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Architectural and historical monuments of the Ottoman Era, the hans and caravansaray that freckle the old city have mostly been left to their own devices. Originally built as imposing weigh stations for incoming traders, today they are crumbling in places and patched up with duct tape in others.

These buildings are still living spaces of commerce and craftsmanship, or simply storage, a tradition which reaches back centuries. Wandering around one han which hosts a bustling trade in yarn, or visiting an Armenian silversmith in his tiny vaulted cell tapping detail into an elaborate dinner plate is a magical experience. A tray of glasses filled with piping hot tea descend two stories by a rope in the hand of the han’s expert cayci is part of the ballet that plays out every day. It’d be easy to fall for an oriental fantasy in the courtyard of the Büyük Yeni Han if it all were not so real. Which it is.

Spending some time in these lovely old buildings beckons the question: why hasn’t someone done something with this place? A boutique hotel, an event center. That may be the fate of some of the hans we’ve featured in this video, but for now, they are still the domain of masters and apprentices, welders and tea jockeys, people who actually make stuff. What they’ve done with the place is nothing short of magnificent.

Istanbul-based photographer and videographer Monique Jaques recently spent some time documenting daily life in the Büyük Yeni Han, in an effort to get a better sense of the rhythm of daily life there and to record what may be a vanishing way of life and work in Istanbul. The result is the video below:

Monique Jaques
Monique Jaques

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