Caravanserai

Caravanserai of Qalaat al-Madiq, in northern Syria

A caravanserai was a roadside inn where travelers 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 southeastern Europe, especially along the Silk Road.

These were found frequently along the Persian Empire's Royal Road, a 2,500-kilometre (1,600 mi) long ancient highway that stretched from Sardis to Susa according to Herodotus: "Now the true account of the road in question is the following: Royal stations exist along its whole length, and excellent caravansaries; and throughout, it traverses an inhabited tract, and is free from danger."[1]

Architecture

A sample floorplan of a Safavid 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 stalls, bays, niches, or chambers to accommodate merchants and their servants, animals, and merchandise.[2]

Caravanserais provided water for human and animal consumption, washing, and ritual ablutions. Sometimes they had elaborate baths. They also kept fodder for animals and had shops for travelers where they could acquire new supplies. In addition, some shops bought goods from the traveling merchants.[3]

Etymology

The word is also rendered as caravansara or caravansary. The Persian word kārvānsarā is a compound word combining kārvān (caravan) with sara (palace, building with enclosed courts), to which the Turkish suffix -yi is added. Here "caravan" means a group of traders, pilgrims, or other travelers, engaged in long distance travel.

A number of place-names based on the word sarai have grown up: Mughal Serai, Sarai Alamgir and Sarai Rohilia for example, though many places (for example, a great many of those listed in the disambiguation page) are also based on the original meaning of "palace".

The caravanserai was also known as a khan in Persian (خان), han in Turkish, funduq in Arabic (فندق, from the Greek pandocheion, ‘inn’), and fundaco in Venice.

Notable caravanserais

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ "The History - Herodotus" - [classics.mit.edu]
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Ciolek, T. Matthew. 2004-present. Catalogue of Georeferenced Caravansaras/Khans. Old World Trade Routes (OWTRAD) Project. Canberra: www.ciolek.com - Asia Pacific Research Online.

Further reading

External links