South of Ataturk Square, and north of the pedestrianized shopping streets that greet you on passing through the Lokmaci Gate (that is, the Ledra Street crossing from the south), is an area of busy traffic and impressive buildings, survivals from the city’s Byzantine, Lusignan and Ottoman past which have seen many changes of function over the years.

It’s easy to identify the Büyük Hammam (Great Baths) – it’s a fine stone building that looks as if it has sunk into the ground (whereas, of course, it’s the ground that has risen up from its original medieval level as successive layers of building have taken place). The baths were converted by the Ottomans from a Lusignan church, St George of the Latins, whose front portal is still the main entrance, and is approached down one of two flights of stone steps. After a period of closure it’s now thoroughly restored and fully operational. Not cheap, but an intriguing experience.

A minute’s walk east of the Büyük Hammam is the Kumarkilar Han, or “Gamblers’ Inn”. Also called “The inn for merchants using donkeys” and “the inn for travelling musicians”, the Kumarkilar Han, until recently in a sad state of neglect, is now approaching full renovation, though still boarded off in parts and surrounded by rubble. Built around 1700, with 44 of its original 56 rooms surviving, its likely use after renovation is not clear – proposals that it become a casino have been rejected, while other suggested uses have been (in keeping with its original function) as a hotel, or as a mixed shopping and restaurant attraction.

 

 

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