January 02, 2011

Istanbul's oriental business district - The 19th Century Hans of Eminönü

<<As İstanbul's year as the European Capital of Culture comes to an end two small exhibitions have been highlighting the mark left on the city by 19th-century architects of Armenian and Greek extraction.
Among the Armenians, the prolific Balyan family stood head and shoulders above the crowd as the men responsible for the Dolmabahçe and Beylerbeyi palaces, as well as other city landmarks such as the Beyazıt Fire Tower on the grounds of İstanbul University. None of the Greek architects is anything like as well known, although Konstantinos Kyriakidis masterminded buildings as various as the Fatih fire station and an apartment block on İstiklal Caddesi in Beyoğlu whose gates were fashioned in the shape of giant bees.

For many people, 19th-century İstanbul is typified by İstiklal Caddesi, once the Grand Rue de Pera and the heart of the European part of town. In reality, there were several parts of the city that were marked by the 1800s, including the busy port area of Karaköy and some of the Bosporus suburbs. One of the most interesting to explore is Eminönü, a bustling maze of seemingly workaday streets that rambles inland from the ferry landing stages and turns out to be filled with fine buildings erected in the last years of Ottoman supremacy as the sultans struggled to Westernize the city and keep their empire afloat.

If Beyoğlu was the city's European business center, Eminönü was its oriental counterpart, and its narrow, overcrowded streets are lined with what were still called “hans,” 19th-century office blocks that had evolved from the original hans, the urban equivalents of rural caravanserais where traveling salesmen could find accommodation as they moved from place to place. Those older hans were usually two-storied, brick-built structures centered on a courtyard, sometimes with a small mosque in the center, where animals would have been stabled downstairs while their owners slept above them. There are still plenty of these old hans left in the city, many of them still in use today.>>

Read More on Sunday's Zaman: Istanbul's oriental business district - The 19th Century Hans of Eminönü


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