26 March 2005

Famagusta

I have never been to Famagusta, the city on the east coast of Cyprus where my father grew up and where his family was living at the time of the Turkish invasion of 1974. However, ten years ago, during my only visit to the island, I stood in a building just south of the Green Line and saw what is now a ghost town through binoculars. I have just found some before-and-after photographs of the Varosha neighbourhood of Famagusta, which was a centre of Cyprus' tourist industry between 1960 and '74. The first was taken in 1973, the year before the invasion:



The second photo was taken much more recently and shows the extent to which what was once a thriving urban centre has now deteriorated:



These are found at the Return to Varosha, Famagusta, Cyprus website. Had the Annan Plan to reunify Cyprus been acceptable to both sides in the conflict, Varosha would have been returned to the legitimate government of the Cyprus Republic almost immediately. It is still being used as a pawn in the on-again-off-again negotiations. Assuming it is eventually returned, it would take a massive influx of capital to bring it back up to living standards. Such an effort to render habitable a ghost town would be very nearly unprecedented in history.

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