Varosha, Forever Trapped in 1974

The island of Cyprus remains divided 36 years after Turkey invaded and captured the northern 37% in response to a Greece-backed coup d’état, splitting the northern half off into the internationally-unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Despite numerous efforts to reunify the country, there does not appear to be an end to the dispute coming anytime soon (although little acts of progress are being made).

One of the most interesting physical signs of the conflict is the neighbourhood of Varosha in the city of Famagusta. Prior to 1974, Varosha was Cyprus’ top tourist destination, famous for its sandy beaches and high-rise hotels; a destination for the rich and famous of the world. But when war came in 1974, the population of the community had only hours to flee before the streets erupted in violence. The Turkish Army gained control of the area and fenced it off, apparently for the purposes of using it as a bargaining chip. No one has been allowed in since except for the Turkish military and United Nations personnel.

640px-Famagusta2009_3

Source: Julienbzh35, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Famagusta2009_3.jpg. Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

640px-Varosha_look_from_Greek_side

Source: Dickelbers, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Varosha_look_from_Greek_side.JPG. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

The city was abandoned as is. With just a few hours’ preparation to leave, people left their possessions in their homes. Clothes were left hanging on clotheslines. Cars were left in parking lots.Businesses were left with everything on the shelves and in the windows. One would assume that people thought they’d back in their homes within a few days or weeks. Instead, Varosha remains empty, and everything is still right where it was in 1974.

640px-Famagusta2009_2

Source: Julienbzh35, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Famagusta2009_2.jpg. Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

Varosha is slowly crumbling away as negotiations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots drag on and on. The cityscape is slowly being reclaimed by encroaching nature as trees, ferns and grasses sprout up everywhereUrban explorers eager to look at a modern city abandoned at its peak with no notice attempt to sneak over the fence and avoid patrolling officers to snap pictures of this amazingly desolate piece of crumbling civilisation. It’s a tragic story, but one that provides a unique opportunity to look at the reclaiming forces of nature. No work of man is infallible, and Varosha serves as an example both physically and politically.

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Linked below are a number of photo collections in additional to the usual book and article links (Return to Varosha is the most comprehensive). It’s rather easy to lose yourself in them for hours.

Further Reading

canissahun (2006). Famagusta. Flickr, 30 December 2006. Available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/canissa/sets/72157594448523824/. Accessed 21 August 2010.

Gonzalez, D. (2008). Las fronteras de Chipre (y III). Fronteras, 22 January 2008. Automatically translated from Spanish at http://translate.google.ca/translate?js=y&prev;=_t&hl;=en&ie;=UTF-8&layout;=1&eotf;=1&u;=http%3A%2F%2Ffronterasblog.wordpress.com%2F2008%2F01%2F22%2Flas-fronteras-de-chipre-y-iii%2F&sl;=es&tl;=en.Accessed 21 August 2010.

Return to Varosha Group (2010). Return to Varosha. Available at http://varosha.multiply.com/. Accessed 21 August 2010.

Rhino Car Hire (2009). Varosha Ghost Town – Famagusta History – Cyprus. Car Hire Blog, 4 January 2009. Available at http://www.rhinocarhire.com/Car-Hire-Blog/January-2009/Varosha-Ghost-Town.aspx. Accessed 21 August 2010.

Weisman, A. (2007). The World Without Us. New York: St. Martin’s Thomas Dunne.

Zissis, T. (2002). Famagusta: A Town in Hostage. Ayia Napa, Cyprus: Zissis Tourist Enterprises.

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