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The Legacy of Ottoman Building in Nicosia: Hans as Spaces of Coexistence in Pre-conflict Cyprus

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The Legacy of Ottoman Building in Nicosia: Hans as Spaces of Coexistence in Pre-conflict Cyprus

The Legacy of Ottoman Building in Nicosia: Hans as Spaces of Coexistence in Pre-conflict Cyprus

    Anita Bakshi
within the United Nations Buffer Zone -radically transformed from spaces of cooperation into lines of division. While they had lived together in Nicosia since the establishment of Ottoman rule in 1571, intercommunal relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots deteriorated drastically in the 1950s. At this time Greek Cypriots began to actively pursue Enosis, or union with Greece, in an anti-colonial movement against the island's British rulers. The Turkish minority, only 18 per cent of the island's population, fearful of a future as Greek subjects, forwarded the option of taksim, or partition of the island. Neither of these proposals came to fruition, and instead the independent Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960, with both communities sharing power. It lasted for only three years before dissolving into conflict and the physical separation of these communities in 1963, a separation which became permanent in 1974. Throughout this period, the Ermou marketplace was progressively divided. 4 This division, which started as a wire fence running through the centre of the city in the late 1950s under British rule, gelled in 1964 with the drawing of the Green Line, and solidified with the arrival of Turkish troops on the island in 1974 (Figure 1). 5 It is known that this part of the city was an important commercial area that was well used by all communities prior to partition and the dispossession of its streets. Along these streets craftsmen worked in shops, almost all of which were long and narrow, lit only by the entrance, as well as an arsera, or small high window. Therefore the tall, wide doors were Map by author. often left open, creating a rich and vibrant streetscape. 6 Prior to division, residents from all over the city came to shop in these streets where merchants and farmers from surrounding villages traded their goods. Today, however, this part of the city is nearly a reverse image of this past incarnation -its activity and density replaced by emptiness and silence. Since 1974 it has become a no-man's-land, and much knowledge about what it used to be has been lost. Documents about land use and ownership in this area are currently scattered about in various government agencies on different sides of the border. Even the comprehensive survey conducted by the bicommunal Nicosia Master Plan (NMP), which created a detailed record of the architectural heritage in limited areas of the Buffer Zone, is not publicly available. 7 While today there is no real physical access to the Buffer Zone, it is important to note that there is also very little access to information about this area, and the scholarship dealing with this site is thin.As part of a larger investigation of the relationship between place and memory in the divided city of Nicosia, my research has focused on the history of this part of the city. This research has attempted to rebuild the lost topographies of the Buffer Zone -spatial, social, commercial and political -using the few resources available and relying most heavily on the memories of those who knew this area in the 1940s and 1950s, before intercommunal conflict changed the nature of the city. This is a history that has remained unwritten, and one that has not found its way into public discourse. This article seeks to render visible the history of one particular building type, the han, which was a commercial building that also included temporary housing facilities. This research occupies a middle territory, located between ethnography and urban studies; looking to individual memories, narratives and experiencesemplaced on urban maps -in order to rebuild the topographies of this site. 8 It follows the contours laid out in recent studies on other Mediterranean cities that were home to diverse populations, such as those by Susan Gilson Miller, Mauro Bertagnin, Leyla Neyzi and Amy Mills. Miller and Bertagnin have looked beyond the dimensions of segregation in these communities, arguing that apparent fixed boundaries were perhaps more fluid than previously thought. 9 Responding to a lack of scholarly studies and archival material, Mills and Neyzi have poignantly shown that personal and community memories provide one of the only resources with which to examine the potentially irretrievable multi-confessional pasts of cities that no longer exhibit such heterogeneity in their present composition. Together they illustrate the importance of memories related to architecture and place for the examination of community formation in diverse societies. 10 This work of cartographic and narrative reconstruction was dependent on the use of visual materials, including photographs and mapping, both to serve as prompts to bring up memories that had long been lying dormant, as well as to document these memories. This was accomplished through a process of piecing together information from different material, print and visual sourcesincluding archives, newspaper advertisements, commercial catalogues, land registers, memoirs and photographic surveys -and their subsequent emplacement on historic maps of the walled city. 11 These were then used in interviews with Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot and Armenian Cypriot shopkeepers who once lived or worked in this part of the city. From March 2010 to May 2011, I interviewed eleven Greek Cypriots, twelve Turkish Cypriots and two Armenian-Cypriots, ranging in age from 69 to 90, meeting with them consistently over a period of months, and again in several follow-up visits. I worked with them to document their memories of the Ermou marketplace and developed a collective map of the shops, hans and public spaces that they were able to recall. Most of the men I spoke to had owned or worked in shops in this area, and many of them still run businesses in the walled city today. Generally the interviews took place in their shops or homes, conducted in either English or Turkish. 12 Their testimonies reveal much about their experiences of the commercial and social life of the city, shedding new light on the nature of coexistence or separation of the Greek, Turkish and Armenian communities of pre-independence Cyprus. These maps, rebuilt from memories, help to fill existing gaps in knowledge about the everyday life of the city and the slow process of change, often experienced and elucidated spatially, that led to the divided city. The Ermou Marketplace of the 1940s and 1950sWhile the interviewed shopkeepers from different communities did vary in their remembrances of certain aspects of city life, at the same time almost all of them shared memories of particular landmarks, places, shops, personalities and vendors that had once lined these streets. Tapping into the resource of these maps and narratives, a scenario can be composed of the rich street life along Ermou in the early 1950s. Most of the shopkeepers did not remember every particular detail about these streets, nor were they able to remember time frames with much specificity. Rather, their remembrances were of certain images and sounds -memories of moments and places that have been strong enough to persist. It is these memories that begin to reveal the outlines of the narrow shops of the Ermou marketplace.According to the shopkeepers that I interviewed, these streets would fill with people early in the morning. Ali, a Turkish Cypriot merchant born in 1938, whose father ran a grocery on Ermou, remembers opening their shop at 6.30 a.m., and selling around 300 loaves of bread most mornings in the first two hours of business. His shop was located around the corner from a Greek merchant who ran one of the city's most recognizable businesses, Tsaiousis 1,000,000 Things. Their shops were near the intersection of Ermou and Goldsmiths Street, also known in Turkish as Köprübaşı the 'bridgehead', as it was the historic location of one of the main bridges that spanned the river. In Greek it was known as Stavro Pazaro, the 'cross-market'. The interviews with the shopkeepers revealed that different communities at times used common names to describe places in Nicosia, and in other cases described them using linguistically specific referents. This intersection could be considered the centre of the marketplace streets, and many important merchants were located here. Greek-owned businesses such as Monyatis, Klerides, Agrotis and Kokkinos were popular glassware shops. Nearby was a large KEO shop, selling the famous beer of Cyprus since 1951, as well as Platanis Wines and Spirits (Greek). Just to the east of this crossing were the Galip Grocery (Turkish), Camberis Clothing (Greek), Varnavas Nicolaou (Greek) the timber merchant, and Irfan Hussein's (Turkish) large retail store. These blocks were famous for several small confectionaries and coffee roasters including Çıraklı Sweets (Turkish) and Alekos Coffee (Greek).Photographs taken near this intersection along Ermou in the 1950s show crowded streets, relatively free of cars and traffic. 13 People travelled on bicycles, leaning them against the wall when they entered the shops. Most of the buildings appear to be one-storey, with one large opening to the street and a high window above, covered with tiled roofs. In the street walk groups of women with children and schoolboys in uniform. The area towards the eastern end of the Ermou bazaar displays a different kind of activity with shops selling building materials, men working outside of the wide doorways, and several donkey carts and trucks moving through the streets. The front facades are defined by larger arched openings that appear to run nearly the entire width of the shop, and full-height wooden shutters fold out on either side. These regularly spaced arched openings create a strong visual rhythm on the street.The shopkeepers describe the crowded nature of the street, with people sitting outside of their shops, and also at outdoor cafes during siesta time, which lasted from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer. This was a mandated time of rest, enforced by the British, and people were required to close their workshops for these three hours. At 1 p.m. every working day a horn would sound from the nearby power station, marking the beginning of the siesta. During this time some people went home for lunch or a nap, but others who lived farther away would sit at the cafes playing cards or backgammon. They sat on the same traditional Cypriot chairs, wooden with woven wicker seats, in the cafes as well as outside of their shops. Often people would call for coffee to be delivered, so boys holding metal trays with small cups of strong coffee were a frequent sight on the streets.In the centre of this activity was the main municipal market called Pantapolio by the Greeks, which means a place to buy everything, and pronounced as Bandabulya by the Turks. This market, located at the intersection of three of the most important commercial streets in the city -Ermou, Goldsmiths and Arasta 14 -could be considered the hinge-point of the city; the point where the Greek and Turkish areas came together. Everybody shopped in this market and it was the main outlet for produce and meat. Photos of Pantapolio/Bandabulya taken in the 1950s show that the activity extended out from the large entrances of the market onto the surrounding streets. Just outside the northern entrance, located in front of the Aya Sofya Mosque, 15 a thick border of vendors defines the edge of the street. Carts are laid out with items for sale, more items are laid out on the ground, and vendors push carts with ready-to-eat food. Thick crowds move through Goldsmiths as well as Arasta, also full of vendors. Smoke rises from a cart, most likely one of the souvlakia sellers, and men sit in groups on the street, finding a moment to rest in the edge of shade that creeps along the front of the buildings. Many of the shopkeepers remembered vendors selling bread rolls, sweets, lemonade and other beverages. These vendors were recognized for the short, lyrical calls they used to advertise their goods. Not only the buildings and places defined Ermou, but these vendors as well were part of the common vocabulary of these streets, and, more importantly, part of the common language shared by all communities in Nicosia. It becomes clear that this was an urban terrain that was well navigated, and well remembered, by many of Nicosia's residents. The streetscape of Ermou was commonly known for distinct features and widely recognizable landmarks. It was governed by a common clock -a clock around which the rituals and repetitive daily practices of urban life were organized. The Hans as Important Elements in Nicosia's Urban TopographySeveral of the most important landmarks that consistently came up in discussions with the shopkeepers, and were consistently marked on the maps, were the hans that ran along the riverbed streets. This was a surprising finding because the widespread presence of this type of structure is hardly recognized in today's Nicosia. While the Büyük Han, or the Great Han, a sixteenth-century Ottoman monument restored and reopened in 2002, is now a major landmark of cultural heritage in the northern part of Nicosia, there is little mention of the many other hans that were once such an important part of the life of the city ( Figure 2). The introduction of this building type, with its associated spatial configuration and variety of uses, can be traced back to the Ottomans. 16 But many of the hans that I will discuss below were not built by the Ottomans, as their rule of the island ended in 1878, marking the beginning of the British colonial period. It is more likely that they were built by individual property owners, although the dates of their establishment and original patrons are impossible to discover. Additionally many of these hans have been incorporated into the Buffer Zone, and others that still linger along its edges have not fared well, and so they are difficult to study as architectural monuments. Some are used by the militaries of either side, and others have been occupied by squatters, or have been absorbed and incorporated into the surrounding urban fabric. Certainly today none of these hans are as striking or well maintained as the well-documented and well-preserved Büyük Han, but, as the shopkeepers attest, they were at one time very important elements in the everyday life of the city. This article will argue that the institution of the hans, introduced into the urban fabric by the Ottomans, persisted beyond the Ottoman era and embodied the kinds of social practices and relations that were a part of the daily life of the Ermou marketplace and the city of Nicosia in the years prior to the conflict between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots; before the subsequent division of the city and the island that continues to this day. This article will describe Nicosia's hans, examining their role in the city and the manner in which they changed from the 1940s to 1974, because they can Photograph by author. reveal much about the nature of the city itself, and of the changing relations between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. My intention is not to provide a historical chronology for these buildings, which is almost impossible given the absence of accessible material data and scant historical documentation, but rather to look at them as sites of habitation and the enaction of social relations. In order to understand the position of the hans in Nicosia, it is important to first site them within the context of the overall structure of the city. The island of Cyprus has long been a contested space, and has seen many rulers. Nicosia has a long history as a capital city, serving as the seat of power of the Lusignans, Venetians, Ottomans and the British. While Nicosia came under British rule in 1878, the spatial and social structure of the city continued to be influenced by its Ottoman past. After the onset of Ottoman rule in 1571, the new Turkish population had generally settled into the areas north of the old riverbed, with the Greek population to the south. Other ethnic groups such as the Armenians settled near the western Paphos Gate. In general, the structure of Ottoman cities was heavily influenced by the administrative concerns of the millet system, where religiously defined groups were administered separately. The religious leader of any particular millet group would be tasked with representing his community within the mahalle, or neighbourhood, in which it was located. Thus, historically the mahalle tended to be segregated along ethnic lines. But, mid-century census reports reveal that some of the mahalle in Nicosia, such as Tahtakale and Ömeriye, were ethnically quite mixed, and the familiarity with neighbours also became a defining feature of the mahalle outside of ethnicity alone. 17 While Greeks and Turks mainly lived in separate neighbourhoods, they did come together in certain parts of the city, generally for commercial reasons. There were areas of the city that were well used by all communities such as the commercial streets of Ledra and Regena, the clerical centre of the city around Sarayönü Square, and the Ermou marketplace streets. The diverse nature of the commercial life of Ottoman cities has been discussed by Jacob Barnai in his study of Sephardi Jews in the Ottoman Empire.Although the social and religious life of each religious community was self-contained, there was still some degree of contact and mutual influence between the various groups. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim men constantly met at the workplace and in the markets; they spent hours together, working and drinking coffee in coffee houses […] The men developed personal and cultural ties thanks to mixed guilds, businesses requiring close cooperation, and the interaction between buyers and sellers. 18 The Ermou marketplace perhaps best exemplifies this dynamic in Nicosia. It had functioned as the main bazaar area for centuries, extending into the medieval past, 19 and its material and spatial characteristics developed because of this location and function. This area was once a riverbed, and the narrow and twisting roads that were laid out here later started out as unpaved market lanes that followed the course of the river. As it was the main east-west route through the city, linking Paphos Gate in the west with Famagusta Gate to the east, hans were established along its course. Because it was a market area, plots were divided to create narrow lots with closely packed balconies overlooking the well-trafficked narrow streets below. As described by the shopkeepers interviewed, the wide doors of the shops, fronting on Ermou, provided the main natural light, and thus were often left open to the street making the shopkeepers visible to passersby. Shared spaces developed in the form of the han courtyards, and the few squares and wide streets became places where vendors would establish themselves into recognizable patterns. People were also to be seen sitting outside of their shops, walking in the streets selling their goods or resting in cafes during siesta time. Thus trade considerations created this particular spatial configuration, which, as my research has revealed, allowed for visual recognition, contact and social negotiation. While the entire marketplace area exhibited these qualities, the hans located here are unique in that they offer a notable exception to the general pattern of ethnic segregation of the city's residential areas, in that they were mixed commercially, socially and residentially. The Hans of Ermou as Sites of Everyday Practices in the CityJust as surely as the hans of Nicosia were once landmarks in the city, they now seem to be landmarks in the plane of memory as well, present in many of the interviewed shopkeepers' remembrances. The urban fabric of the city was developed and influenced through the incorporation of these hans, and their presence and importance in the everyday life of the city became clear in the narratives told by the shopkeepers. They were a defining spatial presence along the riverbed streets, and also were important informal social and commercial institutions. First built in Nicosia in 1572 with the Büyük Han, modelled on earlier Anatolian hans, this building type was spread throughout Cyprus under Ottoman rule. 20 The hans, also known as khan or caravanserai, were originally built to house brief, often overnight, stays of caravans, a body of merchants travelling together between towns, and included a number of facilities for travellers such as fountains, sleeping rooms and stables. 21 Most hans in the centre of the city were two storeys in height, built around an open courtyard. The front facade was generally constructed from stone, with a large entry gate, which allowed the amaxas (horse-drawn coaches) and animals to enter.Unlike Büyük Han, most of the hans located along the marketplace streets were not separated from adjacent structures by open space. Rather, they were well incorporated into the surrounding urban fabric. In his important study of Ottoman buildings in Cyprus, Tuncer Bag ıs¸kan states that in the early years of the British period, as hotels were first built, the hans attained new functions. 22 Certainly by the 1940s and 1950s, there were a number of different variations on the han type and their functions in Nicosia. Although in these later years they were no longer used to house caravans of traders, they still functioned in a manner quite similar to this, up until the recent division of the city. When people came to Nicosia from villages and towns all over Cyprus in order to sell their goods, they would stay in a room in a han, which housed long-term residents as well. Additionally, when travelling by bus from a village to one of the other towns in Cyprus, such as Kyrenia or Famagusta, travellers would need to change buses in Nicosia. If a connection was not directly available, they would rent a room or a bed in a han for the very reasonable price of around one shilling.While Ermou Street is now mostly encased within the unbreachable boundaries of the Buffer Zone, if it were possible to walk the length of the commercial spine of the city in the early 1950s, moving from west to east we would find a number of these hans along this axis. Like all the buildings and shops to be found along the marketplace streets, each of these hans was known for specific characteristics and functions (Figure 3). Using the shopkeepers' memories, in many cases the only available source of information about these important buildings, we can follow the course of these hans along the marketplace streets, from west to east. First, moving from the western Paphos Gate, along Paphos Street, was Papadoupoulos Han. One of the interviewed shopkeepers, Garo, an Armenian Cypriot born in 1934, remembers cycling here in the mornings, usually around 7 a.m., in order to buy fresh milk, as did many of Nicosia's residents. The ground level was used to keep dairy cows and stabled horses. Located nearby was Pantzaro's Han, owned by a Turk named Seyyid Mehmed and rented to a Greek named Pantzaros. It was renovated in the 1930s, outfitted with a number of new buildings and garages, and at that time was the biggest and newest han on Paphos Street. 23 From here people would catch buses going to nearby villages like Ayios Dometios. Finally, the last han on Paphos Street was that of Haci Dimitri, which will be described in more detail later in this article.Continuing further, Paphos Street becomes Ermou and dips southwards along the course of the old river, entering the most dense and crowded part of the marketplace. Ayios Antoniou Han was located here, bordered by Arabacılar Street, the 'coachmens' street. Appropriately, this han housed many carpenters and woodworkers who constructed the coaches (amaxa) that lined this street waiting to pick up passengers. This large han had its own cafe and restaurant, for which it was famous. Passing Goldsmiths Street, near the southern entrance to Pantapolio/Bandabulya, the main municipal market, was Kodros Han. This han is remembered for its unlikely fame as the reputed location of the one and only incident of a mule giving birth in Cyprus. 24 To the north was Deveciler Han, housing a four-sided water cistern and a large mulberry tree in its courtyard. 25 For those old enough to remember, this han was known for the camel-riding traders that would lodge there; deve means camel in Turkish. They would enter the city from Paphos Gate in the west and make their way to the han, entering from its northern gate, just adjacent to the Aya Sofya mosque, and later exit from the southern gate. Another interviewee, Volkan, a Turkish Cypriot born in 1938, remembers that camels were a common sight in the city until after World War II, and at times they would Map by author. get angry enough to break their own nose rings off; sticking out their tongues and making sounds of protest. Camels continued to bring goods to the city up to some point in the late 1940s or early 1950s, when this han was transformed into a bus terminal. To the south was Lymbourides Han, which was always alive with the sounds of metalworkers. Finally, near the edge of the busy market area were Mustafa Çavus¸'s Han and Symeou Han. This last han also functioned as a bus terminal. As Emilia Christofi writes of her 2010 tour of the Buffer Zone: … close your eyes and it is easy to recall the days at the Symeou Coffee Shop where buses from the outskirts of Nicosia ended their bonerattling journeys. Villagers used to quench their thirst here with Lex, a once celebrated soft drink, during the summer days before they made their way back home or into town. 26 Clearly the hans were important urban elements that helped to define and structure the Ermou marketplace.Part of the common vocabulary of these shared streets, these hans were embedded in the memories of the city residents along two lines. Firstly, as outlined above, most residents of the city knew the common stories, and sometimes even urban legends, about the best-known hans. Secondly, those who lived or worked in or near a han knew about the characteristics, and the characters, of that particular place. Like Pantapolio/Bandabulya, the hans were among the most mixed institutions in Nicosia, yet they differ in that they provided a much more intimate environment than the large municipal market, and were mixed residentially as well as commercially. Young men coming from the villages to work as apprentices or to try their hand at a trade in Nicosia would rent rooms in one of several such residential hans along the riverbed streets.For instance, Önder, a Turkish Cypriot shopkeeper born in 1936, moved to Nicosia when he was a teenager in order to find work as a tailor. He lived on the second floor of Mustafa Çavus¸'s Han from 1950-52, going home to his village most weekends in order to do his laundry since there was very little water available in the han. There was no kitchen either, so Önder would bring food back from his village, or often ate in As¸çı Salih's 27 restaurant, which was located just across the street. This was a typical urban relationship and almost every han had an associated restaurant and coffee shop, either in the han itself or in a nearby building. Life in the hans was quite different from the more comfortable life of the family home in the city or the village, and rooms were often shared by many. Önder remembers one large unfurnished room in the corner of his han, shared by twenty people who would roll out their sleeping mats nightly. Still, he says that the years he spent there were the best of his life. It becomes clear from this description of life in the han that there was very little privacy, and that many functions of daily living were shared.While many of the hans along Ermou Street may not be as important as Büyük Han in terms of their architectural significance as specimens of Ottoman heritage, they are still fascinating examples of the spatial framework of everyday life in pre-conflict Nicosia, in the years just before the political tensions of the 1950s pushed the two communities apart. In his memoir written in Turkish, Eski Lefkos¸a'da Semtler ve Anılar/Old Nicosia's Districts and Memories, HizberHikmetag alar provides a 'monograph' of Haci Dimitri Han, located on Paphos Street and owned by his grandfather Hikmetag a (Figure 4). The manager of the han was Kochino Dimitriyali, a Greek who was originally from a village but became wealthy running this han after moving to Nicosia. Along with his assistant Sami, he organized the daily tasks of the han's cafe, blacksmiths, stabled animals and residents:Upon passing through the wide, covered entryway, immediately to the right, just along the wall, is a three-square-metre kiosk. Here, Little Hambi and his wife Mariya run the 'han coffee shop'. The cafe has two tables and five well-worn chairs and it provides service to the people who come in and out during the day and the neighbouring tradesmen. The husband and wife live in one of the houses next to Ayios Kassianos church because Hambi is also a sexton.[…] Behind the patched-up wall of the cafe […] three people would sit every day. One of them was Sami, the han manager's assistant. The other two were youths who had come to the city to teach art, and their job was to work on horseshoes […] A shop on the right hand side sold animal feed. Behind this shop were two depot-sized stables with large drinking troughs and the capacity to hold up to 200 animals. 28 This han was organized around a courtyard which housed a number of functions; there was a water reservoir with a fountain and large trough, where the Map by author. animals were watered and the blacksmiths would shoe and groom them. Two large stables opened out onto this courtyard, and the small toilets located in the back corner were shared by all. At night, the amaxa drivers would park their carts in the courtyard. This han supported a large number of small businesses and trades; a cafe, blacksmiths, stabling of animals for export, sale of manure to farmers, parking, storage facilities, as well as functioning as a hostel for long-and short-term residents. Hikmetag alar describes the residents of the han's oda, or rooms:Maronite Antoni and his wife Fontinu stayed in two of these rooms. Antoni ran a coal business in one corner of the han. At the same time, Antoni and his wife, who were enthusiastic flower lovers, grew geraniums, basil and jasmine in old oil tins and flowerpots.[…] In two rooms they lived together with all the noise and activity of the han. They had gotten used to every type of smell, sound and temperature that would filter up from the animals. Actually, for years, nobody found this at all strange. 29Other rooms held Torgut and Mustafa, two young Turkish bachelors, a Turkish baklava maker by the name of Ahmet, and a number of other residents including Kosta, a Greek merchant who also sold coal. Kosta lived all alone in his room, and the others did not even know if he had a wife or kids. 'He lived a very basic and simple life, and the one luxury and novelty among this monotony was going to church every Sunday morning with his deep faith.' 30 The composition of the residents highlights the truly mixed nature of these places, with a Turkish owner, a Greek manager and residents that were Greek, Turkish and Maronite. The everyday life of the hans exhibited a real mixing of private and commercial life, and were environments where even people who had quite strong religious beliefs lived together with those from other communities. Figure 5 provides a diagrammatic interpretation of the configuration of these functions in the Haci Dimitri Han. As it was not possible to determine the exact size and location of the elements mentioned in Hikmetag a's 'monograph' of this han, I have chosen to represent these elements in an abstract manner, incorporating descriptive portions of his text into the diagram.According to Önder, Mustafa Çavus¸'s Han was also very mixed, with both Greeks and Turks staying for extended periods of time. This would have involved cohabitation within a space that was physically very compact and enclosed, with many people sharing the same public amenities. This also indicates that there would have been some amount of intermingling between the groups in the han's associated restaurant or cafe. A Greek Cypriot interviewee, Tassos, born in 1937, recalls that his family moved to Nicosia when he was a child in 1942 and they lived for a few years in an unnamed han on Ermou Street. This mud-brick building, oriented around a courtyard and fountain, had around sixteen rooms on the second floor -an entire family living in each room. He recalled, 'in those days people were poor and were renting rooms in the han. There was a pacha [soup] shop downstairs and the guy would make a noise yelling for business early in the morning'. He remembers the Turkish father of the family in the room next door cursing loudly at him begging for quiet every morning. This is when Tassos first learned to speak Turkish. The hans reveal much about the everyday workings of a city in which informal ties and relations between the two communities existed within a certain physical structuring and spatial understanding of the city.Drawing by author. These were very intimate environments where people from different ethnic communities and different villages throughout Cyprus lived together; sharing a common courtyard, toilets, stables, a cafe and, undoubtedly, an interest in the lives of others living in such close proximity. They were places where many different spheres of life came together; for instance, as Hikmetag alar revealed, Antoni and Fontinu lived and sold coal from the same place, marking their presence in the han with pots full of flowers and basil. Certainly the tendency exists to view such a place, where people were so intermingled, through a nostalgic or utopic lens. Therefore, it is important to state clearly that the hans were not 'melting pots', but rather that their residents were constantly aware of what marked their neighbours as different from themselves. 31 They were not living just with Antoni, they were living with Maronite Antoni. Additionally, although people were very close in proximity, there was still distance between them; for example, lonely Kosta, whom nobody knew very much about. As another example, Hikmetag alar describes one of the tenants of Pantzaros Han:The han's last and longest-term renter was […] a Rum 32 refugee from Turkey, who was a pompous man. Although he knew Turkish, he wouldn't speak it unless absolutely necessary. He kept one shop in the han as his office and behaved obnoxiously towards everyone, interfering in everyone's business, and because of these habits, nobody liked him. 33 Thus the spatial and social structuring of life in the hans along Ermou indicates firstly that there was some degree of coexistence in the city, and secondly that this could be problematic. The hans worked not because they were idyllic settings of unity and brotherhood, but rather they allowed for the complex social negotiation of difference. And, in fact, that is what made the shared streets of the Ermou marketplace so important to the functioning of the mixed city.A reference to Georg Simmel's analysis of 'the stranger' and human relationships can shed some light on why these places were so important. In his discussion of 'nearness' and 'remoteness', Simmel claims that the stranger is someone that we know, and in knowing him we understand that he is not part of 'us'.The unity of nearness and remoteness involved in every human relation is organized, in the phenomenon of the stranger, in a way which may be most briefly formulated by saying that in the relationship to him distance means that he, who is close by, is far, and strangeness means that he, who is also far, is actually near.These strangers are not really 'conceived as individuals' in the sense that we do not think about their individual qualities, but rather generalize them into a group that is characterized by their being different from us. 34 The shared marketplace streets and the hans allowed Nicosia residents to recognize the specific differences -the elements which begin to form the outlines of individuals, distinguishing them from the group as a whole. These outlines may remain hazy; they need not be deep friendships, and indeed they probably often were not, but they do help to create a public life in which the individual can operate comfortably. It was the repetitive nature of these interactionsfacilitated by the stable pattern of streets and intersections, recognizable shops and han courtyards -that allowed for this. Conclusion: The Hans and the Buffer Zone TodayWalking in the centre of walled Nicosia today, along the edges of what was once the Ermou marketplace, it appears that only a few hans still stand today. A number of hans do remain, although their condition has been drastically altered. There is little to indicate that they were such important components of the structure of urban life in the recent past. It is clear from the shopkeepers' stories that the hans were well used until at least the mid-1950s. In those years several of the shopkeepers were still going to Papadoupoulos Han to buy milk. Önder was living in Mustafa Çavuş 's Han up until 1952, when Deveciler Han had just recently traded its camels for buses. The fate of these hans today is linked to changes in the political environment in Cyprus from 1955 onwards, the tensions that had developed between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, and the subsequent division of Nicosia, which occurred in phases from 1958 to 1974. A newspaper article from 8 July 1958 illustrates the manner in which the shared streets of the Ermou marketplace were affected:According to what we have learned, the Turks living in the Tahtakale neighbourhood have been left to face new difficulties. According to one of our readers, there is a passageway through a han, in the same area as the barbed wire barrier, that was used to enter the neighbourhood. In the last few days this has been closed by the soldiers. 35 While the name of the han is not given in this account, it can be deduced from the location presented that it was Mustafa Çavuş's Han, where Önder had lived until 1952, sharing this space with many Greeks. We can easily imagine that the intermingled nature of these hans, with their common courtyards and mixed residents, changed drastically in this period. This part of the city had become a dangerous border area where such buildings could no longer function in the same manner. The position and function of the hans in the city was further threatened after 1963 with the drawing of the Green Line in the aftermath of intense fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia. After these events Ayios Antoniou Han, now located in the newly formed Turkish enclave in Nicosia, was used by the Turkish Cypriot 'fighters'. No longer functioning as a han for woodworkers and carpenters, with its restaurant and cafe closed, the han's large courtyard was used as a parade ground for the fighters. A canteen was located on the ground floor, perhaps in the same location as the former restaurant, and fighters with families as well as Turkish Cypriot refugees were housed on the second floor. 36 Today this han remains in the inaccessible Buffer Zone area, north of the Turkish forces cease-fire line (CFL), and is still used for military functions, now by the Turkish army. Recent migrants from Turkey have settled into the former fighter quarters, probably as squatters, and their presence there is tolerated by the military, although the windows and terraces of their residences face directly onto the soldiers' area below.Similarly, Symeou Han, which lies just outside the southern edge of the Buffer Zone in the Republic of Cyprus, appears to have been used by the Greek Cypriot military at some point. While it is now used by light-industrial workshops and carpenters, a corridor fortified by a row of large oil barrels can be seen running below ground level on the north side of the han along the edge of Ermou Street (Figure 6) halves of the city, an alternative 'street' has been redirected to run through the centre of this han (Figure 7). Haci Dimitri Han and Mustafa Çavuş 's Han were demolished years ago, as was most of Deveciler Han. Only a small portion of its arched construction remains standing today at its southern edge, and it functions as a car park. From these fragments and remains of the marketplace hans, it is not possible to read or understand the unique way of life that they at one time embodied. For that reason, the memories of past residents are indispensable in the process of redrawing their social dimensions.The only hans from the riverbed streets that maintain a strong presence in the city today are Büyük Han and Kumarcılar Han, although they are located a bit further north of Ermou and are thus separated from the Buffer Zone by a few streets. Kumarcılar Han, under private rather than municipal ownership, is in a dilapidated state and remains closed. Büyük Han reopened in 2002 after a lengthy and difficult restoration process that lasted for nearly twenty years. 37 This building is an important component of the cultural heritage landscape of Nicosia today. In fact it is one of the few places in the old city that Cypriots frequent, as they generally reside in new neighbourhoods outside of the city walls -an area that is now populated mostly by migrants. While this han is greatly appreciated as architectural heritage of the island's Ottoman past, there is little understanding of the unique way of life that these hans at one time embodied, especially those located along Ermou street. The structuring of urban life that occurred in these buildings in the 1940s and 1950s was a unique adaptation of a building type introduced to the region by the Ottomans, and most likely built by individual Cypriot owners during the British colonial period. These hans were sites of coexistence and social negotiation between multiple ethnic groups in Cyprus up until the mid-1950s. As the nature of coexistence in pre-conflict Cyprus is heavily debated, 38 I hope that this brief study of one particular building type and the manner in which it structured urban life and social relations in the mixed city of Nicosia will shed some light on the nature of this contentious coexistence. 19. Panos Leventis cites a treaty 'of peace and commerce' between Cyprus and Genoa, agreed to on 7 July 1403, which mentions that the 'act of signing took place in Nicosia, in the royal palatio, in the large hall which is towards the stractam Potomi, the street of the river. The above mentions lead to a hypothesis that there existed along the rivercourse in medieval Nicosia either a "complex" street, with a width large enough to accommodate processions and crowds, and covered shops on the side, or a doubling of two parallel streets following the river, one a linear, covered and continuous commercial market, the rue covertevielle or rugacoperta, and a wide ceremonial axis. 38. See Papadakis for a discussion of these divergent views on the nature of coexistence. He discusses the official Greek Cypriot reference back to an idealized past; a time of living together 'like brothers' in one community, where periods of intercommunal violence are forgotten, especially the period of 1963-74, which is not widely discussed or covered in history textbooks in the Greek Cypriot south. Turkish Cypriots, however, do not officially remember this time of unity that lies further back in the past. For a large part their official national memories begin with the founding of their homeland in 1974, a homeland that was rapidly repopulated with new memories in order to stabilize it in an amorphous past. 'Officially Turkish Cypriots had to forget their old homes in the south. Talk of a past life with Greek Cypriots could only include the bad times. Now they lived in their homeland' (Papadakis, Echoes from the Dead Zone, 149). Suggested CitationFigure 1 :1Nicosia's Walled City. Figure 2 :2Büyük Han today. Figure 3 :3Hans along the marketplace streets. Figure 4 :4Location of Haci Dimitri Han on Paphos Street. Figure 5 :5Diagram of Haci Dimitri Han with excerpts from its description by Hizber Hikmetag alar in his book, Eski Lefkos¸a'da Semtler ve Anılar. Figures6a and b: Below Symeou Han traces of the military use of this han are still evident today.Photograph by author. . Papadoupoulos Han and Kodros Han have been lost to the Buffer Zone. Portions of Pantzaros Han still stand today, although since Paphos Street is now divided by a barrier that separates the two Figures 7a and b: Left: Pantzaros Han today. Divided Paphos Street now lies behind the military barricade to the right. What was once the entrance to the han has now become a street. Right: A view of the han from the other side gives a clearer picture of the han's previous condition.Photographs by author. Bakshi, A. (2012). 'The legacy of Ottoman building in Nicosia: hans as spaces of coexistence in pre-conflict Cyprus', International Journal of Islamic Architecture 1: 1, pp. 107-128, doi: 10.1386/ijia.1.1.107_1 Anita Bakshi received her BA degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She has worked in architectural design firms in Berkeley, Chicago and Istanbul as well as researched architectural heritage in Berlin and Cappadocia, Turkey. She is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Architecture at the University of Cambridge within the context of the Conflict in Cities Research Programme. E-mail: ab786@cam.ac.uk Endnotes 1. Nicola Coldstream, 'Nicosia -Gothic City to Venetian Fortress', in The Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation Annual Lectures, 3 (Nicosia: The Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia, 1993); Gianni M. Perbellini, 'The Fortress of Nicosia, Prototype of European Renaissance Military Architecture', in The Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation Annual Lectures, 4 (Nicosia: The Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia, 1994). 2. The name of this street in English is Hermes Street. In Greek it is Ermou, and in Turkish it is Ermu, pronounced similarly. In this article I will refer to it as Ermou, as this is the name commonly understood by the Armenian, Greek and Turkish Cypriot shopkeepers who were interviewed for this research. 3. Anna Marangou, Nicosia: A Special Capital (Nicosia: The Leventis Municipal Museum, 1995); Diana Markides, 'The Issue of Separate Municipalities in Cyprus 1957-1963: An Overview', Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 8.2 (1998): 177-204. 4. The period of 1963 to 1974 was one of intercommunal strife and violence. During this period of insecurity most Turkish Cypriots gathered together in enclaves, the largest one in Lefkos¸a. A Greek Cypriot imposed blockade limited the entry of food and supplies (Andrew Borowiec, Cyprus: A Troubled Island (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2000)). In 1974, Archbishop Makarios, the republic's legal leader, was overthrown in a coup, and Nicos Sampson, who had a reputation as a 'sadistic killer of Turks and Britons', was installed as the new president (Süha Bölükbas¸ı, The Superpowers and the Third World: Turkish-American Relations and Cyprus (New York and London: White Burkett Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia, 1988)). In response, Turkish forces entered Cyprus in 1974, occupying 37 per cent of the island. Declared a sovereign republic in 1983, the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) has never been officially recognized by any country other than Turkey, which maintains a large military presence on the island. The borders remained closed, with few residents ever able to cross over to the other side of the island, until they were opened in 2003. It is now possible to cross to the other side of the border by passing through a checkpoint and presenting a passport or identity card. 5. Peter R. Hocknell, Boundaries of Cooperation: Cyprus de facto Partition, and the Delimitation of Transboundary Resource Management (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2001). 6. Marangou, Nicosia, 134. 7. At the beginning of 2001 the Bicommunal Development Programme, funded by USAID and the UNDP, implemented in Cyprus by UNOPS, began this project to survey the buildings in the Buffer Zone along with the NMP. A team of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot architects and engineers worked on this for two and a half years. This resulted in a comprehensive record including technical drawings of the facades, a database of the buildings and their characteristics, and a photographic archive of the buildings. See The Unknown Heritage along the Buffer Zone: European Heritage Days (Nicosia: Department of Town Planning and Housing, under the auspices of the Council of Europe, 2008). 8. Recent scholarly work on Nicosia has left this middle territory relatively unexplored. Yiannis Papadakis's important anthropological study is organized around the stories of individuals living in several Nicosia neighbourhoods, on both sides of the line (Yiannis Papadakis, Echoes from the Dead Zone: Across the Cyprus Divide (London: I.B. Taurus, 2005)). Several urban studies, like those by Hocknell (Boundaries of Cooperation, 2001) and Attalides look at the overall city through a planning and policy lens (Michael Attalides, Social Change and Urbanization in Cyprus: A Study of Nicosia (Nicosia: Social Research Centre, 1981)). 17. For example, the census of 1946 shows that Phaneromeni, a neighbourhood in the south, had a population of 10 'Mahomedans', meaning Turks, and 1065 'Non Mahomedans' who were mainly Greeks. Tahtakale, also south of the riverbed streets, had 518 'Mahomedans' and 902 'Non Mahomedans'. The neighborhood of Emerieh (Ömeriye) had a population of 249 'Mahomedans' and 917 'Non Mahomedans'. In the north, Ayios Lukas had a population of 536 'Mahomedans' and 263 'Non Mahomedans'. Unlike Phaneromeni, these neighbourhoods were the most mixed in the city. 18. Jacob Barnai, 'On the History of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire', in Sephardi Jews in the Ottoman Empire: Aspects of Material Culture, ed. Esther Juhasz (Jerusalem: Israel Musuem, 1990), 32.Contributor Details The via publica or rugagrande or stractam Potomi' (Panos Leventis, Twelve Times in Nicosia -Nicosia, Cyprus, 1192-1570 (Nicosia: Cyprus Research Centre, 2005), 189). 20. See Constable's discussion of the development of 'khans' in the Ottoman territories in Anatolia and Syria in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. She describes the shift caused by 'the inauguration of new Ottoman commercial policies' on trade patterns in the eastern Mediterranean which 'included a move away from the long-established medieval protocols for handling cross-cultural trade and traders' (Olivia R. Constable, Housing the Stranger in the Mediterranean World: Lodging, Trade, and Travel in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 359-61). These earlier patterns in the Mediterranean, from the second to the sixteenth centuries, included the inns or hostelries known as pandocheion, funduq and fondaco. Over the centuries these institutions 'took many forms, serving not only as hostelries, but also as commercial depots, warehouses, emporia, tax-stations, offices, taverns, prisons, and brothels' (ibid. 2). See also Mustafa Cezar's study of Ottoman commercial buildings including the hans, bedesten, çars¸ı and arasta (Mustafa Cezar, Typical Commercial Buildings of the Ottoman Classical Period (Istanbul: Türkiye I˙s¸ Bankası Cultural Publications,1983). 21. The general plan of an Ottoman han consisted of a number of rooms built around a courtyard, often with an area for the storage of goods and the animals below, and sleeping rooms above on the second level. 22. Tuncer Bag ıs¸kan, Ottoman, Islamic, and Islamised Monuments in Cyprus (Nicosia: Cyprus Turkish Education Foundation, 2009). Bag ıs¸kan states that there were nineteen hans in Nicosia's walled city. From the list that he 36. Interview with Tuncer Bag ıs¸kan, April 21, 2011. 37. Over this span of years the restoration was undertaken by the North Nicosia (Lefkos¸a) Planning and Construction Department and the Nicosia Master Plan (Bagıs¸kan, Ottoman, 454).