Professor Bowen has recently completed an assessment of the environmental and cultural assets of Cyprus as a senior Fulbright scholar. The environmental assets assessed included high grounds, forests, soils, surface and ground water and habits. These natural assets were combined to define a composite constraint map for the island.



There were three categories of constraints for different environmental sensitivities including: critical environmental areas-the-most constrained areas (no development), fragile environmental areas-where development controls and restraints are essential (only limited development), and sensitive environmental areas, where low density is only allowed, and development practices are regulated.

Each environmental variable was first treated as an univariable. Topography and water resources were assessed as individual attributes or assets. Then attention was turned to the cumulative or composite picture of the environmental attributes. In order to accomplish this, overlays of each variable were prepared. Each overlay was constructed in such a way to define areas that are sensitive to development impacts. Each variable was mapped to represent the spatial areas, which present constraints to development. For instance, developing on steep slopes presents additional cost to develop including retaining walls, leveling or filling sites. The attached map is a composite overlay of topography, forest, water resources, soils, and habitats. The overlay depicts development constraints. The constraints relate to the highlands, erosive quality, aquifer recharge, and forest resources and species habitats. The composite constraints depict areas where development should not occur, where development will contribute negative environmental impact, and/ or where it is going to be more expensive to develop.

There are three levels of constraints-critical, fragile and sensitive lands. The critical environmental areas are those places where a multiple overlap of development constraints exists. In this instance, it is obvious that the Troodos and Kyrenia Mountains, as well as Karpas and Akamas Peninsulas and Cape Greko and Cape Konnakitis are critical environmental areas. The salt lake and peninsula between Episkopi and Akrotiri Bay are also critically important. These seven areas constitute the most critical environmental areas for protection and conservation. Development in these areas should be extremely curtailed. If development occurs, it should be stringently regulated and controlled.

The fragile areas are adjacent to or surrounding the critical areas. Foothills, coastal dunes, and wildlife habitats constitute most of these areas. Areas with fragile environments require careful control of development.
Click Image to EnlargeA thorough analysis of the impacts of development should be conducted in such areas. High-density development should not be allowed. Site plan review of development proposal is a necessity and the effect on the environmental systems that exist need to be specifically enumerated. Different fragile zones have varying sets of environmental constraints and variable, so review and regulation of development will have a unique combination of factors and requirements.

The final environmental zone is called sensitive lands. These zones may possess one or two environmental constraints. A single environment constraint, like an aquifer recharge area may call for only low density or agriculture development with regulations on water withdrawal, sewage treatment, pesticide and fertilizer use and limits to impervious surfaces. While in another case, a dry riverbed and a wildlife habitat may occupy the same space where regulation on hunting and extraction should be severe, but recreation uses encouraged. Each constraint presents specific regulatory measures and any combination of constraints may require additional protection measures.

As can be seen from the composite map, a large portion of Cyprus represents environmentally important areas and therefore, calls for limits to unregulated development as well as requires environmental regulations to conserve and protect the resource! asset.


A major focus of the cultural assessment was to identify and locate significant buildings, ruins, and physical artifacts of past occupying civilizations. Cyprus is a mosaic of Asian and European civilizations because of its strategic location in the Mediterranean, the copper reserves and abundant wood supply. Cyprus was coveted by most of the world empires that existed in and around the Mediterranean. Cyprus, throughout history, was owned, occupied, or ruled by most of the empires or civilizations in the Mediterranean Basin. The assessment of cultural assets began with existing cities and places. Attention then turned to ancient places and ruins. Cultural places including mosques, churches, monasteries, villages, and prehistoric sites were also assessed. Natural features, scenic areas, views, vistas, and natural landscapes were also combined to depict a cultural landscape.

There are three sets of historic assets that were assessed, historic areas! districts, historic structures, and ancient places! ruins. Historic and cultural buildings number in the thousands in Cyprus and given the time constraints, it was decided to look at the issue from a broad perspective. In place of a detailed building inventory, a districtl area strategy was employed. Major urban areas that encompassed historic districts were assessed first. The assessment highlights the most important clusters of buildings. The areas assessed were considered to have a critical mass of buildings, a strong historical context and represent major occupying civilizations.

The historic urban centers were addressed first. The capital Nicosia is the most dominant historic urban center. In the center of the city is a Venetian walled town with 11 bastions stretching 4.83 kilometers. The walls were built between 1567-1570. In addition to this maj or historic artifact, Nicosia has the most historic structures in Cyprus. Outside Nicosia is the traditional village of Phikardou, where several traditional structures have been restored! rehabilitated.

Kyrenia, in the north is a place of historical importance with its medieval harbor, fort and shipwreck museum. It is a place of great beauty and tranquility. Not far from Kyrenia is located the Bellapais Abbey with its magnificent cloister and gardens.

In the eastern section of the island is Famagusta with its walled city. Famagusta is a combination of medieval and Venetian walls, which contains Othello's Tower of Shakespearean fame.

In the south is the city of Lamaka. Larnaka is the site of an ancient port and fort. The city has six archeological sites and cultural monuments. Three historic churches and monasteries are within the city. Just outside the city is the location of the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, the third holiest place for Muslims in the world.

On the far western side of the island is Pafos. Although one of the smaller urban places, it is very important in an historical! cultural context. Pafos, with its medieval harbor and castle, is actually the site of several ancient civilizations. There are 26 archeological sites and cultural monuments, most notably the House of Dionysus (mosaics). Pafos is listed as a World Heritage site.

Limassol is situated between two ancient kingdoms, Kourion and Amathous. It is the site of an ancient port and medieval castle. King Richard, the Lionheart of England, stayed there during the third crusade. Here Richard married Berengaria at the chapel of St. George and acquired a taste for Cypriot wine. The major historic site is the medieval castle and the old pier.

Large buildings of historic significance include the three Kyrenia Mountain's medieval castles. Buffavento Castle was built as a part of a defensive chain against Arab raids. Its summit is 950 meters above sea level. It's name means "defier of winds". The castle offers staggering views of Nicosia and the Troodos Mountains in the south.

Kantara Castle dates back to 1191 and Richard the Lionheart. Kantara in Arabic means, "bridge". The castle bridges the mountain range and contains spectacular views north and south. The Lusignans remodeled it in the 12th century. Many times, it served as a shelter for defeated Barons and Kings.

St. Hilarion Castle was named after a hermit monk who lived and died in a cave on the mountain. Originally built as a watchtower for Arab pirates when the Lusignans occupied the island, it was used as a summer residence.

Also is in the north in the Kyrenia Mounains is Bellapais Abbey-"Abbey of Peace". Bellapais Abbey is considered to be the most beautiful gothic building in the near east. Augustine Monks first settled here when they fled Jerusalem in 1187. The original construction dated between 1198-1205. Today, it is noted for its cloister and gardens and commanding view of Kyrenia.

Click Image to EnlargeOn the far tip of the Karpas Peninsula is the monastery of Apostolos Andreas. Legend says that St. Andrew was returning to Palestine and his ship put in at this site. He struck a rock and out came water. The water was said to cure illnesses.

founded the Apostolic Church of Cyprus in 45 AD. When he arrived on the island, he was said to be accompanied by St. Paul and St. Mark.

In addition to buildings, there are several archeoligical sites of major importance. In Pafos is located the Basilica of Khrysopolitissa with magnificent mosaics. The tombs of the kings are also adjacent to the city. Also, there are many other archeological sites in and around the city.

The ruins of the ancient kingdoms in Kourion and Amathous are outside of the city of Limassol. Amathous is said to be a vast area of ruins, although little archeological excavations have been undertaken. Amathous developed into a city early (310 BC) and continued to flourish until Byzantine years. Also in the area is the Acropolis and Temple of Aphrodite.

The Greeks founded Kourion. It sits some 60 meters above the sea with steep cliffs on three sides. In the 4th century AD, an earthquake destroyed many structures. Arab raid also seriously damaged the city during the 7th century. The amphitheater and mosaics are adjacent to the site, which overlooks a magnificent beach.

Salamis and the royal tombs are also significant archeological sites. Salamis history goes back to the 11th century BC. Most believe it was settled by residents of Enkomi after the earthquake of 1075 BC. The city continued until the Roman period. In the dark ages, Salamis was an important trading center. The ruins consist of gymnasium and baths, amphitheater, Roman villas, two Basilicas, and reservoir, and the Temple of Zeus. The royal tombs are not far to the east, which consists of a complex of tombs carved into solid rock-a "hive of giant cells". Also not far from Salamis is the Ruins of Enkomi, one of the oldest settlements in Cyprus, where evidence of copper works exist.

Soli, in the northwest, is adjacent to Morfou Bay and dates back to the Assyrians (700 BC). Soli became a prosperous city during the Roman period. Settlements in the area were probably as early as 11 BC due to fertile soils, good water, and a protected harbor. The ruins consist of the Basilica of Soli, with significant mosaics, and a Roman theatre. Nearby is the Palace of Vouni, which overlooks the ruins of Soli.


In addition to the ancient ruins, which can be found all over Cyprus, there are some natural features that are important to Cypriot culture. Two of the most important features are the mountains and forests. At one time, Cyprus was the "Green Island", with abundance of wood and copper (important resources in the Mediterranean Basin), which is why it was occupied by a large number of ancient civilizations. This explains the layering of histories and the multi-cultural factors that are exhibited on the island.

Click Image to EnlargeThe dry salt lakes and wetlands are also a major natural feature that influenced Cypriot culture. There is no more exotic creature than the flamingo, nor is there more desirable hunting in Cyprus than when the birds migrate from Africa to Euro-Asia, which explains the large

number of dedicated hunters. Finally, the aquifers in part explain the importance of agriculture and the agricultural products like wine, which have had a major impact on Cypriot culture.
Click Image to Enlarge


The island of beauty -The island of Aphrodite- is in part explained by the beautiful landscape. Although once lush and green, today the desertifying landscape is quite beautiful. Many flowers and flowering shrubs still exist. The views and vistas on Cyprus are magnificent. The Troodos and Kyrenia Mountains offer beautiful views of the landscape and seascape. They also provide a spectacular backdrop from the sea and Mesaoria Plain. They also are a factor in the view of the interior from every major city.

The Karpas Peninsula is unsurpassed in views and vistas from land and sea. It is quite remarkable. The Akamas is also quite beautiful from the coast at Pafos to the mountains, to the baths of Aphrodite at Polis to the Chrysocbou Bay. The Akamas is truly a nature paradise, with its turtle beaches and bird island.

Between Limassol and Pafos is one of the most spectacular coastal drives. Not only is the seashore beautiful but also the desertifying foothills are magnificent. Between Larnaka and Nicosia there are two beautiful valleys, one east of the main road and one west. These valleys are not only scenic, but possess an atmosphere of tranquility.

Morfou Bay and Cape Kormakitis are a very scenic aquatic vista. Cape Kormakitis although quite stark is a place to view magnificent sunsets and the mountains of Turkey in the north. Cape Greko on the other side of the island is a national park where scenic views of Ayia Napa and the Protaras coast are striking.

These scenic places, views and vistas are what make Cyprus a special, beautiful tranquil and desirable place. They should be preserved and protected just as forest, wetlands and habitats. Special places require special consideration, according to Professor Bowen. Beautiful views and vistas are as important to tourism as banks are to Economic Development.


His strategy for protecting, conserving, and restoring these environmental and cultural assets is quite bold. He proposes the whole island be designated a Bio Sphere Reserve and the buffer zone environmental lab. He also proposes to create or expand four natural areas as National Parks including the Troodos Mountain range, the Kyrenia Mountain range, the Akamas and the Karpas peninsulas.

Click Image to EnlargeHis plan for cultural enhancement calls for five historical districts within existing urban centers designated World Heritage Sites, and that several historical structures be designated world Heritage Buildings. In addition he calls for the salt lakes at Larnakas and Limassol be designated RAMSAR sites.

Click Image to EnlargeThe plan is simple: preserve, protect, and restore. Preserve and conserve the natural resources especially high ground, forests, habitats, and aquifers. Conserve and restore historic and cultural resources especially ancient site, historic buildings, and historic districts in urban center and rural villages. Religious places, structures and artifacts are essential to preserve, conserve, and restore. Religion is in many cases at the heart of ancient civilizations.


His work in Cyprus is a follow up to work he did on the Mondego River valley and costa! latoral in Central Portugal. In his studies in Portugal he was able to link the natural and cultural environment together and package them as tourism attractions. There attractions, because their economic worth, were worthy of protection, conservation and restoration in the Portugal studies.

Professor Bowen's work on development in environmentally sensitive areas began some years ago in studies he conducted in the Cayman Islands. In these studies tourism was linked to environmental damage and this damage was linked to deterioration of coral reefs, the very roots that created the tourism demand were being destroyed by development practices which created tourist accommodations and vacation activities. He tenned the phenomia the development dilemma or cycle of decline for high visitation tourist areas.

The question he raised in the Caymans are sustainability issues. Since these studies he has returned to the Caymans and studied other Caribbean Islands and developed a model of sustainability.

Posted by Patrick S. O'Brien on April 3, 2001