Whispers of merchants bargaining, the clink of artisans shaping their wares, and the footsteps of travelers from distant lands. These are the sounds that might have echoed through Buyuk Han, the grand caravanserai of Nicosia, during its heyday. Today, while the nature of its activities has evolved, the spirit of the place remains remarkably intact, making it a must-visit for anyone wanting to delve into the rich tapestry of Cypriot culture.
Situated within the walled city of Nicosia, Buyuk Han — which translates to “Great Inn” — was constructed in 1572 under the orders of Muzaffer Pasha, the first Ottoman governor of Cyprus. Built shortly after the Ottoman conquest of the island, this structure was intended to provide a safe haven for travelers and merchants, offering them both accommodation and a place to trade.
Architecturally, Buyuk Han is a masterpiece of Ottoman design. Arranged around a central courtyard with a small mosque at its heart, the two-story building boasts 68 rooms and 10 shops. The ground floor rooms, which once stabled animals, are now transformed into a series of workshops and boutiques, while the upper rooms, once lodgings for travelers, now house artists’ studios, galleries, and other commercial spaces.
After having various functions over the centuries, including a stint as a prison during British rule, Buyuk Han underwent significant restoration in the 1990s. This rejuvenation heralded a new era for the caravanserai, transforming it into a bustling cultural and artistic hub.
Today’s visitors can explore a myriad of boutiques showcasing traditional Cypriot crafts, from lacework to pottery. Art galleries display works by local artists, capturing the essence of Cypriot life and landscapes. Workshops, too, have become an integral part of the Buyuk Han experience, offering insights into age-old crafts and traditions.
More Than Just an Inn
Beyond commerce and art, Buyuk Han pulsates with cultural events. The central courtyard, once a haven for weary travelers, now comes alive with music performances, dance shows, and theatrical acts. The ambiance during these events is magical, with the ancient stones of the inn absorbing the rhythms, melodies, and emotions, creating an experience that is both intimate and profound.
Additionally, numerous cafes and restaurants dotted around the Han offer traditional Cypriot delicacies, allowing visitors to satiate their taste buds after indulging their cultural curiosities.
A Timeless Emblem
Buyuk Han stands as a testament to Nicosia’s rich history and its ability to seamlessly merge the past with the present. It’s not just a monument; it’s a living, breathing entity. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply someone wanting to soak in Cypriot culture, Buyuk Han welcomes you with open arms and countless tales.
For those who have wandered its corridors, sat in its courtyard under the starlit sky, or simply enjoyed a cup of Cypriot coffee while listening to the murmurs of history, Buyuk Han is not just a location. It’s an emotion, an experience, and a journey back in time.
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