Famagusta is truly and magical place!

 

Famagusta is situated on the south east coast of North Cyprus and is a place that appears to be untouched by time. When you visit you feel as if you can almost reach out and touch the island’s rich history. You will also hear and see Famagusta being referred to as Mağosa, Mağusa or Gazimağusa (Gazi meaning unconquered). Once it was one of the world’s most famous and richest cities under the rule of the Lusignans.  Famagusta is also rich in architecture from the Venetian period.  The famous city walls circling the city date back to Venetian times and you can also see Othello’s Tower and many other historical buildings including mosques and museums.

 

In Northern Cyprus change is slow in coming perhaps due to the easy-going temperament of the Turkish Cypriot people, but certainly attributable in part to the embargoes imposed by most of the world.  Whatever the objectives of these impositions they cannot distract from the magnificent scenery, and they have, to a diminishing extent, held back destructive mass tourism.

 

Famagusta is divided by a ghost town (Varosha) which has been closed to all but the military since 1974. Visitors must therefore concentrate on the walled city. They are adequately compensated, however, in that it is one of the finest surviving examples of medieval military architecture still in existence.  The mighty wall was erected according to the latest war technologies of the 16th century in order to resist the destructive power of the canons, which were new weapons at the time.  The wall is 15m (50ft) high and 8m (26ft) thick.  Exactly 15 bastions spread throughout the length of the 3 km (1.85 miles) long wall, which consequently bade no help at the time as the Ottomans conquerors starved out the fortress’ inhabitants during their siege. To pass through the massive walls is to pass through history, from the time of the Lusignans, Genoese and Venetians to the bloody siege by the Ottomans in 1570-71. They stormed the walls and all of Cyprus was theirs for over 300 years. 

 

There is much unexpected open space in all directions. A chaotic panorama of unkempt gardens and scrub lands where palm trees shade ancient domed churches. Crumbling examples of splendid medieval buildings are all around.  In the narrow streets, shops are unchanged by time or fashion.  Dark interiors hide a miscellany of goods. The town can be a bustling place, of noise and activity, but more often it is calm, the residents going about their business in a relaxed manner, always courteous and helpful.

 

The maze of streets lead onto a large square in which the Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque stands in solitary splendor.  The Ottoman Turks changed the magnificent building of what used to be St Nicholas Cathedral by adding a minaret and then converting it into a mosque.  The building is an ideal place to arrange a meeting point.  Besides, it is only a few steps to several restaurants, cafes and bars, which are dotted around the square, there is no traffic, only the beautiful surroundings of the ruins of the Venetian Palace. It is magnificent to sit outside the Haman Inn (a renovated Turkish bath house) in the evening and see the square in its illuminated glory.

 

Further Details

Worth exploring are the extensive Roman ruins of Salamis, one of the most impressive historical sites in the Eastern Mediterranean. The history continues with St Barnabas Monastery and the Tomb of Kings. The idyllic Karpaz peninsular is also worth exploring. Bogaz is a beautiful coastal village located on the southern edge of the Karpaz peninsular, otherwise known as the ‘pan handle’ of Northern Cyprus with many restaurants serving the fresh catch of the day. Located further North at the base of the Karpaz peninsula in the Bafra area, you will find exciting developments taking shape. Further north you will come across a fantastic new marina and the Golden Beach at the tip of the island with breath taking views. Famagusta itself is well serviced by shops, restaurants and entertainment venues and is also home to the newest hospital and the island’s biggest University. There are some fantastic castles in the mountains and Kyrenia and Nicosia are also great places to explore whilst here on holiday.

 

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