Famagusta, Greek Ammókhostos, Turkish Gazi Mausa, a major port in northern Cyprus administered by Turkish Cypriots. It is located on the island’s east coast in a bay between Capes Greco and Eloea, approximately 37 miles (55 kilometres) east of Nicosia. The port boasts Cyprus’s deepest harbour.
Famagusta is a Frankish corruption of its Greek name, which means “buried in sand,” referring to the silted Pedieos River mouth north of town. The Macedonian Egyptian king Ptolemy II (308–246 BCE) established it as Arsinoe. An influx of Christian refugees fleeing the fall of Acre (1291) in Palestine transformed it from a tiny village into one of the richest cities in Christendom for a brief period of time. The Lusignan kings of Cyprus were crowned as kings of Jerusalem in the 14th-century Gothic-style cathedral of St. Nicholas in Famagusta, which is now a mosque. Genoa seized the port in 1372, and Venice seized it in 1489. The Venetians remodelled Famagusta’s fortifications and made it the capital of Cyprus. Despite being ravaged by war and earthquakes and now only partially inhabited, the old walled and bastioned town contains some of the finest examples of mediaeval military architecture still in existence. The walls are 50 feet (15 metres) high and 27 feet (8 metres) thick in places, and the citadel known as Othello’s Tower stands north of the well-preserved sea gate (rebuilt 1492), so named because a lieutenant-governor of Cyprus (1506–08) named Christoforo Moro was allegedly the model for the title character in Shakespeare’s play Othello. Famagusta surrendered to the Turks after a long and bloody siege in 1570–71.
From 1878 to 1960, Cyprus was occupied by the British. They constructed extensive harbour facilities at Famagusta, which became a naval base during war. During the British occupation, a modern suburb called Varosha was built south of Famagusta to serve as a commercial centre and tourist destination. Following the Turkish intervention in 1974, Varosha was closed to civilians and tourism was discontinued. Settlers from mainland Turkey were relocated to Famagusta, parts of Varosha (after 1976), and citrus-growing areas nearby. The Eastern Mediterranean University, which opened in 1986, is now located in Famagusta. Famagusta is included in the run of a ferry service that began in 1978 between Mersin, Turkey, and Latakia, Syria. The population was 34,803 in 2006.