Meet the 'Better Half', Meet North Cyprus!
By: John Richards
The history of the island of Cyprus is long, complex and convoluted. Whilst an article such as this is not the place for politics, a little bit of recent history is worth detailing, as it explains the almost unique character of North Cyprus. In the 1970s, following a military coup supported by Greece and the subsequent (and consequent) intervention by Turkey, Cyprus was partitioned, with Greek Cypriots mostly moving to the south, and Turkish Cypriots the north. This latter, now called the TRNC, for Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has representative offices around the world and has consular offices of many countries, including the UK, but officially is only recognised as an independent state by Turkey, so up until recently has been in near isolation. This has caused some problems for its occupants, as imports are comparatively very costly and exports difficult. The result is that in many ways, Northern Cyprus seems to have changed little since its formation.
Of course, what is seen by some as adversity is seen by others as a challenge, and the ingenuity of humankind always seems to come to the fore in these situations. As a result, although perceptibly pleasantly old-fashioned in many ways, due to the difficulties of the terrain and the cost of securing suitable equipment, land-line telephones have always been a problem. The country therefore has a network of mobile phone and high-speed satellite Internet connections that are the envy of many highly-developed nations. Whilst most of us are accustomed to buying strawberries out of season, in North Cyprus nearly all cooking relies on fresh, locally-grown produce. What is now appreciated as ecologically and nutritionally ideal in many countries, has been the permanent way of life in Northern Cyprus for many decades.
This culture and way of life has massively influenced the tourism industry here. In view of the difficulties and costs of exports, although small compared with countries of a similar size, tourism has always been a mainstay of the North Cyprus economy. And it is treated accordingly by everyone. From the prime minister to people in local villages, people know how important tourism is. This has produced some remarkable results. There is a massive choice of holiday accommodation on the island, from tiny boutique hotels to substantial five-star resorts – but what always surprises visitors is the sheer quality of the accommodation. Everywhere you will find Cypriot antiques combined with contemporary or traditional décor and high-quality furniture. Many international designers have been employed over the years and it really shows, although Cypriots have a flair for interior design that is also evident.
Over recent years there have been some changes though. The biggest is that the border between Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus has been opened up and is now a properly-controlled international crossing. Anyone with an EU passport (and many other nationalities) can cross freely and quickly. This has made a significant difference to local inhabitants, as shopping, day trips and even employment are now routine between the two communities. However, the difference to tourism is more substantial. Previously, the only way to visit Northern Cyprus was by flying to the local airport, Ercan. Although internationally recognised and fully certified, air traffic regulations mean that a flight to Ercan involved a brief stopover in Turkey. This naturally adds both time and cost to any flight and seriously restricted the number of airports and airlines operating the route. With the border open, however, it is now possible to fly to Larnaca, which is close to the border and is served by a massive number of airlines and airports.
In short, North Cyprus holidays were always worth considering, as the island was relatively quiet and unspoiled, not the mention that it has some of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Mediterranean region. Now, it should be considered an essential visit. It is inevitable that tourism will grow and that North Cyprus will lose some of its magical character. Vist now, before that happens.