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Famagusta (Greek: Αμμόχωστος Ammóchōstos , Turkish: Gazimağusa/Mağusa) is a city on the east coast of Cyprus and is capital of the Famagusta District. It is located east of Nicosia, and possesses the deepest harbour of the island. Since the 1974 Turkish invasion the city has resided in the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey). The old tourist quarter of Varosha is abandoned and fenced off, pending on a settlement of the Cyprus problem.



In antiquity, the town was known as Arsinoe (Greek: Ἀρσινόη), after Arsinoe II of Egypt, and was mentioned by that name by Strabo. In Greek it is called Ammochostos, meaning "hidden in sand". This name developed into Famagusta, used in Western European languages and the Turkish name, Mağusa. In fact, its Turkish name is Gazi-Mağusa (Gazi is a Turkish prefix meaning veteran, and was awarded officially after 1974; compare Gaziantep.). Turks of not Cypriot origin tend to call the city 'Magosa' to the dismay of the local Famagustans.


Founded in 300 BC on the old settlement of Arsinoe, Famagusta remained a small fishing village for a long period of time. Later, as a result of the gradual evacuation of Salamis, it developed into a small port.

Medieval Famagusta, 1192-1571

The turning point for Famagusta was 1192 with the onset of Lusignan rule. It was during this period that Famagusta developed as a fully-fledged town. It increased in importance to the Eastern Mediterranean due to its natural harbour and the walls that protected its inner town. Its population began to increase. This development accelerated in the 13th century as the town became a centre of commerce for both the East and West. An influx of Christian refugees fleeing the downfall of Acre (1291) in Palestine transformed it from a tiny village into one of the richest cities in Christendom. In 1372 the port was seized by Genoa and in 1489 by Venice. This commercial activity turned Famagusta into a place where merchants and ship owners led lives of luxury. The belief that people's wealth could be measured by the churches they built inspired these merchants to have churches built in varying styles. These churches, which still exist, were the reason Famagusta came to be known as "the district of churches". The development of the town focused on the social lives of the wealthy people and was centred upon the Lusignan palace, the Cathedral, the Square and the harbour.

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