folder Filed in Cyprus, Stories
Stargazer soars into his nation's rich list galaxy
Rise and fall and rise again to great wealth
Editor access_time 6 min read

The Pathos Beach Hotel was in the last stages of construction on land above a sandy beach that curved around the bay to the small harbour of Paphos, guarded by a 13th century Ottoman fort. A string of local bars and restaurants lined the harbourside. It was unspoilt; it was idyllic because Paphos was the least developed town in Cyprus.

A quality 4-star hotel on the beach had great potential and I had been hired to ensure it became an international success. So I got stuck into producing a marketing plan and copywriting a sales brochure. Words that could attract free-spending tourists; words that could generate local jobs and enough money to build a badly needed new gymnasium (school).

The Aphrodite legend suggests that any person who swims around the nearby Petra tou Romuiou (Aphrodite’s Rock) will be blessed with eternal beauty and fertility. Good for business for Paphos and the new hotel. Hadn’t the fictional love story of Romeo and Juliet powered Verona to become the fourth most popular city in Italy?

Aphrodite would be a good vacation strand, but we needed more attractions and amenities to attract European tourists to this remote place by the Mediterranean Sea., It was four and a half hours flight from London with a high-end airfare of £400 to the island capital of Nicosia.

In the 1970s, Cypriots regarded Paphos as the “Wild West” and I have no recall of any decent road going much beyond Kato Paphos/Coral Bay. There was a lot of donkey power in the town and in the fields around there were 400 donkeys

Paphos in the 1970s

With the hotel due to open in around nine months time, I spent long hours with Michalaides, the manager who was overseeing the finishes and equipment. We reviewed the hotel’s facilities and added an outdoor barbeque area, as it never rains for most of the year in Paphos. A long pergola was needed to delineate the pool terrace from the public beach and provide shady places with a sea view for lounger users.

A gardener inserted some two-foot long twigs of bougainvillea next to the supports of the pergola. The twigs had grown to 12 feet with two-foot long flowers by the time of my next visit. Evidently, Aphrodite’s fertility influence extends to plant life as I saw picket fences sprouting green shoots on several occasions after that.

I got to know the harbourside bar and restaurant owners of Kato Paphos, including Georgiou’s Pelican Restaurant where local pelicans came round for meals. A pair of the huge birds would hoover-up the diners’ leftovers before waddling off to the beach, their bills crammed with delicious red mullet. The place was also a favourite lunchtime stop for round the island coach and taxi tours – very busy on tour days. The pelicans filled their pouches to overflowing and retired to the beach for their regular kip.

One day the pelicans didn’t reach the beach – they were run over by a tourist coach. “Tourist attraction killed by tourists” isn’t a helpful message, but there have been generations of pelicans to replace the originals. – and they can live up to 25 years…

At the end of the harbour was a squat, shoebox shaped bar called Le Blat and the owner, Andreas Kaisis, taught me how to conjure up the island’s version of the whisky sour cocktail. It quickly became my drink of choice. On busy evenings, I even mixed the drinks for customers who grew to appreciate my bartender’s liberal pours.

Andreas was more interested in providing his own cabaret – romantic Cypriot ballads, delivered with his virtuoso guitar playing. He looked right for the part; late twenties chiselled features beneath a mane of jet-black hair and an open blouson-style shirt. Very Greek Cypriot, a shoe-in for a role in Jason and the Argonauts

But, Andreas had great connections to the Church of Cyprus, best mate of President Makarios III – who was a fellow Paphian – and a close insider to the current government hierarchy. These important links gave him development land in Paphos and a large factory in Nicosia, building Dennis trucks and fire engines for sale locally and in neighbouring countries.

“Most of the major revenue sources were cut off behind enemy lines. Fortunately, Cyprus was well-positioned to prosper.”

Andreas Kaisis, entrepreneur

One night after the bar closed Andreas drove me into the hills overlooking Paphos, where the night sky was so clear I saw shooting stars for the first time in my life. Andreas pointed to the land between our hillside perch and the beach. He revealed: ”I can get all this land for future development. Tourism has got a good future in my town. But first, we have to make a success of the Paphos Beach Hotel.”

He couldn’t possibly have foreseen that, in just over a year, shooting stars would be replaced by artillery shells. The Paphos Beach Hotel and his truck factory near Nicosia Airport would be bombed out of business. His factory never reopened. But, Andreas Kaisis, with the help of the monks at Kikko Monastery, and his natural entrepreneurial verve became one of his nation’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen.

The Turkish occupation stripped the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus of its largest port, much of its richest farmland, and its leading tourism and manufacturing centres. But that didn’t’ stop the Greek Cypriots.

Andreas Kaisis claims Cyprus might not have become the important regional business hub it is today if the war hadn’t demolished the tiny country’s economy in the decade after the invasion. It left a third of the territory controlled by Turks.

“Most of the major revenue sources were cut off behind enemy lines. Fortunately, Cyprus was well-positioned to prosper,” says Kaisis, who fled the north, leaving behind a once-thriving truck- and bus-building business.

Now, you might like to read another seafarer’s story

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