A caravanserai (/kærəˈvænsəˌraɪ/) was a roadside inn where
travelers (caravaners) could rest and recover from the day's
journey. Caravanserais supported the flow of commerce, information
and people across the network of trade routes covering Asia, North
Africa and Southeast Europe, especially along the Silk Road.
These were found frequently along the Achaemenid Empire's Royal Road,
a 2,500-kilometre-long (1,600 mi) ancient highway that stretched
1.1 Caravanserai 1.2 Khan
The word is also rendered as caravansary, caravansaray, caravanseray
and caravansara. The Persian word کاروانسرای kārvānsarāy
is a compound word combining kārvān "caravan" with sarāy "palace",
"building with enclosed courts", to which the Persian suffix -yi is
added. Here "caravan" means a group of traders, pilgrims or other
travellers, engaged in long distance travel. The word serai is
sometimes used with the implication of caravanserai.
A number of place-names based on the word sarai have grown up: Mughal
The Persian caravanserai was built as a large road station, outside of
towns. An inn built inside a town would be smaller and was known in
Persian as a khan (خان) (from Middle Persian hʾn' (xān,
“house”)). In the Middle-East the term "khan" covers both
meanings, of roadside inn as well as of inner-town inn. In Turkish the
word is rendered as han. The same word was used in Bosnian, having
arrived through Ottoman conquest. The Greek pandocheion, lit.:
"welcoming all", thus meaning 'inn', led to funduq in Arabic
(فندق), pundak in Hebrew (פונדק), fundaco in Venice, fondaco
in Genoa and alhóndiga in Spanish.
A sample floor plan of a Safavid Empire-era caravanserai
Most typically a caravanserai was a building with a square or
rectangular walled exterior, with a single portal wide enough to
permit large or heavily laden beasts such as camels to enter. The
courtyard was almost always open to the sky, and the inside walls of
the enclosure were outfitted with a number of identical animal stalls,
bays, niches or chambers to accommodate merchants and their servants,
animals, and merchandise.
Caravanserais provided water for human and animal consumption, washing
and ritual purification such as wudu and ghusl. Sometimes they had
elaborate baths. They also kept fodder for animals and had shops for
travellers where they could acquire new supplies. In addition, some
shops bought goods from the travelling merchants.
Akbari Sarai, Lahore
Garghabazar Caravanserai, Kharabakh, Azerbaijan
Interior of the
Caravanserai of Sa'd al-Saltaneh
Inside the Orbelian's Caravanserai, Armenia
Caravansara Sangi in Zanjan, Iran
A caravansara in Karaj,
18th century caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan
Abandoned caravansara in Neyestānak, Iran
Khan As'ad Pasha
Khan al-Wazir, Aleppo, Syria
Ruins of Bara Katra, or Great Caravanserai, in Dhaka, Bangladesh; built by the Mughal Prince Shah Shuja
Ruins of the
Entrance to Anderkilla in Chittagong, Bangladesh
1870s drawing of the khan and old bridge at Lajjun, Palestine (now in Israel)
Shaki Caravanserai, a historical monument in the Shaki Khanate,
Architecture of Azerbaijan
^ "Dictionary.com – caravansary". Retrieved 31 Jan 2016. ) ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Caravanserai". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ^ "The History - Herodotus" - http://classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.mb.txt ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/316248/khan ^ http://biblehub.com/greek/3829.htm ^ alhóndiga in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española ^ Mukaddasi, Description of Syria, Including Palestine, ed. Guy Le Strange, London 1886, pp. 91, 37 ^ Sims, Eleanor. 1978. Trade and Travel: Markets and Caravansary.' In: Michell, George. (ed.). 1978. Architecture of the Islamic World - Its History and Social Meaning. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 101. ^ Ciolek, T. Matthew. 2004-present. Catalogue of Georeferenced Caravansaras/Khans Archived 2005-02-07 at the Wayback Machine.. Old World Trade Routes (OWTRAD) Project. Canberra: www.ciolek.com - Asia Pacific Research Online. ^ https://www.advantour.com/azerbaijan/baku/multani-caravanserai.htm ^ Vladimir Braginskiy. Tourist Attractions in the USSR: A Guide. Raduga Publishers, 1982. 254 pages. Page 104.
The whole of the centre of Sheki has been proclaimed a reserve protected by the state. To take you back to the time of the caravans, two large eighteenth-century caravanserais have been preserved with spacious courtyards where the camels used to rest, cellars where goods were stored, and rooms for travellers.
Branning, Katharine. 2002. turkishhan.org, The Seljuk Han in Anatolia.
New York, USA.
Cytryn-Silverman, Katia. 2010. The Road Inns (Khans) in Bilad al-Sham.
BAR (British Archaeological Reports), Oxford. ISBN 9781407306711
Encyclopædia Iranica, p. 798-802
Erdmann, Kurt, Erdmann, Hanna. 1961. Das anatolische Karavansaray des
13. Jahrhunderts, 3 vols. Berlin: Mann, 1976, ISBN 3-7861-2241-5
Hillenbrand, Robert. 1994. Islamic Architecture: Form, function and
meaning. NY: Columbia University Press. (see Chapter VI for an in
depth overview of the caravanserai).
Kiani, Mohammad Yusef. 1976. Caravansaries in Khorasan Road. Reprinted
from: Traditions Architecturales en Iran, Tehran, No. 2 & 3, 1976.
Schutyser, Tom. 2012. Caravanserai: Traces, Places, Dialogue in the
Middle East. Milan: 5 Continents Editions, ISBN 978-88-7439-604-7
Yavuz, Aysil Tükel. 1997. The Concepts that Shape Anatolian Seljuq
Caravansara. In: Gülru Necipoglu (ed). 1997.
Look up caravanserai in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Caravanserais.
Shah Abbasi Caravanserai, Tishineh Caravansara Pictures Consideratcaravanserai.net, Texts and photos on research on caravanserais and travel journeys in Middle East and Central Asia. Caravanserais (Kervansaray) in Turkey The Seljuk Han in Anatolia
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