A forbidden city to photograph.
Ghost Town Verosha, in Famagusta, has been abandoned since 1974. Before it was emptied for people, the city was a modern tourist city and one of the premier holiday destinations in a rapidly growing charter industry. In the 70ties, Famagusta was the most attractive tourist town in Cyprus. Here were large, beautiful and modern hotels where the rich and famous spend their holidays.
View of the abandoned ghost town from the beach
But 15 August 1974 the situation changed in Cyprus. The Turkish army invaded Famagusta and the Greek-Cypriot forces were forced to retreat. The inhabitants of Verosha and the surrounding areas were evacuated south and today many live in temporarily cities that were set up to care for refugees. Many are still waiting to return to their homes. After the occupation the Turks renamed all the town names in the north of Cyprus and gave them Turkish names. And all the churches were turned into mosques.
When I went on holiday to Cyprus, I had the opportunity to participate in a guided trip to Famagusta. It meant that we had to cross the border into the northern part of Cyprus that still is under occupation by the Turks. Until 2004, the border was completely closed, but then an agreement was made so that the border could be crossed again. This sudden decision was made by the Turkish president eventually to improve the relationship to the Greek-Cypriotes. After driving through the UN-controlled border crossing, so-called ‘Checkpoint’, we went to the center of the inhabited part of Famagusta.
Ghost hotels at the beach
Then we went to the part of the beach that is closest to the abandoned town. Military roadblocks, fences and large signs indicated that we were not welcome and photography strictly forbidden. The area is patrolled by guards and no one has access to the town except Turkish military and some UN soldiers. The big derelict tourist hotels are located behind fence like concrete ghosts. A little further back we could see the rusty old tower crane that has been at a standstill for all these years.
The famously abandoned crane
Crane viewed in the gap between two buildings
Despite the photo ban and a half-hearted attempt by the guides to prevent us from taking pictures, we had to take some anyway of course. There were no guards on watch when I was walking around on the beach. If one is caught taking pictures I have heard that that as a minimum penalty they confiscates the camera – in the worst case, you will be shot. It is probably an attempt to try to hide the misery and how the Turks have ravaged.
Forbidden area, that is clear
After so many years without maintenance, it is natural that the city is slowly falling apart. Part of a hotel that was located on the beach had clearly collapsed already. When we went from the beach I saw several armed guard taking post in the watchtower closest to the beach.
To me, one of the world’s most pointless jobs must be to guard over a deserted town in 35 years. I don’t really understand why it was deserted in the first place and certainly not why the Turks don’t give it back to rightful owners, the Greek-Cypriot.
It is said that there is still a car shop with “new” cars from 1974 in the town. Even if the Turks probably has removed most of its content, who knows what secrets the town contains?
Partly collapsed hotel