CYPRUS: Larnaca, my kind of town

07 October, 2018 | Posted By: Charlie Charalambous

People who live in Larnaca, know the score whenever they venture out of the city limits and head for the bright lights of say Nicosia (old money) or Limassol (new money).

Once out of your comfort zone you will be looked down upon as some kind of country bumpkin who has the misfortune to live in a quiet backwater where time, investment and fashion forgot.

Larnaca is like the ugly sister who doesn’t get invited to the celebrity wedding for fear of embarrassing the well-to-do guests or be treated like the unwanted guest who will stutter and spill soup down his unfashionable tie.

For most Cypriots and tourists, Larnaca is that place that passes in a flash of grey as you hurry to the airport to go somewhere exotic or infinity more interesting. In all likelihood, if Larnaca didn’t have an airport people would find little excuse to visit the town.

Nicosia is the capital with its movers and shakers, so if anything happens it’s going to be brokered in a glitzy restaurant, sushi bar or wine cellar. It is the place to be if you want to network and become a power broker banker, lawyer or politician.

Nicosia is where deals get done, so the capital is never going to lag behind in infrastructure and investment. It arguably has the best schools, hospitals, universities and shops to boot.

Then down the coast at Limassol, the town is glistening with Russian wealth, expensive mansions, luxury hotels, flash motors, shipping companies, a thriving port and busy marina.

The place smells of money, expectation and ambition. It will not take second best for an answer, which is why it will accommodate Europe’s biggest integrated casino resort, is tapped into the oil and gas business ensuring its future is a blank cheque waiting to be signed.

Even the Famagusta district has that Ayia Napa buzz, the best sandy beaches and a booming economy driven by tourist dollars.

Although Paphos might consider itself the island’s poor relation, it can boast some top-class golf courses, world-renowned cultural heritage sites and attracts foreign investment for people – like the Chinese and British expats – who want to make a home on the island.

Paphos also has some great hotels, an airport and is quite relaxed about being a laidback, sleepy outpost that has its own way of doing things.

Rewind to Larnaca – which isn’t quite sure what it is. Neglected over the years as an afterthought – it isn’t really a business or financial centre like Limassol and Nicosia. It doesn’t have the quality hotels or cultural sites that Paphos or Ayia Napa can roll out either.

There is a port but there are no ships in it, there is a marina but its cramped, dilapidated and in need of redevelopment.

It is also a holiday resort but doesn’t attract the kind of numbers as the other towns, mainly because it lacks quality hotels and there’s not much to do on a cultural or entertainment level. You can only walk down the promenade and buy an ice cream so many times before it starts to grind your gears.

Having said all that, Larnaca is my kind of town, it just needs a helping hand to shine as bright as the other towns.

And the popularity of the Mackenzie area among the young and trendy show what Laranca can offer when it puts on a new Armani outfit and Gucci shoes.

To begin with, the authorities need to get their act together by removing those eye-sore oil storage tanks that clutter up prime coastal areas. There also needs to be movement on developing the port and the marina to meet 21st century standards in trade and leisure.

The rusty tankers have been there for too long and the shabby port area is crying out for redevelopment that will embrace the community and not just the rich and privileged.

Things have started to change recently with investors showing interest in reshaping the town and the opening of the Radisson Blu is the first luxury hotel to be built in Larnaca since ‘Night Fever’ was at number one in the pop charts. 

It is a sign that there is interest in giving the town a new lease of life that makes people want to visit and stay for a while rather than going straight to the airport.

So, see you down at the Salt Lake on any given Sunday but leave your snobbery back at the villa.