John Aziz Kent – The Difficult Task
By Chris Elliott
With thanks to John Aziz Kent and the Celebrity Group Hotels for giving permission for the publication of this article from their book, “The Rebirth Of The Kingdom Of Lambousa” which records his long journey to build an hotel in Lapta and encourage tourism in North Cyprus. He is the founding Chairman and Honorary President of the North Cyprus Hoteliers Association.
“The Difficult Task Starts”
“The idea of building an hotel in Lapta seemed incredible to Aziz Kent’s friends. Hotel business was not a Turk’s business. Furthermore, in Lapta itself, on the very day John and his friends came to the Baspinar ancient spring to entertain themselves, the Greeks did not behave well towards them. The grocers in the village and then at the restaurant by the spring had all shown their dislike towards them.
All Turkish villages in the countryside were besieged by the Greeks. Thousands of Turks had left their homes and taken refuge in other areas. Many Turks were kidnapped and nothing more was heard of them. As a result of the prevailing situation, only a few jobs were allocated to Turks.
But Aziz Kent was determined to put his aspirations into practice. He felt himself compelled to do so by his love for his homeland. He was going to restore the glories of ancient days which had once enlightened these lovely shores.
He started by purchasing a piece of land by the sea, about a mile west of historic Lambousa. That was done in strict secrecy because he feared if anyone knew this, obstacles would be put before him. The area where he purchased the land was within the boundaries of the Municipality of Lapta, which was in the hands of the Greeks.
Aziz Kent managed to keep his secret for a while, but later it seemed everyone knew it, he then applied for building permission. This application invoked a series of incidents – some comic and some dramatic. We quote him about the events which followed his application :
The Greeks were not allowed to sell immovable property to the Turks. After lengthy searches, I learned that a certain Turkish gentlemen, named Ziyat Bey, had a strip of land on the seashore. I went to see him and asked whether he would like to sell me a part of his property. I will never forget the expression on his face when he heard what I was asking. With a bitter smile on his face he said “Aziz, Turks do not dare to pass these shores, even on a bike. How on earth do you intend to erect your hotel here?
Seeing that I was determined to carry on with my plans, he conceded to sell the plot of land on the shore to me where the Celebrity Hotel now stands. After this Mr Ezel Resat, the architect who designed my apartment flats in Nicosia, and I started to work on the design of the Celebrity Hotel. We had to draw a building project acceptable to the Greek Cypriot Government and then we prepared a good and neat plan. The plan was to be approved by the Department of Tourism Planning, but despite our efforts, a building permit was not obtained. I had to go from one Government office to another, trying to get the necessary permit. It took two years and two months to obtain it. The reason for the delay was simple – I was a Turk!
At its last stage, my project remained on the desk of the District Officer of Kyrenia for a long time. I tried to see him, but every time I was told he was very busy. But at last, one day, I had managed to see him; I had waited for hours in his secretary’s room and on his secretary’s advice, waited to speak to him when he was about to leave his office. When this opportunity occurred, I went close to him and introduced myself with these words : “Sir, I’m Aziz, I am here for the hotel permit.” His answer was,; “Wait you dog”.
At a meeting of the Municipal Council in Lapta, they decided to expropriate the plot of land on which the hotel was to be built. When I heard this, I was shocked, Should it be put in force, that would be the end of all my dreams. This time I embarked on a legal battle with the Municipality and I tried to find a legal basis to prevent them from doing such a thing.
Meanwhile, the Editor of the Greek language newspaper “Haravghi”, Andreas Kannavouros, had heard the news. Kannavouros, who was also the Chairman of the Journalists’ Association, started writing articles in this paper criticising the Government and the Municipality for their behaviour in this respect. I believe these articles did a lot in the postponement of the expropriation. During these troubled days, the construction of the hotel was partly completed. My Legal battle continued until 20th July 1974. On that day, the Turkish army embarked on a peace operation in Cyprus. There were no more obstacles left in front of us. Thus we managed to finish the construction, which I named “The Celebrity Hotel”.
Aziz Kent’s adventure of building an hotel was thus ended by 1975. he was now preparing to open his hotel and then, with new sources of income, to start building another one, this time the long dreamed of Lambousa in an antique design.
Aziz Kent, in his first brochure advertised the Celebrity Hotel thus :
“The Celebrity Hotel is situated on the seashore facing the sea and also commands a fine view of the mountains at its back. The hotel has its own beach and is nine miles west of Kyrenia. All bedrooms, which are comfortably furnished, have private bath, air-conditioning and have a commanding sea view. Television sets, and radios are fitted in every bedroom. Vegetables for the Hotel restaurant are grown in the Hotel’s private gardens, and poultry and quail are supplied from its farm. The Celebrity Hotel services include two restaurants which offer various choices in a fine atmosphere, a saloon bar, a beach bar, a yacht marina and regular bus services to Kyrenia. The Guests of the hotel can use the sun umbrellas on the beach without paying a fee. Those interested in water sports, can hire sail boats, wind surfs or water skis. Our management can organise inland tours for the guests and there is also a car rental service owned and run by the Hotel. If you wish, you can enjoy your nights by playing cards in our games room or dancing in our discotheque.”
After the Celebrity Hotel was opened, Aziz Kent embarked on building another tourist complex, this time rows of bungalows named “The Aphrodite Villas” situated next to the Celebrity Hotel, with fine gardens and a large swimming pool. These bungalows, 33 in number, are ideal for large families thinking of a holiday in comfort by the sea. The Aphrodite Villas were in a sense, heralding the coming of Chateau Lambousa.”
To read of how John Aziz Kent’s dream of building an hotel started, do please click here to read and view the photographs in our article : “The Rebirth of the Kingdom of Lambousa – From Myth to Reality.”
In life fortunes change and for John Aziz Kent his problems with local and national authorities and in the past few months fortune has smiled again on John when Serhat Akpinar the founding Rector of Girne American University signeda long term contract with the Celebrity Hotel Group and currently are refurbishing the Chateau Lambousa to a 5 Star Luxury Hotel status and renamed as Le Chateau with The Aphrodite Villas also being refurbished and upgraded as part of the overall plan to create a centre of quality tourism where the GAU Tourism and Accommodation Management and Gastronomy Culinary Arts Department will be based, to enable students to further their chosen profession by continuing their internship at the hotel to gain working experience in all aspects of running an hotel, while also providing the chance of recruitment for the graduates and employment for the local population.
To see the article about the refurbishment of Le Chateau click here
So John’s dream is fast coming to reality with the Celebrity Hotel awaiting a new management to take it forward into the future and when they do, we will be seeing both John Aziz Kent and the ancient King Praxander of Lambousa smiling that golden smile as the ancient heritage and magic of Lambousa returns into a sparkling and vibrant centre of renewed tourism in North Cyprus. Just like those early days when John came back to his homeland from the United Kingdom to build and open the first Turkish Cypriot Hotels.
To read more from John Aziz Kent click here
The Celebrity Hotel Chateau Lambousa Aphrodite Villas