The Büyük Han (Great Inn) is a graceful and harmonious building which is somehow more affecting because it was built not to glorify God or the power of princes, but as practical lodgings for traders and merchants. Appropriately, this is not a frozen-in-time relic, but a vibrant collection of shops, restaurants and small businesses that do its origins proud. It was built on the orders of the first Ottoman governor general of Cyprus, Mustafa Paşa, in 1572, just after the conquest. Used by the British as a prison, and later to house destitute families, it was sensitively restored between 1992 and 2002.
The two-storey building consists of 68 rooms on two vaulted galleries looking onto a courtyard, and ten shops which open outwards to the street. In the centre of the courtyard a mesjid (miniature mosque) stands on columns under which is a sadirvan (fountain), used for ritual ablutions. There are two entrance gates to the east (the main one) and west, and inside the courtyard stone stairways lead to the upper floor (once used for accommodation and now housing, among other things, the “Traditional Cyprus Turkish Shadow Theatre”, a sort of Middle Eastern Punch and Judy featuring its main character, “Karagoz”). The courtyard of the Büyük Han is an ideal place to sit in the shade, have a drink or a meal and, on Tuesday or Friday evenings, listen to live music.