Awakening the ghosts of Varosha: An Ecocity Project for Famagusta

Our ghost neighbours (a view from my parents' house)
Our ghost neighbours (a view from my parents’ house)

I grow up in Famagusta, on the second floor of an apartment blog looking to ghost town Varosha. I listed to golden age of this abandoned place from my father who spent his youth in the region during mid 60’s until the fragmentation of the island in 1974. Our neighbours were ghosts living on the other side of the barbed wires who were trapped in the forbidden zone into an unknown time. In this destruction time was frozen for everything expect the suddenly growing tress in the middle of the car roads, small flowers that eventually turned into a jungle at the terraces of the abandoned houses and for the birds who have been fellows of the ghost for the last 39 years. Language always has barriers in order to put this sight and feeling into words. Couple of years ago, by chance, I met with dear Vasia – who is a film maker living in New York- and Emily – professor of permaculture and refugee from Varosha. We soon discovered that we all share similar feelings regarding this place which made me to study psychological aspects of architecture and which made them never stop dreaming about this place. Finally we found chance to put all our hearts, thoughts and dreams together in order to awaken the sleeping ghosts of Varosha and to turn it into an eco-peaceful place that may finally unify whole Famagusta together.

»The eco-city project web-page :

BBC - World Service Outlook - My Dream of Reviving a Ghost City

Me and Vasia talked about ‘The Famagusta Ecopolis project’ on BBC radio programme. Thanks to BBC’s Outlook for promoting the project, also to Sue Waldram from BBC World Service, Maia Woodward from Commmunity Voice Projects and Natalie Konyalian from CCMC office.

“Vasia Markides grew up in the United States with her Greek Cypriot mother’s stories of Varosha, and the home the family abandoned after the Turkish invasion in 1974. Varosha was the booming tourist resort of Famagusta, but it has been fenced off from the world for nearly 40 years. Inspired by her mother, Vasia has launched a campaign to bring Varosha back to life, and to make the whole area into an eco-city.

She’s joined on Outlook (Thursday 14 November) by fellow campaigner Ceren Boğaç, a Turkish Cypriot from Famagusta, who grew up next to Varosha, wondering about the lives of the people who used to live in the abandoned houses.”

»BBC – World Service Outlook – My Dream of Reviving a Ghost City

»BBC – World Service Outlook – My Dream of Reviving a Ghost CityFacebook Page

Media face of the project

»BBC Outlook



»ECO 18

The following information is taken from Kickstarter page that is composed by Vasia Markides



"I left my soul inside, open up!"
“I left my soul inside, open up!”

Before we begin…

A brief-ish history of the Cyprus Problem.

Where is Cyprus? No, it is not in Florida…The island of Cyprus is located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe.  No wonder it’s been so high in demand over the ages.

You can find all the ingredients of violence in the last 50 years of Cypriot history: Divide and rule tactics, car bombs, bullets in the back, interrogation and torture, mass graves, UN troops, meddling foreign states, a coup, an invasion, occupation, and enough propaganda for another century of hostility. Any account of the Cyprus Problem will offend many, whether they are Brits, Greeks, Turks, Greek-Cypriots or Turkish-Cypriots, and if one is honest and unflinching about the fact, all will take offense.

Cyprus became independent in the 1960’s after the Greek Cypriot underground group EOKA waged a five-year guerrilla war against Britain, the colonial master. But EOKA wanted union with Greece, not independence. In short, they wanted to be Greeks, not Cypriots. Turkish nationalism grew as a counterpart to the Greek variety, and the underground group TMT formed to pursue the partition of the island between Greece and Turkey. Violence ensued, and the UN arrives with a peacekeeping force.

Violence continued with both sides suffering atrocities perpetrated by extremists on each side, while the Turkish Cypriot minority withdrew into enclaves.

In 1974, the dictatorship in Greece staged a coup to annex Cyprus to Greece. Turkey then invaded, claiming its right as a guarantor power to intervene and restore constitutional order, and ended up occupying the northern third of the island, killing thousands in the process. Greek Cypriots living in the north were forcibly displaced to the south, while Turkish Cypriots in the south were moved to the north. The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash later unilaterally declared the north to be The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which remains recognized only by Turkey. To this day, the Turkish troops have not left, and the island remains divided.

Yet legend has it that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, was born here. No irony there at all...
Yet legend has it that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, was born here. No irony there at all…

A brief history of Famagusta/Varosha

Famagusta old walled city
Famagusta old walled city
Remnants of The Church of St.George of the Greeks
Remnants of The Church of St.George of the Greeks

During the conflict of 1974,  a six square kilometer district of Famagusta known as Varosha, was fenced off from the rest of the island by barbed wire. Famagusta itself is the setting for Shakespeare’s Othello and is one of the island’s most important harbors, tourist destinations, and center of culture, trade and commerce.

To this day, Varosha remains surrounded by barbed wire. Once known as the jewel of the Eastern Mediterranean where people like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton summered, it is now a ghost city; a place of captivity; an abandoned and derelict area in the divided region of Famagusta; a pawn in a political struggle that has yet to be resolved.

The rest of Famagusta is inhabited by Turkish-Cypriots who were either originally there before the Greek-Cypriot community left or who were displaced from other parts of the island. There are also Turkish migrants from mainland Turkey who live in their own separate neighborhoods. The entire Famagusta region, which like Cyprus has in its history a long list of invaders, continues to retain the status of a fragmented community.


Varosha beach 1960's
Varosha beach 1960’s

VAROSHA TODAY (39 years after it was fenced off)

A Varosha hallway
A Varosha hallway
Remnants of a Varosha kitchen
Remnants of a Varosha kitchen
Remnants of a Varosha living room. Cozy, right?
Remnants of a Varosha living room. Cozy, right?

Our connection to this place

Vasia’s mother and Armando’s mother in law, Emily, was born and raised in Varosha, and like all of its Greek-Cypriot inhabitants, retains a certain nostalgia and longing for her hometown that will move anyone who has the chance to hear her story. She, like many other Famagusta refugees, has never recovered from its loss. It remains like an open wound for those who left their belongings, their homes and their communities one day thinking they would return the next.

These photos are the only physical record that remains of Emily’s childhood in Famagusta.

The family home - taken on my grandparents’ wedding day.
The family home – taken on my grandparents’ wedding day.
That's my mom on the right.
That’s my mom on the right.

Emily’s obsession with her hometown infiltrated Vasia’s psyche so deeply that it launched her career as a filmmaker. In 2008, Vasia made a documentary short calledHidden in the Sand about the city and the larger Cyprus problem that has kept it in captivity.

All of the work that Emily has done in launching eco-peace communities both in Maine and Cyprus, has been inspired by Famagusta and her dream to see it revitalized as Europe’s model ecocity. The idea stuck and last year Vasia decided to finally pursue a longer, more elaborate film on the subject. Emily, Armando and Vasia began meeting other individuals who either shared this dream or were immediately drawn to it.

These extraordinary individuals quickly became a team ready to help make this ecocity happen. Amongst them are Ceren Bogac, a Turkish-Cypriot architect and psychologist who grew up across the street from the ghost city and lives in Famagusta to this day, Jan Wampler, a distinguished MIT professor and world renown expert of sustainable community design, Fiona Mullen, one of the island’s leading economists, Bernard Amadei, the founder of Engineers Without Borders and many others.

The idea started catching fire and The Famagusta Ecocity Project was born. And thus a new film was born out of that.

The Film

This film will be following the story of this team as they rally support across the island and beyond for The Famagusta Ecocity Project (see its description below). We will meet the Turkish-Cypriots who live in Famagusta today, hear what it has been like for them like living next to this ghost city and what they would like to see done with it in the future. We will hear the memories and dreams of the Greek-Cypriot Famagusta refugee community as they hope and plan for their city’s impending revival. We will engage diplomats, business leaders, port workers, restaurant & hotel owners, soldiers, teachers, artists, and other Famagusta citizens from both sides of the divide in a dialogue about what a Famagusta ecocity could look like, recording their reactions, both positive and negative.

We will visit other locations around the world that have adopted sustainability in their town planning, while showing the way these principles can be adapted to the Cypriot climate as well as its environmental, political and economic conditions.

We will reveal the challenges of mending two communities who have remained divided while living a stone’s throw away from each other for the past thirty-eight years. (For safety and peace building reasons we will not put the “stone’s throw” claim to the test).

The aim of the film is to see how the team prepares the ground in both communities to find the strength and resolve to crack a decades long conflict using a fresh idea like that presented in The Famagusta Ecocity Project. Whether the team fails or succeeds in its Cypriot mission, the documentary will still be able to provide a blueprint for other towns to use in preparing their own communities for a more stable and lasting future.

The Famagusta Ecocity Movement

A brief summary

Any reopening of Varosha, if and when that occurs, presents a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and rebuild for a better future. Yet it comes with significant risks. Without careful planning, it could become just another unsustainable development in an already crowded Mediterranean tourism market, while cementing Famagusta as the second divided city in Cyprus.

Rebuilding Varosha in the context of a model ecopolis promotes peaceful coexistence amongst all of Famagusta’s inhabitants, embraces the latest eco­city technologies and thereby becomes a center for peace and sustainability within a troubled region. The Famagusta Ecocity Project aims to ultimately turn all of Famagusta into Europe’s model Ecocity.   It will be a multi-track approach to environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and peace building.  Those involved will be local and international architects, permaculture designers, economists, business owners, urban planners, horticulturists, engineers, artists, conflict mediation specialists and more.

The aim is the implementation of the Varosha ecopolis and the transformation of Famagusta into a thriving cultural and environmental hub.  Yet, the road is sure to be a bumpy one, as there will certainly be many obstacles along the way as a result of all the vested interests involved.  And that’s exactly what makes it an interesting film subject.

The Creative Duo


VASIA MARKIDES Greek-Cypriot, Director/Producer of The Famagusta Ecocity Project, Filmmaker, Artist and Video journalist with a BA in Anthropology and Studio Art from Middlebury College and an MFA from Tufts University’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts; co­founder of Eleventown Productions, a New York based production company working with clients such as Oxfam America, Global Nomads Group and other human rights organizations. Recent projects include editing the documentaryBeneath the Olive Tree, about women’s persecution during the Greek civil war, as well as Olympia Dukakis: Undefined, a biographical documentary on the Oscar-winning actress (both films yet to be released). Her 2008 documentary short Hidden in the Sand has screened in festivals across the U.S., Cyprus, Turkey, Puerto Rico and Portugal.


ARMANDO GARMA-FERNANDEZ  Director/Producer of The Famagusta Ecocity Project, Architect, Animator, Filmmaker, co-­founder of Eleventown Productions a New York based production company.  Before diving into the world of documentaries, animations, and motion graphics, Armando spent the last five years as an architect specializing in restoration and renovation. To see samples of his work (and because this project page is getting really long) go to his site.

Why we’re the ones for the job

Having one Cypriot amongst us and having already done a documentary short on the subject, we are clearly committed and have a strong supportive community of both Greek and Turkish-Cypriots who are eager to help us along the way. Together we have expertise in photography, videography, editing, animation, AND architecture.  We have connections to people in different fields who have vested interests in the future of the city.  We have access to a large network of not only Famagustians, but also Cypriots in general and members of the international community.  We are easy going, honest, and trustworthy; that inevitably leads to better story telling by our subjects, and therefore a more compelling film.

We are doggedly stubborn, and will not give up if obstacles present themselves along the way, which of course they will – they always do. Not only that, but we love finding creative solutions to problems, so whatever course this project takes, we will find a way to make it into interesting visual material that can prove beneficial AND entertaining to our viewers.

Some of our Cast of Characters



EMILY MARKIDES; Greek-Cypriot and FAMAGUSTA NATIVE; received her doctoral degree in Counselor Education at the University of Maine, her MA in German Literature and a second MA in French Literature. She used to teach French and German courses and now teaches on the environment. She has also served as a Commonwealth Peace Consultant in Cyprus. Emily’s areas of special interest are the creation of sustainable and EcoPeace communities, spirituality, and permaculture design which melds ecology, agriculture and human settlement. She wrote her dissertation on Complementary Energetic Practices: An Exploration into the World of Maine Women Healers. She has written articles on “Creating a Stable World Peace,” “From Poetry to Community Building,” and “Energetic Healing and its Correspondence to Eastern Orthodox Spirituality.” The ideals that have inspired her work over the years, in terms of both theory and praxis, have been in the area of institution building. She has pursued those ideals in Cyprus by becoming the founder of a Women’s Studies Center/Peace Center and the International Eco-Peace Village. She also helped to launch a new program in Peace Studies at the University of Maine and served as its first Interim Director from 1988-91. Since 2004 she has founded and served as President of ESTIA, The International EcoPeace Community ( Emily is committed to issues of personal, social and global change, spirituality, peace and ecological sustainability.



JAN WAMPLER  BS in Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design (1963) and Masters of Architecture and Urban Design from Harvard Graduate School of Design (1963); Distinguished MIT Professor of Architecture, Fellow at the American Institute of Architects, renowned designer of sustainable communities worldwide.

Recent work of Jan Wampler includes two new cities in Jinean, China, urban design in Tangshan, China and buildings in several Chinese cities. His latest projects include the Hope for Haiti, a design for a self-sustainable village, a design studio in Havana, Cuba and he is currently designing parts of new cities in Southern China. Wampler’s articles and buildings have been published in a number of architectural magazines. These include: “La Puntilla,” Progressive Architecture; “L’Emprette,” L’Architecture D’Aujourd’hui, May/June 1975; “Boston Architecture”, Andrea Leers and Alex Krieger, A&U, V. 222, March, 1989; “Thinking the City” exhibition; “Designing for Special Populations,” Architecture, January, 1987; “A Village in a House,” Space and Society, June 1984. He also authored a book in 1976, All Their Own, People and the Places They Build, the Schenkman Publishing Company, Cambridge, MA, 1976.

He recently exhibited his work of the last twenty five years at MIT entitled “Open Strings for e – Search on the Journey.”


BERNARD AMADEI Diploma of Engineering (1977) in Applied Geology from the School of Applied Geology and Mining Engineering (Ecole Supérieure de Géologie Appliquée et de Prospection Minière) MS from the University of Toronto in 1979 and was awarded a doctorate (PhD) in civil engineering (1982), University of California, Berkeley.

Founder of Engineers without Borders (USA), Professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado, and former director of the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a recipient of the Hoover Medal.

Rocha Medal (1984) from the International Society for Rock Mechanics. 2007 Hoover Medal. The 13th Heinz Award in the Environment (co-awardee), 2007 Membership in the National Academy of Engineering (United States) (2008) for “the creation of Engineers Without Borders, leadership in sustainable development education, and research on geomechanics.” 2009 Award of Excellence from Engineering News-Record for founding Engineers Without Borders (USA).

The Obama administration, following up the president’s announcement of the program in Cairo, named Mr. Amadei one of three Scientific Envoys appointed by Secretary of State Clinton in November, 2012.



FIONA MULLEN  Economist & Director, Fiona Mullen has been providing independent economic analysis to an international audience for over 20 years. She founded Sapienta Economics Ltd in 2006 and co-founded Strata Insight energy advisory in 2012. She has been the Cyprus contributor for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) since 2001 and the economy consultant to the United Nations Good Offices mission since 2008.

Prior to living in Cyprus Mullen was Senior Analyst and Director of the flagship Country Reports at the EIU. She was the Senior Analyst from 2002 until 2006 at the Financial Mirror. Mullen has written extensively on Cyprus and frequently cited in international media.


CEREN BOĞAÇ;Turkish-Cypriot FAMAGUSTA NATIVE and current resident. Architect (Bachelors) & Environmetal Pychologists ( Master of Science and PHD).  Professor at Department of Architecture. Former visiting scholar at Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, Czech Republic.Her specific area of expertise are architectural psychology, environmental meaning, environmental design, socio-architecture and place attachment studies. She has been given lectures related to interplay between human beings and their surrounding environment more than 10 years. She has publications in environmental meaning and place attachment studies at both national and international levels. She also involved in many civil society projects based on ‘human rights’ which were funded by European Union and worked as project coordinator taking place in London & Brighton & Manchester /UK, Brussels / Belgium and Malta / Malta which covered 2 years period. She conducted researches about ‘intercultural dialogue’ and ‘active learning’ in Prague/ Czech Republic that covered 1.5 years. She is a board member of The International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism, INTBAU Cyprus Chapter.


MICHAEL LOIZIDES: Greek-Cypriot, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ISOTECH Ltd since 1998. Dr Loizides is a Chemical and Environmental Engineer. Michael graduated from the National Technical University of Athens in Chemical Engineering and obtained his Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London. He received his PhD from the National Technical University of Athens, School of Chemical Engineering.

Since 1990 he has worked as external associate of National Technical University of Athens and as Environmental Engineer in several research projects. He has been a scientific coordinator in more than 40 EU funded projects (LIFE, Leonardo da Vinci, 5th-6th-7th  EU Framework for Research, MEDA and other), international funded projects (eg by UNEP, UNDP, USAID), transnational projects (eg DAC projects),  national research projects (eg Cyprus Research Foundation) and private funded projects in the field of waste management, Environmental Impact Studies, ISO 14000, Safety Management and  Community Annoyance.

Michael provides technical consultancy in several municipalities and communities in Cyprus on waste management and community issues. Since 2005 he has cooperated with the University of Cyprus as Research and Teaching Fellow, teaching final year Civil and Environmental Engineering students the environmental part of their capstone design project.


GEORGE LORDOS Greek-Cypriot FAMAGUSTA NATIVE, Businessman B.A. (Hons) & M.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics (Oxon) S.M.’00 – MBA (MIT Sloan) Director of Cyprus Friendship Program, Inc., a nonprofit which brings together Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teenagers to promote peaceful interaction and understanding. He also participates in joint actions between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot business leaders through the GC and TC chambers of commerce, with a view to economic cooperation and reunification.


BERAN DJEMAL Turkish-Cypriot; BS in Political Science from Middle East Technical University and Post Graduate Diploma in International Conflict and Cooperation from The Stirling University, Scotland; currently working at Cyprus Community Media Center in area of Media & Community Relations.


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