THE LOST CITY OF FAMAGUSTA
if you know of Famagusta, the city on the eastern seaboard of the small island of Cyprus, located beneath Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, it is probably because you have heard about a beautiful ghost town within it called Varosha, frozen in time for 40 years now.You may have heard about its once-regal status as the Middle East's Mayan Riviera, of its crescent white sand beach that lured 10,000 tourists at a time, from all over the world. Movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and pop groups like ABBA. You may have heard that the region's waterfront hotels are now empty and rotting, crawling with snakes, fenced off at each end of the beach and guarded by young conscripts of the Turkish army who whistle sharply at tourists daring to flaunt the signs that ban anyone from aiming even a camera into the ghost city, much less stepping on the wrong side of the fence. You may have seen haunting photographs on the Internet.
Turkish military has maintained control over the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, (TRNC). Visitors to the TRNC have to buy special car insurance to drive into the north and have their passports checked, but the entry stamp comes on a separate sheet of paper. The port at Famagusta, still its deepest, once handled 60 percent of the cargo of the island but is closed to international commerce. The whole island of Cyprus and its 1.1 million residents are technically members of the European Union, but those who reside in the northern half have no representation in that government, no voice. TRNC soccer teams can't play against other countries. TRNC exports carry exorbitant taxes. TRNC diplomas aren't recognized in the rest of the world.
One day soon, you may get to find out. After 40 years of maddening twists and turns for the Greek Cypriots driven from their homes in the chaos of a swift invasion by the Turkish military in 1974 and the Turkish Cypriots who have since found themselves marooned in a rogue nation unrecognized by anyone but the motherland, there is new hope that this ghost city will once again come back to life.The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met at an abandoned airport in the capital city of Nicosia on February 11 to announce that they've agreed to restart talks. There is new pressure from the United States, among others, to sort those details out quickly. And if that happens - when it happens? - a broken nation can reunite and heal, stabilizing a region critical to U.S. and European interests and rebuilding an international tourism mecca with an enticing new draw: Come to the Lost City of Varosha.