Feature: Rebuilding the past in Cyprus

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-23 22:02:12|Editor: xuxin
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by Nathan Morley

NICOSIA, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Historic buildings on the divided island of Cyprus are being magnificently restored by both Turkish and Greek Cypriots in a community project which is receiving wide recognition.

The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage -- set up by the United Nations and supported by the leaders in Cyprus -- has already saved dozens of endangered buildings from ruin.

After a very wet winter, an urgent project is planned to renovate a Venetian wall in the capital Nicosia after a section collapsed. However, in recent years, much of the work has been focused on the ancient city of Famagusta in the Turkish Cypriot part of the island.

"You cannot imagine the diversity of the monuments here -- actually, it's a melting pot of civilizations," Ali Tuncay, a member of the Turkish Cypriot contingent of the committee, told Xinhua.

Famagusta is a port dotted with dilapidated fortifications, churches and other historic buildings which have crumbled away. One restoration which received worldwide attention was at the waterfront castle, which was the setting of William Shakespeare's famous tragedy Othello.

Restoring ancient buildings is a long-standing way of stregthening confidence between the island's Greek and Turkish communities. But, for all the success stories, over 1,000 monuments are still in need of attention.

Teams of archaeologists and engineers are continuously evaluating historic sites to identify the ones that need attention. A huge restoration effort has recently been completed at St. Anne Church and at Tanners' Mosque -- both were returned to their former glory.

"It's a historic moment for the technical committee, we see these monuments restored... we devoted all our effort and we are happy that we can give through these monuments a message to our people that cooperation and friendship can produce happy moments," said Takis Hadjidemetriou, a Greek Cypriot member of the team.

Both Hadjidemetriou and Tuncay are well-known public faces of this project. They say their projects show how the Turkish and Greek Cypriots can work together to produce tangible results for the benefit of everyone on this island.

"OK, they see our faces, but we are working with an excellent team actually. Without their support and without the support of our friends in the technical committee, we can't actually manage to have such results," Tuncay added.

Although the reunification of the island remains a distant prospect -- United Nations-sponsored talks ended in disagreement in 2017 -- schemes like this are living proof that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots can indeed live and work together in peace.

Hadjidemetriou's outlook remains sanguine: "Restoring these structures are happy occasions not only for the monuments but for the people and for the country."