Maras city in Northern Cyprus enjoys flood of visitors
Partial reopening of formerly deserted Maras 'positive step,' creates alternative tourism model, says senior official
After its partial reopening last year, visitors have flooded the coastal city of Maras in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a senior Turkish Cypriot official said on Wednesday.
"There is a serious influx of visitors. The opening of Maras was a positive step in terms of tourism ... It has created an alternative tourism model," Tourism and Environment Minister Fikri Ataoglu told Anadolu Agency.
Noting that the coastal region was opened first, Ataoglu said the town was visited by many local and foreign tourists despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Highlighting the cooperation between Turkish Cypriot officials and Turkey to develop tourism in the TRNC, he said: "We're increasing our cooperation with Turkey day by day."
The TRNC has been promoting Maras to Turkish Cypriots who years ago migrated to the UK, explained Ataoglu, adding that the country wanted young people from "Generation Z to visit the lands of their ancestors and see these places. We are working on this issue. Turkey also supports us in this regard."
He invited Turkish citizens as well to the TRNC to enjoy the country's historical and natural sites.
Maras, or Varosha in Greek, had virtually become a ghost town as it remained cut off from the world for some 47 years.
A portion of the region -- just about 3.5% of the total area -- was reopened in October 2020, with people welcome to visit between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
Maras was abandoned after a 1984 UN Security Council resolution saying that only its original inhabitants could resettle the town.
Entry into the town was forbidden except for Turkish army personnel stationed in the TRNC.
Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.
It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the UK.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan plan to end the longstanding dispute.