nicosia international airport

I Visited the Abandoned Nicosia International Airport in Cyprus

buffer zone green line nicosia cyprus
School in Buffer Zone

In September 2018, I was asked to travel to Cyprus and photograph the Buffer Zone in Nicosia. An exclusive opportunity, since this area is not accessible for civilians. It is a demilitarised zone (DMZ), patrolled by the United Nations. The goal of my visit was to take photos of the endangered architecture within the zone, and also bring the social aspect into the frame. In an attempt to bring the divided parts of Cyprus together again, the photos will be exhibited in the Centre of Visual Arts and Research in Nicosia. More about this project will appear on my blog after the 23rd of October 2018. My visit to Cyprus has been made possible thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Europa Nostra.

Since I was escorted by the United Nations throughout the Buffer Zone, they offered to combine it with a visit to the abandoned Nicosia International Airport. Not part of the initial project and goal, but a great chance for me to squeeze this in as well. If you’re interested in reading more personal stories about Nicosia, I can highly recommend this book on Amazon.

The airport

Before the Turkish invasion in 1974, Nicosia International Airport was the main airport of the island. It is located 8km west from Nicosia.

The airport has been built in the 30’s of the 20th century. Its first purpose was to serve as a military airport. American Bombers used the runway during the Second World War. After that war, commercial flights were introduced to the airport. The facilities at that point were very limited, until in 1949 the first terminal building opened. In the next 10 years, the building was being largely extended.  However, in 1968 a new, modern and for that time very high tech, terminal opened leading to the closure of the first terminal building. One of the fancy details the new terminal building has, were pressure sensors in front of the doors for automatic opening. This new terminal could accommodate a lot more passengers and 11 aircrafts.

nicosia international airport
Frontal view of the terminal building opened in 1968
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Airplane remains

6 Years after the opening, in 1974, plans were in place for the airport to extend so it could accommodate 16 aircrafts. This never happened. On July 15th 1974, right wing Greek nationalists overthrew the democratically elected president of Cyprus. This lead to a short closure of the airport. 2 Days later, on July 17th 1974, it was used to ferry troops from Greece to Cyprus to support the coup against the overthrown president. On July 18th 1974, the airport opened for civilian traffic again. This resulted in immens chaos, since foreigners tried to leave the island at the same time. Eventually, on July 20th 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus bombing the airport heavily and forcing its permanent closure. Two empty Cyprus Airways airliners were destroyed on the ground during the invasion on July 20th. On July 22nd 1974, 33 people were killed when 20 ageing Nord Noratlas and 10 C-47 Skytrains, of the 354 Transport Squadron “Pegasus”, were assigned to transport a Greek commando force to protect the airport from invading Turks.

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Air traffic control

Turkish forces invaded and captured 3% of the island before a ceasefire was declared. The Greek military junta collapsed and was replaced by a democratic government. In August 1974, another Turkish invasion resulted in the capture of approximately 40% of the island. The ceasefire line from August 1974 became the United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus and is commonly referred to as the Green Line. The reference to the ‘Green Line’ is due to the fact that the ceasefire line has been drawn with a green pencil.

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot Community and Turkish Cypriot Community discussed reopening Nicosia International Airport at the beginning of 1975. After the leader of the Greek Cypriot community, Archbishop Makarios, had initially rejected the Turkish Cypriot proposal to reopen the airport to international traffic under joint control, agreement to reopen it was ‘in principle’ reached during the negotiations in Vienna from April 28th to May 3rd 1975. However, discussions by a joint committee set up for that purpose were unproductive.

The last commercial flight out of Nicosia International Airport took place in 1977, under special authorisation from the United Nations. The flight was to retrieve three of the remaining Cyprus Airways aircrafts that were stranded at the airport since the invasion in 1974.

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Huge hall with natural light from the top
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Leading to the gate

With the invasion of the Turkish, the airport was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting between Turkish and Cypriot forces. The United Nations Security Council therefor declared it a United Nations Protected Area during the conflict. This required both of the side to withdraw at least 500 metres from the perimeter of Nicosia International Airport. With the ceasefire line signed on August 16th 1974, Nicosia International Airport became part of the Buffer Zone controlled by the United Nations. While the airport is not fully functioning anymore, United Nations helicopters are based at the site. It is also used as one of the sites for inter-communal peace talks and the home to a number of recreational facilities for United Nations personnel.

Following the closure of Nicosia International Airport a new airport, Larnaca International Airport, was opened in the Southern part of Cyprus in 1975. In the Northern part of Cyprus the Ercan International Airport was opened in 2004. There have been some plans for Nicosia International Airport to be reopened under United Nations control as a goodwill measure, but so far neither the Greek Cypriots nor the Turkish Cypriots have seriously pursued this option.

More photos of my visit to the Nicosia International Airport can be found below:

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Frontal airplane
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Staircase outside
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Large hall
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Luggage
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Remaining aircraft
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Kitchen
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Air traffic control
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Aircraft
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Air traffic control

 

 

10 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

A Rare View Inside the Buffer Zone in Nicosia Cyprus – Urban Photography by Roman Robroekreply
October 23, 2018 at 2:00 pm

[…] The Buffer Zone in Nicosia is part of the 7 Most Endangered Programme from Europa Nostra. My visit to Cyprus has been made possible thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Nations and Europa Nostra. Also, you might want to take a look at my article about my visit to the abandoned Nicosia International Airport. […]

Akash Ghulereply
June 1, 2019 at 9:37 am

Amazing an beautiful airport but government not use this place so embassy please look this airport property in your country

Olgun azizreply
August 1, 2019 at 8:06 am

When referring to the 1974 peace operation by the Turkish army it would be more accurate to say that the opposing forces were Greek Cypriots and Greek forces from Greece .
The initial invasion was by Greece firstly in 1974 and before by the Greek cypriots who by force of arms imprisoned the Turkish Cypriots into one third areas of the island and denied them their constitunal rights by ejecting them from the Cyprus parliament.
The world watched while the Turkish Cypriots were persecuted,the present Republic of Cyprus is an illegal entity without the Turkish Cypriot participation .
There can only be one solution to the problem that being two state ,with the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus being recognised .

I Photographed The Abandoned Nicosia International Airport In Cyprus – Boredmondayreply
August 8, 2019 at 12:38 pm

[…] More info: romanrobroek.nl […]

George greply
September 27, 2019 at 11:36 pm

Sadly the regional bully (the Turkish army) not only invaded and continues to occupy nearly half of Cyprus, but it’s at it in Syria too now.

Peterreply
October 1, 2019 at 11:19 am

Instead of repeatedly using the words ‘invasion’ and ‘invaded’ in regards to the Turkish peace operation, you should really look at the events that led up to the Turkish ‘intervention’ and realise it for what it was… a peace operation. Photos are amazing but you have been sucked into the lies and propaganda….

Leilareply
October 20, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Look at the history of the Turks…..repeated violent behaviours….1974 was more like a genosite….repeated violent behaviour from the turks
And cyprus was not the only country that experienced that. Here we are 2019 and the turks continue their genosite behaviour……in Syria…..more like Barbarians are they not????

Gracey Breply
December 10, 2019 at 10:20 am

So sad what has happened here in 1974. Aswell as Famagusta all the beautiful buildings that have been left since the war broke out. The beautiful beaches that are never used. Families that have lost there everything and unable to pass down to their next generations etc. For what ?. Never able to come to an agreement. Both sides lost as it will always be the same. Never rebuilt or agree. So a beautiful lost city for all time.

Ivarreply
January 12, 2020 at 5:27 pm

Leila, you are living in a dream world. You mention that the history of Turks is full of genocide and barbarism. You have been told these lies and they have unfortunately became your truth. What genocide Turkey is doing in Syria? Turkey is hosting more than 5 millions Syrian (arab, kurdish, turkish …) and defending its border with Syria. What genodice are you talking about? In Cyprus, Greek Cypriot killed, burned many Turks and all these are documented. But yet you blame Turks for genoice. This is completely crazy. All nations have been in war and millions of people have been killed in wars. If the Greeks have the chance they would kill all the Turks happily. I am surprised that many Turks still not aware of this hatred. They visit Greek islands. They treat them as brothers while they are completely living in hate world. They simply hate Turks and spoil all the vidoes, news with their crazy comments…

lazarousreply
February 6, 2020 at 4:14 pm

“On July 15th 1974, right wing Greek nationalists overthrew the democratically elected president of Cyprus. This lead to a short closure of the airport. 2 Days later, on July 17th 1974, it was used to ferry troops from Greece to Cyprus to support the coup against the overthrown president. “

2020 and still some people especially journalists don’t realize they know half of the truth. Right wing Greek nationalists with the support of the CIA. The CIA did the junta in Athens and the British organized the plot from inside Cyprus, by killing TC and blaming GC and vice versa. There’s a calendar published by the association of teachers in the occupied area 2 years ago that gives details to all of the crimes by the British. One of the reasons was a retaliation of the 1955-59.

For some here saying that all Turkey ever did was a peaceful whatever sham, they are flying way too high dreaming above their secure cloudy fence. Turkey always was and always will be a bully, a liar and a hunan rights abuser.

Turkish genocides down the years,
The Armenian Genocide 1914
The Assyrian Genocide 1914
The famine of Mount Lebanon 1915
The Greek Genocide 1913
The Hamidian massacres 1894
The Diyarbakır massacres 1895
The Batak massacre 1876
The Hakkari massacres 1843
The Massacre of Aleppo 1850
The Adana massacre 1909
Stara Zagora massacre, 1877
Famine of Mosul, 1917
Pontians genocide, 1919
Al Jwazzy tribe, Cyrenaica (Libya) 1817
The Dersim massacre 1937
The cyprus occupation 1974
The Maras massacre 1978
The Corum massacre 1980
The Sivas massacre 1993
The Tafas massacre 1918
The Massacre of Phocaea 1914
The Candia massacre 1898
The Constantinople massacre 1821
The Batak massacre 1876
The hill massacres, 1516
Smyrna, little Asia, 1922
Chios massacre, Greece

Government-sponsored pogroms of the 1950s that finished the Turks’ job of eliminating the large Christian populations from Asia Minor

1480, 813 Italians were massacred by the Ottomans for refusing to convert to Islam when the city of Otranto fell under Ottoman occupation.

Last but not least Cyprus felt the tyranny of the Turks during the Ottoman Empire, for many years. That’s when TC were created when GC changed religion to be saved by the tyranny and hunger. In other words TC are GC turned Muslim.

So learn the true history and not what your governments are imposing to your little brains with propaganda. It ain’t hard. Most times Independent journalism could be the answer.

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