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At the Adams Beach, a five-star hotel on the outskirts of town, I requested an interview with the manager, Christos Volos, and was promptly whisked away down a corridor. Clubbers stay in self-catering apartments, they don't eat out much, they don't buy plaster Aphrodites, they don't go on tours of local attractions. They are attracting the wrong people."Conspiracy theories are attractive, but in fact this spring British tour operators lobbied the Cyprus government, urging it to give Ayia Napa a more upmarket image."We have told the Cyprus Tourism Organisation that they must act, otherwise the situation will get really bad," says Yiannis Efthymiou, head of the Association of Greek Cypriot Travel Agents. We have to stress the cultural side."There are not too many signs of culture around Ayia Napa's central square, a tiny area that every night is packed full of people, bars, nightclubs, girls in spangly tops, boys in their cups, gangs of Cypriot youths looking on, and the odd stray elderly resident looking confused. This is a beach unlike others in the Mediterranean. Much more Dolce & Gabbana and Moet & Chandon and Versace and looking good.""Also," said Fred, a 21-year-old club promoter, "the girls are prettier." He had just flown in from Ibiza, so he ought to have known.
Linos and Finos keep their business absolutely above board. The night before I had watched as nightclub bouncers had beaten up a drunken British clubber.
They know all about this on the old Ibiza, where after a decade of excess the islanders have started to wonder whether the price of their new tourist wealth has been worth the cost - environmental, social and pyschological.
From being an undiscovered idyll, Ibiza nows plays host to more than two million clubbers a year.
Last summer Nicos Rolandis, minister of commerce, industry and tourism, promised a new "tourist police".
But the money has not been forthcoming, and this month he backed down. "We are talking about monitoring a population of tourists which is five times bigger than the population of Cyprus."The effects of that influx greatly trouble Father Panyotis, Ayia Napa's Greek Orthodox priest. "In the pursuit of money, we have already sacrificed something as basic as the quality of life."He was sitting in his vestry after taking the 6pm Mass.
Britain's Afro-Caribbean community rarely go to the Med; but they do go to Ayia Napa. The Nissi Beach crowd is not just good-looking but scarily fashionable.
Garage, a London-based type of soul music, attracts glossier followers than house or techno ever did.
But the resort's traditional mainstay - families and couples - simply aren't booking. No Mediterranean resort has gone out of its way to become the most popular place in Europe to get high on contaminated Ecstasy. By August, after a dozen drug arrests and a stabbing or two, the paper had changed its editorial tone. "If that is the price to pay for placing Ayia Napa at the top of the Med clubbers' board, then let's dig it all up and start again," said the Cyprus Mail. Last year the number of drug arrests doubled, complaints about noise rose by 30 per cent and traffic offences (mostly scooter-related) rocketed.
A result, says Mathilde Robert, managing director of Argo Holidays, of what she calls "the Ayia Napa syndrome". Besides the casual, inevitable violence that accompanies large groups of young people and heavy drinking, there were other incidents: a spate of "indecency" arrests for streaking in the street, skinny-dipping in hotel pools, sex in public places.
Since then it has become a resort with a reputation for bad behaviour, but it has never seen anything like this."Ayia Napa is not the new Ibiza. Although there was not one spare room in Ayia Napa - I had been forced to base myself in Larnaca, 20 miles away - the restaurateurs, the souvenir shop owners, the excursion drivers and the tourist agencies were all worried.
Ayia Napa is Ayia Napa and Ibiza is Ibiza," Tony Lyssiotis, manager of the largest club in Ayia Napa, Pzazz, told me on my first morning in town. Over the next three days I heard it from the owner of a nightclub, two hoteliers, the city council and a producer from Channel 4. Two months of being packed out with clubbers does not a summer season make.
One hit him with a heavy-duty torch; then they picked him up and dropped him - from a height - on the pavement outside the club."This I absolutely disagree with," said Linos, sitting in the ill-lit back room of his club, Ice. And as you know we have the best police force in the world."But I didn't, actually.