The Great Inn, or Büyük Han
All over medieval Turkey, come nightfall, weary travellers would head towards the nearest han, or inn. After the Ottoman invasion, a network of these inns grew up across Cyprus, where merchants could rest overnight in relative safety. The Great Inn of Nicosia is now only one of two remaining inns in the whole of Cyprus that still retain in the original format, so it is well worth visiting on your holiday in Northern Cyprus. (The other is the Gamblers Inn, just down the road.)
No Room at the Great Inn?
The traveller and his camel, horse or donkey would enter the Great Inn through the gate and into the open courtyard. All around the courtyard were stables, housed between impressive arches, so the first task would be to feed and stable their tired animals. Then, the merchant could either eat in the courtyard, either buying food or cooking it himself, or retire to one of the 68 guest rooms on the upper floor. The guest rooms were on the first floor to keep the wealthy merchants safe from robbers, so the windows were also deliberately made too small for anyone to climb through.
In the winter months, a fire would be lit in the fireplace, so the rooms would have been very snug and cosy on a cold night. Each fireplace lead to a chimney, so the roofline is spiked with chimneys, each topped with a distinctive metal cone. (However, there was no air conditioning for the hot summer months, unlike in today’s North Cyprus hotels!)
From Inn to Prison to Arts Centre: The Great Inn of Nicosia
The Great Inn was one of the first the Ottomans built after their invasion, being constructed in 1572 on the orders of Mustafa Pasha himself. Generations of travellers stayed at the inn before the British converted it to a prison, and then later in 1893, to a hostel for destitute families. Throughout all the various uses, the little mosque or mescit remained intact in the centre of the courtyard. This small building sits atop six columns, raised above the ablutions fountain below.
The Büyük Han Restored in North Nicosia, Northern Cyprus
The Great Inn was extensively restored over ten years from 1992 to 2002, and it really gives a great impression of where you would have stayed had you been on holiday in North Cyprus 400 years ago! Today, the han is a thriving arts centre, with both the upper guest rooms and lower stables occupied by small artists shops. The kids will love to see the traditional Turkish Cypriot shadow puppet theatre shows during your North Cyprus family holiday, while you can relax in the small café in the corner of the courtyard, sipping a cooling drink like the travellers of old.