Welsh soldiers are currently documenting abandoned neighborhoods in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus, photographing a region that “stretches across the entire breadth of the island, covering 134 square miles.” Their ultimate goal is “to catalog everything in the area of the city that is part of a buffer zone established by the UN to end the fighting.” Quoting the soldier in charge:
“The people had to leave their homes and shops pretty quickly, leaving everything behind. There’s children’s clothing, boxes of unused shoes. Of course, all this stuff still belongs to the people who left it.”
Some of the things lying in vacant blocks also include brand new cars made in 1974 that have been left in hollow shopping centres.
“There’s a Toyota Corolla 1974 which has 38 miles on the clock,” said [Corporal Kelvin Roberts]. “When you open the doors you get hit with a fresh smell of untouched leather and the plastic wrapping remains on the inside of the doors. It’s a bit spooky.”
I sat beside the pool talking to our host, trying to figure out why we were there. Down the coast, thirty miles away in the haze, a tall cluster of glass-and-steel buildings hugged the shore. “What’s that city?” I asked. It looked like Miami. “Varosha,” she said. Completely evacuated in the 1974 conflict. A ghost town on the dividing line between North and South Cyprus. The only people there were UN patrol units and kids from either side who entered the prohibited zone to live out a J.G. Ballard fantasy of decadent parties in abandoned seaside resorts.
Of course, this is also the same city where, in the recent book Divided Cities, we read about a subterranean network “where all the sewage from both sides of the city is treated.” A casually post-political waste-management engineer jokes that “the city is divided above ground but unified below.” It is a kind of infrastructural conjoined twin.
Will the Welsh soldiers also document the sewers?
(Thanks to John Maas for the tip).