LEMESOS (still widely known as “Limassol”) is a teeming multicultural city of 200,000 which grew substantially after 1974, when Greek Cypriots flooded in from the north. Since then, it’s welcomed migrants from Lebanon, Iraq and other Middle Eastern trouble spots. Russians, too, are very much in evidence – you’ll see Cyrillic script in menus and shop signs across town.
The city centre is remarkably compact. It stretches about 1km from the castle and old harbour to the Municipal Gardens in the west. Near the castle are a cathedral and mosque as well as the cool cafés, bars and restaurants of the redeveloped Carob Mill complex. Inland is the old Turkish quarter, ideal for aimless wanderings. Along the seafront a 16km pedestrian and cycle path links the old town with sandy beaches further east.
At the time of writing city-centre development projects were producing a lot of dust and disruption but the parts which have been completed bode well for the future, especially the new marina which should provide a classy focus point.
Once a nondescript fishing village overshadowed by its eminent neighbours Kourion to the west and Amathus to the east, Lemesos became a little more high profile when its competitors were destroyed in seventh-century Saracen raids. However, it was Richard the Lionheart who really put it on the map when he landed to rescue his sister Joan and his fiancé Berengaria from the ruler of Cyprus Isaac Komnonos.
The city received another boost to its fortunes a century later when, with the fall of Acre, the two great Crusader organizations, the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitallers, fell back to Cyprus and made Lemesos their headquarters. When the Templars were purged and outlawed in 1307, the Hospitallers adopted their lands and their influence. Lemesos’s story during the following two centuries was one of prosperity interspersed with earthquakes and attacks from the sea. During the Ottoman occupation from the sixteenth century onwards, it settled back into obscurity, stymied by a swingeing harbour duty designed to concentrate trade in Larnaka. This trend was partially reversed under British rule, with road building and harbour improvements, and in particular by the huge growth in British Empire demand for the region’s wine. By the end of the nineteenth century Lemesos was established as a major port. Its importance has since been enhanced by the Turkish invasion, which not only denied the republic access to the port of Famagusta, but created an influx of refugees from the north which more than tripled its population.Read More
- Lemesos Wine Festival
Richard the Lionheart
Richard the Lionheart
In April 1191 Richard the Lionheart of England was sailing from Messina to Acre on the Third Crusade when his fleet was dispersed by a storm. A number of ships were wrecked on the Cypriot coast, one carrying treasure destined to finance the campaign, another his sister Joan and his fiancé Berengaria. At the start of May Richard landed in Lemesos and demanded that the ruler of Cyprus, one Isaac Komnenos, return the two women and the treasure (which loomed largest in his mind it is difficult to say). Komnenos, who had a reputation as a violent bully, refused, so Richard promptly sacked the city and went on to conquer the rest of the island. This was done under the leadership of Guy de Lusignan, one of Richard’s crusader generals and at the time nominal king of the crusader state of Jerusalem. Komnenos was captured and put in silver chains (since, so the story goes, he’d been promised that he would never be put in irons). While this was going on, Richard and Berengaria were married in Lemesos, he becoming king of Cyprus, she becoming queen of both Cyprus and England. Richard then proceeded to pick up the reins of his main priority – the Crusade. To raise money for this expensive endeavour, he sold Cyprus to the Knights Templar who, when they found it more bother than it was worth, passed it on to Guy de Lusignan, who became first in a long line of Lusignan rulers of the island.
Feb & March
(10 days before Lent – usually Feb/March). All the usual components of a carnival are held in various parts of the city: masque balls, parties, parades of floats, fancy dress, singing, dancing, eating and drinking.
(early May). Includes traditional singing and dancing, a craft market as well as the flower parade along the seafront. Held in the Potamos Yermasoyia district, 3km east of the old town.
European Dance Festival
(wrialto.com.cy). Performances by European and Cypriot dance groups in the Rialto Theatre.
(early June) A sign of the growing influence of Russia on Cyprus. Dance, music, clowns, fireworks and a lot of commercial displays.
Plays by the bard mounted in the spectacular ancient theatre at Kourion (€20 admission).
Performance by a variety of contemporary dance groups, music groups and choirs. Only of interest to those who want to get an insight into Cyprus’s serious music scene, though the setting, in the ruins of Ancient Amathous, is wonderful.
Ethnic World Music Festival
(wrialto.com.cy). World music performed at the Rialto Theatre.
Lemesos Beer Festival
Free entrance, live music, and lots of local and imported beer. Held, like the wine festival, in the Municipal Gardens.
August, Sept & Oct
Lemesos Wine Festival
International Documentary Festival