Varosha, Famagusta

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Βαρώσια (Greek) Maraş (Turkish)
The quarter in 2006
The quarter in 2006
Nickname(s): Ghost city
Varosha is located in Cyprus
Location in North Cyprus
Coordinates: 35°06′39″N 33°57′13″E / 35.11083°N 33.95361°E / 35.11083; 33.95361Coordinates: 35°06′39″N 33°57′13″E / 35.11083°N 33.95361°E / 35.11083; 33.95361
Country De jure  Cyprus
De facto  Northern Cyprus
District De jure Famagusta District
De facto Gazimağusa District
Population (1974)[citation needed]
 • Total 6,000
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Varosha, as seen from outside the military fence
Crumbling hotels in Varosha
Varosha viewed from Palm Beach, Hotel photo: RP 2005.

Varosha (Greek: Βαρώσια; Turkish: Maraş or Kapalı Maraş[1][2]) is a quarter south of the Cypriot city of Famagusta. It is located within Northern Cyprus. Prior to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, it was the modern tourist area of Famagusta. Its inhabitants fled during the invasion, and it has remained abandoned ever since.


In the 1970s, Famagusta was the number one tourist destination in Cyprus. To cater to the increasing number of tourists, many new high-rise buildings and hotels were constructed. During its heyday the Varosha quarter of Famagusta was not only the number one tourist destination in Cyprus, but between 1970 and 1974 it was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and was a favourite destination of wealthy, rich and famous stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch and Brigitte Bardot.

Features of Varosha[edit]

The main features of the Varosha quarter included John F Kennedy Avenue, a street which ran from close to the port of Famagusta, through the Varosha quarter and parallel to Glossa beach. Along JFK Avenue there were many well known high rise hotels including the King George Hotel, The Asterias hotel, The Grecian hotel, The Florida hotel and the Argo hotel which was the favourite hotel of Dame Elizabeth Taylor. The Argo hotel is located near to the end of JFK Avenue looking towards Protaras and Fig Tree Bay. Another major street in Varosha was Leonidas (Greek: Λεωνίδας), a major street that came off JFK Avenue and headed west towards Vienna Corner. Leonidas was a major shopping and leisure street in Varosha, consisting of many bars, restaurants, night clubs and a Toyota car dealership.

1974 to present day[edit]

Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, on 20 July 1974 in response to a Greek-backed coup, the Greek Cypriot army withdrew its forces to Larnaca. The Turkish army advanced as far as the Green Line, which is the present day border between the two communities. Just hours before the Turkish and Greek Cypriot armies met in military combat on the streets of Famagusta, the entire population, fearing a massacre, fled. Many refugees fled south to the towns of Paralimni, Deryneia, and Larnaca. Paralimni has since become the modern day capital of the Famagusta province in the Republic of Cyprus.

When the Turkish army gained control of the area during the invasion, they fenced it off and have since barred admittance to anyone except Turkish military and United Nations personnel. Varosha was abandoned by its 35,000 residents when Cyprus was invaded and divided in 1974. The people living in Varosha, which is part of the city of Famagusta, hoped to return to their home when the situation calmed down. But the resort was fenced off by the Turkish military and soldiers were ordered to shoot anyone who attempted to enter.

The United Nations, with the Security Council Resolution 550 of 1984, ordered for Varosha to handed over to the administration of the United Nations and was to be resettled by no other people than the inhabitants who were forced out. The Turkish state did not comply but has held Varosha as a 'bargaining chip' ever since in the hope of persuading the people of Cyprus into accepting a settlement of the Cyprus issue on their terms. One such settlement plan was the Annan Plan which the vast majority of Greek Cypriots rejected as unfair. The Annan Plan had provided for the return of Varosha to the original residence, but this never happened, as the plan was rejected by Greek Cypriot voters in a referendum as the overall plan was considered unacceptable.

The UN Security Council Resolution 550 (taken in 11 May 1984),[3] in short states that it: “Considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations;”.

Since 1974, entry to the district is forbidden by Turkey with the exception of the TSK personnel and the students of the girls' dormitory there.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) awarded between €100,000 and €8,000,000 to eight Greek Cypriots for being deprived of their homes and properties as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion.[4] The case was filed jointly by well-known businessman Constantinos Lordos and others, with the principal judgement in the Lordos case dating back to November 2010. The ECtHR ruled in November 2010 that in the case of eight of the applicants, Turkey had violated Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human rights on the right of peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions, and in the case of seven of the applicants Turkey had violated Article 8 on the right to respect for private and family life.

As no one has inhabited the area and no repairs have been carried out, all of the buildings are slowly falling apart. Nature is reclaiming the area, as metal corrodes, windows break, and plants work their roots into the walls and pavement. Sea turtles have been seen nesting on the deserted beaches.

References in pop culture[edit]

Varosha was discussed in Alan Weisman's book The World Without Us[5] as an example of the unstoppable power of nature.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dağlı, Uğur; Şehir Plancısı Naciye Doratlı, Yrd.Doç.Dr.Şebnem Önal (1998). Gazimağusa Şehrinin Kentsel Gelişiminin Sürdürülebilirliğine Yönelik Çözüm Önerileri (in Turkish). Doğu Akdeniz Üniversitesi, Mimarlık Fakültesi. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Doratlı, Naciye; İbrahim Numan, Özgür Dinçyürek (2002). GAZİMAĞUSA'NIN FARKLI SENARYOLARA GÖRE DEĞİŞİMİNİN MORFOLOJİK AÇIDAN İRDELENMESİ (in Turkish). DAÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi, KKTC. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "United Nations Security Council Resolution 550" (PDF). United Nations. 11 May 1984. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ St. Martin's Press, 2007

External links[edit]