Varosha Ghost Town


A Haunting Reminder of Famagusta’s Past

Located in Famagusta, North Cyprus, lies a ghost town that has become a haunting reminder of the region’s troubled past. Varosha Ghost Town, also known as Maraş in Turkish, was once a popular tourist destination that attracted people from all over the world. It was home to luxurious hotels, restaurants, and shops that were frequented by wealthy travelers and was a favorite destination of such celebrities as Elizabeth TaylorRichard BurtonRaquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot. However, today, it stands in ruins, abandoned and desolate.

The history of Varosha dates back to the 1970s when the island of Cyprus was divided into two parts, North and South, after a Turkish invasion. As a result, Famagusta became a strategic battleground between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. In 1974, the Turkish army took control of the city, forcing the Greek Cypriots to flee. Varosha, which was once a thriving tourist destination, was abandoned overnight.

Since then, the area has remained under Turkish control, and the city has remained untouched, frozen in time. The buildings and hotels that once stood tall now crumble and decay. The streets that were once full of life are now empty, and the beaches that were once filled with sunbathers are now silent.

The Turkish government has not allowed anyone to enter the area since 1974, and the buildings have been left to rot. The only people allowed to enter the city are Turkish soldiers who keep a watchful eye over the area. It’s a haunting reminder of the past, and a stark contrast to the rest of Famagusta, which is a thriving city.

Varosha, or Maraş, as it’s known in Turkish, has become a symbol of the division between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. It’s a reminder of the pain and suffering that the people of Cyprus endured during the conflict.

From 2011 to 2023, significant developments unfolded in Varosha, Northern Cyprus. Initially, with a population of 226 in 2011, Varosha saw exclusive beach access granted to Turks in 2017.

Plans for settlement opening were announced in 2019, coinciding with inventory analysis on buildings and infrastructure. Ownership claims emerged, with the EVKAF religious foundation asserting authority over Varosha in December 2019.

The controversy escalated as part of Varosha’s beach reopened in October 2020, prompting political rifts within Northern Cyprus. Turkish President Erdogan’s visit and avenue renaming in November 2020 further fueled tensions. The European Parliament urged Turkey to reconsider its Varosha decision.

Subsequent phases of opening, including a mosque’s reopening, were announced in July 2021. UN Security Council statements and Turkish responses marked a diplomatic standoff. By January 2022, Varosha attracted nearly 400,000 visitors.

In May 2022, a commercial beach stretch was opened, raising UNFICYP concerns. Plans for public institutions and hotel acquisitions ensued in 2022 and 2023. Finally, in August 2023, the Northern Cypriot government approved the construction of a marina and tourist facility in Varosha, underlining ongoing transformations and controversies in the region.

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