By Evie Andreou
AROUND 300 people turned out for the inauguration of the reopening of the Othello Tower in Famagusta on Thursday night where Shakespeare’s Othello was performed by a bi-communal amateur group.
The tower and citadel, which is the biggest restoration work of the bi-communal Committee for Cultural Heritage, was co-funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission. Restoration, that cost more than €1m, lasted a year.
Leading the red carpet attendees, which included diplomats and officials, were the joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot heads of the committee, Takis Hadjidemetriou and Ali Tuncay, who were instrumental in the restoration of the building.
Hadjidemetriou said that Famagusta was the place where ambassadors used to give their credentials to the king.
“We are here today to bring our own message of common course and mutual respect,” he said, adding that “it has been centuries since it saw so many people from so many nations and heard so many languages like those that used to know in the past and that brought her wealth and glory.”
Like Othello, he said, Cypriots experienced enough pain from different Iagos – the man who convinced Othello his wife Desdemona was cheating on him thus murdering her mad with jealousy – while Ravelin city and the Martinego fort left behind them the war and conflict and have become places of art and creation.
The tower’s restoration was a dream for him ever since he was a child, Tuncay said, which also became a dream for
Hadjidemetriou, when he shared it with him.
“We do no treat monuments like stones but we acknowledge their value and importance to us all,” Tuncay said.
He added that except from cultural importance, the Othello Tower could also contribute financially to both communities.
“We can mutually benefit through cooperation on an equal basis, mutual trust and understanding by working toward the common good of both communities,” Tuncay said.
Cihan Sultanoglu, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (RBEC), said that the Othello Tower proudly reminds the importance of preserving history for generations to come.
Normunds Popens, Deputy Director-General for Implementation, DG Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission, said that future generations will look back one day on the work of the heritage committee not only with admiration and gratitude but also for its “exceptional contribution to restoring peace”.
The head of UNDP – Partnership for the future, Tiziana Zennaro, said that this is the eleventh project completed ever since the committee contributed to the work of the heritage committee, and the first in Famagusta.
“We owed it to the rich cultural heritage of the city,” she said.
Archaeologist Anna Marangou said that she remembered the last theatre plays staged at the Tower by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutions (NAAFI) and the Royal Air Force (RAF), around 1963.
The Othello Tower was a point of reference in medieval Famagusta, while in modern days the town was a “cosmopolitan place” where famous poets would frequent the beach, she said. She added that the town in the 1960s had close relation with Beirut, and Limassol with Alexandria.