To begin with, let's draw the boundaries of Skala.
Since the neighborhoods are informal, their borders are also unstable. Let's agree that Skala starts from the Faneromeni Street (i.e. the street of [Our Lady of the] Appeared) and stretches along the embankment of Piyale Paşa (Turkish admiral and conqueror of Cyprus) up to the alley of the same name.
The Skala area is surrounded by the sea on one side and Artemis (= Artemidos in genetive) Avenue on the other. It turns out to be a long quarter, fenced off by "Greek Orthodox", two "Turkish" and "pagan" streets. The boundaries of the Skala on Google Maps roughly coincide with ours.
Our journey will begin (and end) near the Larnaca Fortress and the Great Mosque.
We will talk about them later, but now we will start moving along the Piyale Paşa embankment towards the Mackenzie area and the airport.
If you have walked along the Finikoudes beach before, then you can immediately notice how the residential coastal houses changed after you walked around the Larnaca fortress.
Instead of expensive hotels, countless restaurants and bars, instead of expensive apartments, you find yourself among poor houses, built close to each other. Many of these houses require urgent repairs, and some of them cannot be saved by any restoration.
Yes. This is a unique quarter of Larnaca, a remnant of that old Cyprus that the elderly residents of the city remember.
Why is the Skala trapped in the past, while neighboring areas are actively being built up and modernized?
We'll talk about this, but first, let's feel the atmosphere of the city in the middle 20th century.
Most of the residents of this part of the district and old houses are of the older generation.
They have breakfast every morning on their balconies at dawn, when the southern Mediterranean sun just rises over the hills of British Dhekelia. Then they visit each other, visit local shops and stores, watch TV in the evenings and drink a lot of coffee. Their adult kids come to them and leave little grandchildren for the weekend.
Their way of life resembles… if not a Cypriot village… then a very small city with only one difference - they live in the very center of a "large" Cypriot city, and this embankment is full of tourists in the summer season.
It turns out to be an amazing picture.
Thousands of foreigners, Russian mothers with baby strollers, young Dutchmen, British pensioners walk along the sea. There are Americans, Chinese and many Scandinavians. Many make photos of the sea and the new embankment, or of these strange shabby houses. Meanwhile, the residents of these buildings live typical measured village life.
Just imagine: Summer. The doors and windows of the house are wide open.
There is a round table inside, the TV is on. Old residents are having dinner. Everyone is in home clothes or even pajamas. In the next house, where everything is also open because of the hotness, there is a family conflict. Next house, the whole family watches TV. An old man sleeps on the balcony, on the ground floor, half a meter away from walking Chinese or Swedes, who are a little shocked by the "tourist quarter".
The one-story houses in Skala are mixed with nice restaurants. For example, here in the "Stefanos Fish Tavern" you can have a wonderful fish soup for only €5.
The locals do not seem to notice the crowds of tourists at all and live their own lives.
They wear simple (let's call, "rural") clothes while visiting a nearby store, repair their old cars here, go to a hairdresser, and spend their evenings in a cafeteria.
In addition to the fact that the majority of residents are of the older generation, they have one more thing in common - they all have experienced a terrible tragedy that changed their life.
Their life was divided into "before" and "after" forty years ago. Therefore, this area seems to be frozen in time.
Let's take a look at the photo below.
Here, on our Piyale Paşa embankment, in the middle of the Skala area, is a building with the inscription ΤΟ ΣΠΙΤΙ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΝΤΕΑΣ (House of Kontea). This is the key that will help us unlock the first secret of the area.
Kontea is a village located between Larnaca and Famagusta.
A terrible war came there in 1974. The territory of the village was occupied by Turkish troops, the local Greek-speaking population had to collect their personal belongings and flee to the south of the island, to Larnaca, to Skala, where a whole quarter was formed for refugees who had to be evacuated from the northern regions.
They left their family fields, farms, left their homes and the graves of their parents.
They settled in apartments that would never belong to them. Therefore, they have nothing but bright memories of their past lives. Because of these memories, their life stopped in the terrible 1974.
This is not the only secret of the Skala.
We'll talk about others a bit later. Now we are reaching a small intersection, the one-way road turns into a two-way one here. Our Piyale Paşa Avenue formally becomes Tasos Mitsopoulos Avenue, a Cypriot politician who died untimely in 2014. He managed to be the deputy of parliament from the municipality of Larnaca, minister of communications, and then he was appointed head of the Ministry of Defense, a week before his unexpected death.
However, the name is new, so the locals still call this part of the avenue Piyale Paşa.
But this is not so important for us. More important is that here is the end of Old Skala, the harbor for the victims of the war, andnew modern (or almost modern) quarters begin here, they look like buildings of the neighboring fashionable Mackenzie area.
The Mackenzie area has grown a lot in recent decades, but it is not so easy for it to grow (there is an airport on one side, on the other - Salt Lake with a park area, on the third - the sea). Thus it has to absorb the neighborhoods of Skala.
So one-story buildings here are next to multi-apartment five-story buildings or even high-rise buildings.
Another new building will be built here, and New Skala will come very close to the old one.
Dense buildings appear here. Many houses still have unsold apartments.
Near a border with Mackenzie, construction begins on one of the largest projects in Skala - NAOC. Now this place looks like this.
As we can see the activity of locals, the project attracts attention even at the stage of initial construction.
Two skyscrapers will appear here in the future.
Let's think again. We started with the shabby houses of the pre-war period (and we will come back to them later), where Grek Cypriot refugees live, and now we see elite real estate, from where incredible views of the old part of the city can be seen.
The proximity of the airport is one of the features of Skala.
Immediately behind the new complex is the Larnaca District Aliens and Immigration Office. Piyale Paşa street, which separates Skala from Mackenzie, is also placed here. Our journey along the embankment has ended, but we can come inside the migration office.
'The International Organization for Migration in Cyprus will help you to return home with safety and dignity.' If you stay a little longer without legal documents.
Also on the border of Skala and Mackenzie begins Larnaca Marina (i.e. small port) and the local fish market.
As in absolutely any part of Cyprus, the "feline population" of Skala is much larger than the "human" one.
The port overlooks the center of Larnaca: New Skala with new buildings, the low-rise Old Skala and the Marina area (high-rise buildings in the distance), we will talk about the Marina area another time.
Now we will reveal another secret - what 'Skala' means and why this word has two meanings in the language of the inhabitants of Cyprus.
Skala is an old name, and is probably associated with the Turkish 'iskele' (port).
This area has been called so since the time of the Ottoman rule, then Larnaca was divided into two parts: Skala and Tuzla. Moreover, these two areas could be marked as different settlements on old maps. In this case, Larnaca was Tuzla (this is the Turkish name of the city), but Skala was a separate town!
Then the term Skala began to absorb the names of other areas and even the name of the city in colloquial speech, and soon the locals (both Greek and Turkish Cypriots) began to call the entire Larnaca Skala. Do not be surprised if you decide to learn Greek and then you will hear that the locals call other areas of the city Skala. This is OK.
Skala is both the neighborhood of Larnaca and the whole city of Larnaca.
Therefore, by purchasing a home somewhere in the business center or in Mackenzie (even in Livadia or Oroklini), you will become a "skaliotis" (Σκαλιώτης) and a "skaliotissa" (Σκαλιώτισσα) (masculine and feminine, respectively). These mean 'a resident of Larnaca.'
Now we will continue our journey. We have walked the entire embankment, reached New Skala and the border with Mackenzie. Now let's go deep into the Skala area and look at the beautiful new buildings.
Due to the proximity to Mackenzie, many of the complexes here are also called Mackenzie.
It is not surprising! The neighboring area has a famous name, which is known not only by the inhabitants of the island, but also by foreign investors and even ordinary buyers.
Therefore, part of the property called "Mackenzie" is located here in Skala.
But this area is no worse (and no better). The only difference is that there is no beach where you can swim (you need to walk 10 minutes), but there is an excellent promenade where you can walk, run, ride a bike or, for example, a scooter.
If you choose real estate in the new Skala buildings, you will face the same problem that the residents of Mackenzie have- there are many restaurants, cafes, bars, but there is practically no infrastructure for bedroom communities: large food and hardware stores, cultural institutions.
This is not so critical for residents of new buildings, since almost everyone has a car (or even cars). Ten minutes along the avenue of Artemis and you are in the supermarket. Five more minutes - and you can take the child to school. The inhabitants of the old part of Skala are used to local small facilities: their small shops, cultural centers (like the one we saw above) and small workshops.
Here we can see one of the high-rise buildings (11 floors and 33 apartments) completed last year.
At the moment, you can buy two apartments in it:
1. 136 m² (living space 85 m²), 10th floor, view of the sea and old part of the city. Two bedrooms and two rooms. For €638.000 (plus VAT). Details can be found here.
2. More economical option - 5th floor, 118 m² (living space 87 m²), 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. View of mountains, sea and old Larnaca. €435.000 (plus VAT). Details are here.
By purchasing any of the above apartments, you will have the opportunity to become skaliotis (skaliotissa) and obtain permanent residence in Cyprus (and the possibility of obtaining European citizenship in future).
But now we should continue our journey. After a little stroll along New Skala, we will go through the small streets back to the old part of the city.
We will be greeted by colorful houses.
By a huge number of construction projects, thanks to which the residential areas of New Skala - Mackenzie are expanding towards the center.
And by huge vacant lots, which are just waiting to be built up with houses.
However, not every land in Skala is suitable for real estate construction.
Nothing can be built in a certain part of this area.
Parking in a plot where it makes no sense to build a new home
Well, actually it is not impossible. Of course, you can build something, but an unknown person may come the next day and demand through the court that you move out. Yep. The person can appear from nowhere. And take the lot with all the real estate located on it. This is the third feature of the Skala area.
Now about it in more detail.
Have you noticed the name of the Skala embankment and the street between Skala and Mackenzie?
Piyale Paşa, they are named after the famous Turkish admiral.
Let's take a look at other streets. Parallel street to the embankment is Umm Haram Street - she was a confidant of the Prophet Muhammad, she was buried not far from here. New buildings are also located on the streets of Tuz Hani, Istanbul, and the old houses are placed on streets of Kocatep, Selim, Ahmet Kenan.
Although these new apartments are located on Amazon Street!
Finally, it is worth asking the question, why do refugees live here in Old Skala? Who gave them houses? Where did the owners go?
You probably guessed it.
Skala is a former Turkish Cypriot quarter. De-facto. There are very few Turkish Cypriots left here (although they are!), but a significant part of this territory is legally T-C.
When war broke out in 1974, a large Turkish Cypriot community lived in Skala.
When the Turkish army occupied a third of the island, the local Turkish speakers had to flee to the north (do not forget that before the war there were bloody ethnic confrontations, and the local Turkish Cypriots, who were in a numerical minority, were afraid for their lives).
However, according to the law of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots are an integral part of Cypriot society and their citizens, therefore their property cannot be confiscated just because they had to flee to the north.
Until the Turkish Cypriots return (or the Cyprus dispute is resolved), their property is transferred to a special management and, for example, can be rented out to the Greek refugees.
The circle is now complete.
The Skala area is a kind of museum of 1974.
Real estate in the old part of the neighborhood belongs to people with a crippled fate. People who had to leave everything and run north. Many of them have already died, and their children do not even remember that their parents still have real estate in Larnaca. And that exactly the same people with exactly the same crippled fate are now living out their life in this real estate.
Of course, new buildings in New Skala are not located on Turkish Cypriot plots, so no one will ever take away your apartment.
It is very easy to find Turkish Cypriot property here. Like here, where high-comfort apartment buildings are replaced by… trailers.
Refugees from the north have been living here for many decades on Turkish plots. They cannot build a normal house here, as the property can be taken away any day.
Some Turkish Cypriot houses have been destroyed over time.
Some can live no more than 5-10 years if they are not reconstructed.
Yes, we are returning to Old Skala through small streets.
However, we should not assume that all Turkish Cypriot property here is in total decline. Some of the Turkish Cypriots returned (we will talk about this later) and received the keys to their houses back.
The houses of the greatest architectural features (as well as seafront houses) have been transferred to the management of some organizations or are being rented out.
For example, here is a very well preserved house (British colonial style and a Middle Eastern balcony above the front door).
Or something like that.
Now a significant part of dilapidated houses begin to be reconstructed. And it is difficult to understand whether this is Turkish Cypriot property, or the Greek Cypriots have found the strength and resources to renovate their own house.
You can also find good pubs here. As we can see the top floors falling apart, we dare to assume that the pub is renting Turkish Cypriot property.
Or just cute cityscapes.
And, of course, there are many, many cats.
Is it safe to walk and even to live in this area, in the midst of devastation and wastelands?
Sure. This is one of the safest and friendliest areas in Larnaca.
Let's think. Everyone knows each other here, people who have experienced the war and who know the value of human peace and good neighborliness live here. The area looks like this only because no one wants to renovate Turkish Cypriot real estate, as it cannot be transferred to them. Who will take care of someone else's house, which may be taken away tomorrow?
We met a local resident. He called to his house for a mug of tea and told about his difficult fate.
He has a common Greek name. He grew up in one of the Red Villages, which was occupied by Turkish troops in 1974. He had his own plantation, inherited from his grandparents, and it brought them a lot of income. He had to leave everything and run to the Skala. Together with his parents and children.
In Skala, they got an apartment of Turkish Cypriots.
Who are the owners of this house? Where do the owners live now? Did they survive the war? Our friend still doesn't know.
He raised two sons in Skala. When they grew up, the family left for Britain. Later, our new friend returned, but his children stayed abroad.
He lives in a small Turkish Cypriot house, but he still keeps documents for his property in the north of the island.
What if the Cyprus issue is finally resolved? Then he will be able to go to his parents' house, and the real owners of this property will finally return here… but these are his dreams.
What about his neighbors?
Our friend's neighbors are the same older generation refugees. However, there are also Turkish Cypriots.
When the military campaign stopped, when the shooting stopped in the Larnaca district, then the hatred between the Greeks and the Turks that reigned in the Cypriot cities ended overnight.
At the same time, some of the Turks returned to their homes.
They got their home back, they returned to their home. But their area was no longer the same. Turkish speech disappeared on the street, only a mosque and a cemetery remained. Oh yes, and a large number of Turkish street names.
Garage where cars are repaired.
Over the course of four decades, many Turkish Cypriots have become heavily Hellenized. The older generations still speak in a specific accent, which can be recognized from the first word, but some younger children are no longer different from the Greek Cypriots.
Only wacky antics in the form of crossed out Turkish names and constant actions with a request to rename Turkish streets in the Greek way remind of the past conflict between the communities.
A large mosque is visible in the distance. This means that we are returning to where we started our journey.
As already mentioned, the mosque is one of the few that reminds of the Turkish past of the Skala. Now this part of the neighborhood is being actively modernized.
And the old houses of the British colonial past should get a second life.
This is the largest mosque in the city of Larnaca, therefore it has two names: Kebir and Büyük.
What do they mean? Very simple. Büyük means 'big' in Turkish, and بير / kabir / also means 'big', but in Arabic.
Lifehack: the largest mosque in Limassol is called the same way - Kebir or Buyuk. Everything is very simple.
It is noteworthy that our mosque was sponsored by the World Islamic Call Society represented by the state of Libya.
Libya... which previously financed large projects to restore Muslim shrines, and now itself lies in ruins after the civil war and needs to be rebuilt.
Finally, we will mention the Larnaca fortress.
This is not only an interesting landmark and museum, but also an excellent place from which you can watch our Skala from above.
Сlassic views of the Old one-story Skala and the New Skala with new buildings.
We hope that this article has helped you get a general idea of what Larnaca is. Contact the experienced DOM real agency specialists in Larnaca at +357 24030062 or visit Gregoriou Afxentiou 7, Larnaca, 6023, Cyprus. Here you will always be provided with competent advice on renting (out), buying and selling property.