaf Administration. The changing role of the Waqf institution in Cyprus during the British colonial era and the resulting implications for the conservation of the Waqf-built heritage - buildings of both Ottoman and Western origin - is reviewed. Ottoman Waqf's traditional upkeep processes framework of initiation-authorisation-and-implementation has been unpacked and procedures including mainly administrative, legislative, financial and technical concerns have been examined to reveal the colonial input and to explain the changes and developments within this system during the British colonial era. The timeframe has been divided into three sub-periods and procedural, technical and political changes and negotiations have been surveyed chronologically to show the key moments of transition within the Waqf's traditional building-upkeep system. The analysis has revealed how the British colonial authorities re-shaped the framework to suit their own political agenda. Through a series of transitional procedural changes the Ottoman Waqf's sustainable building-upkeep practices were abolished and selective architectural conservation practices were stimulated. This research ultimately contributes to architectural heritage and conservation studies by developing a new angle through which institutional heritage conservation practices may be abolished, re-invented, transferred, recuperated and transformed.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMagda Sibley (Supervisor) & Leandro Minuchin (Supervisor)


  • architectural conservation practices
  • Built heritage
  • British colonial era
  • Cyprus
  • Waqf

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