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Cyprus: Could it become the “new” playground for the rich and famous.

By: Editor-in-chief Lenush Lebedeva

Coming from London the flight was four and half hours, as usual within the EU if the duration of the flight time doesn’t exceed 5 hours, business class tickets are just a title. The seats are tiny and uncomfortable, nowhere to stretch your legs, with one caveat – the middle seat remains vacant. Luckily, I was on the late-night flight which was empty, and I stretched out over 3 seats. Upon arrival to Larnaca, I expected the airport to be tired, old, looking like something that came out of a 90’s Russia film set. To my delight it was the furthest thing from it. It was clean, modern, spacious, the parking and surrounding greenery was freshly cut and mowed, the road leading out of the terminal was surprisingly well groomed, in other words an absolutely normal airport terminal for any developed EU Country. Entering the highway, I noticed that it was quite similar to the UK, but there was a lot of surrounding land, even reminded me of those “road trip” films set in America, driving through the dessert. I must say the impression the NEW airport gave me did not last long. The following day my boyfriend and I went out to Limassol, to see the town, he lived on the outskirts so to speak. For better or worse, if the highway reminded me of a dessert, then the town centre of Limassol resembled a crappy neighbourhood in London. Nevertheless, it had a certain charm to it, dare I say it, the main road was reminiscent of an LA promenade. Piers on the sea-side road, full of young people skating and rollerblading to the sounds of the waves breaking upon the rocks underneath and seagulls chirping in the blue sky with the sun warming the playgrounds where toddlers and children ran around playing while their Grandparents watched them off wooden benches, enjoying the warm September breeze. Across the road however, it was not quite as picturesque. The sidewalks were dirty and uneven, it was just bizarre how the pavement was partially new and old concrete, part stone and part brick work, in one word it was a disaster. There were one too many ‘off license’ and souvenir stores on the main beach road, and the infrastructure seemed non-existent. On one hand one could drive past a modern built full glass office building, and straight after encounter a massive yellow sign with blue letters saying: “supermarket souvenirs”. Likewise, a nice residential area with big expensive houses was right next to a weird beat-up little pub, the entire area was full of dust from all the construction work surrounding it. It was baffling to me. I just could not wrap my head around the fact that the new Limassol Marina was NOT the most sought-after neighbourhood. Admittedly, it did take me some time to fully grasp how things worked around here. I had nothing to compare it to, as a Londoner, I am used to the rich neighbourhoods being fully equipped with all the necessities. Restaurants, shops, bank branches, you name it. Of, course I am not comparing the two now, but as a new arrival I could not help myself. And to tell the truth, I saw the potential of this sunny island, even back then.

As you have most likely already realised, I now live on this beautiful island. I was away from Cyprus for two years, and it was as if I had returned somewhere completely new. Overlooking the infrastructure, which yes, is still as disastrous as ever. That sea-side road I wrote about earlier was full of fresh new buildings, and more were coming, as there is an enormous amount of construction sites in Limassol and Cyprus in general. Nonetheless, although the focus is primarily on the construction and real estate industry, which by the way is thriving here. Every Tom, Dick and Harry gets in on the action by collecting commissions off of selling properties. Middleman is what we call it. Here it is a profession, and there is no shame in that. I truly believe that making money alone is a profession whether linked to a job or not, as long as it is legal of course. When the investor passport scandal blew up, everyone was running around like headless chickens practically sh**ting themselves at the thought of what is to happen to all the towers and how it will affect the economy. Now, let me remind those who don’t know. Cyprus used to run an investment program just like many other Countries, allowing wealthy individuals to invest in property or other, and acquire a passport within 6 months to 1 year. Given this program was working successfully it helped boost the real estate industry, hence, why many followed in that direction and invested a lot of money into constructing towers and houses, that would later be sold in the high six figures, regardless, whether they were worth even a fraction of that. Investors were mainly filthy rich people who often acquired a property just for a passport and never even saw the inside of it. Needless to say, this was a scary time for the Cypriots, whether in the industry or not, as the economy would suffer immensely if these investments don’t make the expected returns. The point I’m heading to: Is Cyprus selling itself short??!

Every now and again a new restaurant opens. Even during the pandemic, excluding the lock down, I could get reservations with difficulty, and that’s with my connections and the fact that my husband and I eat early. In most places the food is delicious, the ambiance is no less elaborate than any upscale restaurant in Monaco or Mykonos in some cases even better. The prestigious hotels… the facilities are spoken for. The rooms are grand, the drive up to the hotels are opulent. Every summer there is a new beach and beach restaurant opening, inviting the Islands elite and the prominent vacationers to enjoy drinks, the crystal water and a little day party. In addition to all that, I believe I can be a good judge of a well-dressed crowd, and trust me I have been many places, around the richest of the rich with access to anything their heart desires, but… When entering a trendy restaurant or beach in Limassol, I can honestly say it is one of the most stylishly dressed crowds. You see young girls and reputable women dressed to the tee. Well combed hair and perfectly manicure fingers. The men are either dressed in classic linens, jeans and t-shirts, depending on the season or they resemble a character out of a Justin Bieber music video, wearing the latest trends.

One thing in Cyprus is definitely disregarded, the younger generations are globalised. Like anywhere else in the World the millennials are following modern World ideals and are getting tired of the old-fashioned Cypriot ways, which makes it the perfect marriage for Cyprus. If it is a delicious, stylish and potentially five-star destination, could Cyprus soon become the new playground for the rich and famous? Already the prices in Limassol are growing rapidly, which in turn is moving the middle classes out of their usual holiday spot, does this mean that, they are making room for the affluent to set their eyes on Limassol as the new St. Tropez? I personally believe this is very possible, moreover it is on the way to becoming the new reality. Why not buy a summer house or flat in Limassol as a holiday home, untied to any passport program? Many would jump at the opportunity to buy a luxury villa at the seaside for a quarter of the price of a Villa in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat or Cap D’ail. Admittedly being a fan of the South of France, I must say that this will not be a difficult decision, should Limassol progress the way it has been. If I put it in perspective, investing in a property in a town which you can potentially use all year round as it is a city not a village has more advantages. Not to mention the fact, that the resale value of property is growing yearly. If everything is so dandy, what could potentially stand in the way? Some argue that the infrastructure could potentially get in the way of such progress, forgetting that the groundwork in Ibiza and Mykonos, makes Limassol shine as bright as Britney Spears in 2001. Now, it is a nuisance for the locals, but that is a whole other topic altogether. Another good point could be the service, but Spain, Italy and France lack in that regard even more than Cyprus. At least these guys are working on improving it.

Native Cypriots and other locals must stop downplaying and degrading Limassol and Cyprus. From the moment I arrived all I saw is an excessively patriotic nation, that constantly and repeatedly demeans the Country and the people, which leads to damaging the reputation of the Island. Every positive comment is always followed by “for Cyprus”. If trying to attract A-listers, that is not the best strategy. The rich and the famous always want the best of the best and are happy to pay for it. But the best only becomes it once, someone says it is.

Limassol has come a long way since I have been here. And in my observation Limassol is the next “it spot”. With its close proximity to Mykonos and Dubai. Its endless prospects and steady openings of new restaurants, hotels, resorts and condominiums of villas and Chalets whether by the sea or the beautiful mountainous region of Troodos. Ski holiday in the winter or beach holiday in the summer. Cyprus will be the place to be.