On the Akrotiri Bay in the Republic of Cyprus, Limassol Port is the island’s chief tourist destination and its second biggest city. Lying on the southern coast of the island, it is Limassol District’s capital. In 1974, Limassol Port became Cyprus’ major seaport, replacing Famagusta after it fell under Turkish control.
Limassol Port serves the wine-growing regions of southern Cyprus and is the home of many wine companies. It is also the most important industrial center of Limassol Province, with 350 companies producing clothing, furniture, foods, plastic wares, bricks, electronics, and metal products, among many other goods. In 1989, about 120 thousand people lived in the Limassol metropolitan area.
While Limassol Port was not mentioned by ancient writers, investigators have found graves there dating back as far as 2000 BC. Because little more evidence has been found, archaeologists assume that the early colony did not survive. Records refer to the founding of a settlement there in 451 that was called Theodossiana. It was renamed to Neapolis in the 7th Century and as Nemesos in the 10th Century.
At the end of the Byzantine Empire, Limassol Port was a small market town between the more important ancient cities of Cirium and Amathus. Richard the Lionheart landed there in 1191, destroying Amathus, ending Byzantine rule, and marrying Berengaria of Navarre in a castle chapel there that is now a regional museum. When Richard sold the island of Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan, it came under the domination of the Frankish Dynasty.
Italy’s Genoa took the port of Famagusta in 1372, increasing Limassol Port’s fortunes. However, the port was assailed in 1414, 1426, and 1570, and a terrible earthquake struck the city in 1815, reducing population to about 150 souls. Limassol Port did not begin to recover until the British arrived at the end of the 19th Century.
From the 12th to 15th centuries, Limassol Port was very prosperous until the Ottomans occupied Cyprus in 1570. Frederick II, King of Germany, took Limassol Port in 1228, holding it for a year before leaving the next year. It then became a hiding place for pirates who attacked Eastern Mediterranean countries to take Muslim property. The pirates made many lords of Limassol Port rich. In 1424, the Mamelukes of Egypt sent a military force to drive the pirates out of the harbor. In 1425, they landed in Limassol Port where they took the Castle and burned and plundered much of the city. In 1426, they captured King Janus of Cyprus and took him as prisoner back to Cairo.
In 1489, Queen Catherine Cornaro purchased the island. Though the Venetians had no great interest in Cyprus, they did want taxes and the country’s resources. They enslaved Cyprus’ inhabitants, taking their income for tribute. They destroyed the castle and left Limassol Port’s citizens in very poor shape.
The Ottoman Empire occupied Cyprus in 1570 and conquered Limassol Port without resistance, and Greeks and Turks created their own neighborhoods in Limassol Port. During their rule, new schools were established where Greek scholars taught several different languages.
In 1878, Great Britain took Cyprus over. Limassol Port’s British Governor, Colonel Warren, favored Limassol and began improvements from his first day there. Roads were cleaned and repaired. Trees were planted, and animals were taken away from the city center. Docks were built. Street lanterns were installed. The city gained a post office, a telegraph service, and a hospital. In the 1880s, the city got its first printing press and regular newspaper. By 1912, the town had electric street lighting.
By the end of the 19th Century, several hotels were in business, and a new intellectual, artistic culture was growing. The city welcomed new schools, art galleries, sports societies, theaters, music halls, and clubs. Job opportunities increased to support the local ceramics and wine industries, commerce, and tourism.
Limassol Port was improved in the mid-20th Century to deepen its harbor. New berths were added in 1974, the same year that the Turkish took control of Cyprus’ former major port, Famagusta. After the Turkish action, Limassol Port became the Republic of Cyprus’ most important port, and it has since handled much of the cargo that used to move through Beirut. During the decades of the 1970s and 1980s, many refugees from Arab states and Lebanon arrived, and immigrants from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait joined the influx.
Today, Limassol Port is a trade center for Cyprus. Markets are located in the city center, and tourist areas line the coast from the old harbor to the Amathus area. The city has two ports: the “old port” and the “new port.” The new port is the site for the most commerce and passenger traffic. The old harbor can receive no more than three small ships at once, so it is used primarily by fishers. The new harbor is 11 meters deep and has 1300-meter long break-waters. It can receive as many as ten ships at a time.
Exports of grapes, wines, carobs, citrus fruits and imports of cereals, vehicles, machines, textiles, agricultural medicines, fertilizers, iron etc. are exported and imported through these ports.