FAMAGUSTA / MAĞUSA

The city of Famagusta ...

The city of Famagusta (Mağusa in Turkish) is one of the finest examples of mediaeval architecture in the eastern Mediterranean and, in its present state of preservation, is equal to that of the old cities of Carcassone and Ragusa (Dubrovnik). One full day spent in Famagusta will reveal the history of Cyprus in a nutshell. 

Much of Cyprus is an outdoor museum, but only here is so much historical interest concentrated, that is a showplace for all.

Much of the history of the town is obscure as there are no written records and our only source of material is from travellers’ accounts of merchants passing through.

Some historians declare that it was founded by King Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt in 285 B.C. It is believed that the city occupies the site of ancient town of Arsinoë. Famagusta prospered through the destruction of the neighbouring Salamis the former capital of the island.

The main entrance ...

The main entrance to the walled city is the Land Gate in the southwestern corner of the fortification. After entering through the gate, visit the tourist information center just next to it, to collect some leaflets about the city and other sites in the area. There are informative maps introducing the sights; a great help for planning a walking tour around the walled city.

The amount of places of interest is astonishing, so reserve at least half a day for exploring the city, or consider staying longer. Below we shortly introduce some of the main sights, and in the gallery you can find pictures of other sights as well. Most tourists include a visit to Palm Beach, south from the walled city, into their itinerary. The main reason is the view to Varosha, with lines of abandoned hotels and other buildings.

The Land Gate is one of the two original entrances to the city. Walk in the Ravalin Bastion next to the gate for great views of the walls and other structures, and visit the former rooms and dungeons. The city walls are three kilometers in length, and there are all together 15 bastions. The ditch outside the walls was added when the walls were modified and strengthened, and it used to be full of water.

Varosha, The Ghost Town

Famagusta, on the east coast of Cyprus, was once one of the most glamorous resorts in the Mediterranean. Its miles of pale sand and clear turquoise sea made it a destination for the Seventies jet-set, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Along with the tourists, the 40,000-strong population enjoyed a life rich in culture, with art, music and theatre that was the best on the island. With the deepest port in Cyprus, Famagusta handled more than 80 per cent of the island’s cargo, much of which comprised a vast tonnage of citrus fruit picked from the local orchards.

The modern district, where the luxury hotels and apartments were situated, was inhabited mostly by Greek Cypriots, while the walled city that contained the historical treasures of Famagusta. But 40 years ago this month, Famagusta’s reign as a paradise for islanders and tourists came to an abrupt and untimely end.

That city was Famagusta, a city that had become a symbol for the island’s division. Known as Varosha, it represents about 20 per cent of Famagusta and was the prime tourist area, comprising the stretch of golden sand, behind which stand skeletons and abandoned hotels and apartments, and streets of looted shops, restaurants, mansions.

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