Monday, June 18, 2007

Famagusta on the brink of ruin due to neglect

An ancient Cypriot port city which inspired Shakespearean tragedy and was famed
in medieval times for its architecture and wealth is on the brink of ruin
because of neglect, conservationists warn.

In its Venetian heyday Famagusta was one of the richest cities in the region, and a seat for the crowning of Lusignan Kings of Jerusalem. Fictionally, it marks the spot where Shakespeare's Othello, blinded by jealousy, smothered his beloved Desdemona, then took his own life.

Thick fortifications encasing the city protect a community of some 300 churches, and a stunning 14th century gothic cathedral which some art historians compare to Notre Dame of Rheims, but in miniature.

In a biannual review of world heritage sites, the privately run World Monuments Foundation (WMF) has listed the city as one of 100 world sites most at risk from conflict, alongside such world landmarks as the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, and what has been left of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

Those campaigning for the protection of the city hope the status will galvanise much-needed conservation.