One of the most promising cities in the country of Cyprus was Famagusta, the city offered a brilliant and bustling destination for tourists and residents alike. I recently had a trip to Cyprus and was fortunate enough to take a glimpse of the city that used to house over 60,000 happy Cypriots.
It has been over four decades since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and no other town along the eastern coast of the county had been developing since independence from British rule quite as promisingly as Famagusta. That alone makes the city, after the dozens of lives lost, perhaps the biggest undoing of the second phase of the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Famagusta has diminished under Turkish rule and the town is no longer open to the public for residency, even crossing the border into Famagusta can result in being shot at by the Turkish military, according to locals in the nearby district of Nicosia.
Without paying a fee of over 100€, and walking through the ghost town with a lack of security for your life, the only way to view the town up close is to take a glimpse through some binoculars atop the “view point”.
I lined up my camera lens to the binoculars and snapped what would be the best view I’d have of the once popular destination…
And that was as near to Famagusta as I was allowed to go. There are several warning signs confirming the fears of Cypriots and tourists: you cannot walk into Famagusta, going as far as brandishing the area prior as ‘no man’s land’.
And when they say ‘stop’, it’s for a pretty solid reason as if you were to head along the path down into’no man’s land’, you would be welcomed by an Area 51-esque level of no-go-zonery.
I visited the cafe that is situated beneath the view point and a bartender there was kind enough to tell me a few things about Famagusta. He had actually crafted a museum in a room of his cafe where he had compiled several items, posters and newspaper clippings relevant to the city.
The bartender showed me a video too; it’s a documentary on the city and I was fortunately able to locate it on YouTube, see below to watch the video (and I’d strongly suggest you do).
While at the cafe, I was able to learn the Cypriot view on the issue, the people feel that the European Union needs to step in as it’s a “crime” that is being perpetuated on a European city. They feel it’s a crime as the continuing occupation of Famagusta allegedly violates human rights and the Security Council Resolution 550 (put in place by the UN for member states to not recognise the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).
There is a strong dislike for turkey in Cyprus and nothing epitomised that more than this harrowing poster:
Cyprus desperately needs the help of the EU and/or the UN to reclaim back a place that at one time appeared as if it would rival Paphos and Ayia Napa as the stronghold of Cyprus. The people have tried the best they can with rallies, the most recent in 2011 where around 80,000 Turkish Cypriot turned out in protest against Turkey’s policies on Cyprus.
The first protest was held at the end of January in 2011 and, after negative reactions from the Turkish Prime Minister and the Turkish society, Turkish Cypriots organised a second and third rally in March and April of the same year.
At the time Northern Cyprus had a population of just fewer than 300,000, meaning that around a third of the entire community turned up in protest, making these three protests some of the largest by Turkish Cypriots under the occupation of Turkey.
Some of the protesters carried flags bearing the crest of the Republic of Cyprus and banners demanding the reunification of the island and condemning the economic, social and cultural oppression of Turkish Cypriots by Turkey.
To the country of Cyprus, I’m just a tourist and I’m just someone who has a small voice, writing for a website, but from what I can tell it seems if Turkey were willing to work with Cyprus and keep things civil then there could be a reality where the city of Famagusta can again rise and become the powerhouse of Cyprus (south AND north) that it was destined to become.
Even then though I think the people of Cyprus would feel there is still an injustice in being banished from a city that many of them called home. And rightfully so. This is a contemporary issue and I unfortunately do not see a resolution for city of Famagusta or its people any time soon.
A big thank you to Karl and Zoe for putting up with me in Liopetri, pictured below with their youngest son. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to discover the beauty of Eastern Cyprus and the lost city of Famagusta.