An important feature of daily life at Büyük Valide Han (BVH) is the office of the Odabasi who is responsible for providing basic services to the tenants such as upkeep and security. The office of the Odabasi is also interconnected with other operations of economical importance at BVH, chief among these are the running of the coffee shops and the transportation of goods.
On off-hours, the night watchman oversees the security of the Han on behalf of the Odabasi. Two brothers are in charge of weekday and weekend shifts.
Transportation of goods is undertaken by hamals (porters). Hamals are organized under a kol (team) in BVH and a hamal has to buy the title in order to start working as part of the kol. Within the hierarchy of Eminönü hamals, the team is part of a larger bölük (company) which is itself part of an iskele (wharf). All teams have zones designated for them and within BVH this team has monopoly over transport activities. At the head of the team is a Kolbasi (chief) organizing the hamals and dealing with the merchants.
Up until the 1980’s when the hamals were considered indispensable and essential for transport between the floors of the Han and nearby locations, the team is said to have as many as fifty members. In the last couple of years, their number was reduced down to a mere eight.
BVH is served by five restaurants, two small grocery stores and three coffee houses.
The Han has its residents and its unique networks of support.
Adelin, the son of a BVH ironer, lived for the first five years of his life at the Han before leaving for Romania to attend school in his parents’ home country.
Ramazan, a master hat maker who lived for more than fifteen years in a room above the atelier he was employed in. He retired to his village in Malatya in 2008.
“Commando” Ünal, a former BVH ironer for forty years who lived in the Han from time to time and now makes weekly tours visiting old friends.
“The cats’ man” who lives with his cats in a room at the terrace of the Third Courtyard.