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Bedestenler, Kervansaraylar, Hanlar, Çarşılar, Köprüler, Ticarî ve Sosyal Yapılar, Ticaret Tarihi...

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Anasayfa Kervansaraylar Types and Locations of Caravanserais

Types and Locations of Caravanserais

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Types and locations of caravanserais


The base format for the construction of a caravanserai was the typical form of the four-iwan courtyard structure of Central Asia and Iran, which is also found in other parts of the Muslim world. These structures function equally well as palace, mosque, madrassa, caravanserai, bath or private dwelling; at different times and in different places, in fact, they were built to serve all of these functions.

The typical caravanserai was built with a square or rectangular walled exterior, with a single large portal for the entry of 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. There are several modified designs, depending on the region where they were build and its local conditions of climate and terrain, depending on the era and its architectural preferences, and on the functions. 



A number of interesting locations concentrated in certain areas in the Middle East/Central Asia region: 

  • Safavid Caravanserais & Caravanserais on Khorosan Road, North Iran
  • Caravanserai, Funduq, Han, Qaisariyya, Wakala in Cairo, Egypt
  • Seljuk caravanserais in Anatolia, Turkey


Safavid Caravanserais & Caravanserais on Khorosan Road, North Iran

The Safavid dynasty ruled from 1501 to 1722-1736. Under the Safavid rule of Shah Abbas (1588-1629), road systems were systematically extended linking the capital Isfahan with the orther cities and its major ports. To further facilitate trade caravanserais were erected along these routes at intervals of thirty to forty kilometers representing a day’s journey. Caravanserais had long been a feature of Iranian architecture, but the number, size, and uniformity of examples erected during the Safavid period indicate that they must have been designed in a central government bureau. Indeed, so many examples were built during the reign of Abbas, that virtually all examples built from the 16th century to the 19th century are known as caravanserais of Shah Abbas.

The caravanserais of Bisutun on the road from Baghdad to Hamadan is one of the larger Safavid examples to survive in good condition. It was erected by Shaykh Ali Khan Zangana, a local notable, between 1681 and 1685. Built of brick on a dressed stone socle, it is a rectangle measuring 80 by 90 meters, with rounded towers at the corners; at some other sites towers are set at intervals along the perimeter walls. The exterior is plain on three sites; the main façade with arched niches was marked by the portal, which was two stories high and projected several meters. Inside the portal lies a broad vestibule, here with an upper story containing well-ventilated chambers reserved for important guests. The interior court is a spacious rectangle (50 by 52 meters) with iwans in the middle of each of the four sides and beveled corners. The iwans are linked by a line of shallow arched porches, each of which leads to a small room for sleeping; the doorways are raised so that animals cannot stray from the court, Stables accessible by passages from the court run around the perimeter of the building behind the sleeping quarters. Divided into four sectors, they too had elevated platforms with fireplaces for accommodation. In hot weather the roof was also used for sleeping.

Within the type there is surprising variety: some examples are fancier, with such amenities as shops, bakeries, baths, or separate quarters for women. Some larger sites have rooms on two floors, while others have closed courtyards (against inclement weather) or are more heavily fortified. In general, however, security on the roads during the reign of Abbas was so good that some caravanserais are unfortified, such as the pavilion type found in the coastal lowlands along the Persian Gulf. In marked contrast to earlier examples, such as those in Seljuk period in Iran, Syria, and Anatolia, which had superb vaulting and heavily decorated portals, caravanserais of the Safavid period show their utilitarian character in the simplicity of their decoration. The large number of caravanserais needed and the speed with which they were erected left little room for elaborate decoration of the type that characterized other Safavid buildings. The expansive patronage of architecture under Abbas was not continued by his successors after his death in 1629.

During Safavid era a great number of caravansarais were built on Khorasan road in Northern Iran. Unfortunately, during the course of time, some have fallen into ruins, while others are in poor state; only, a limited number are repaired or reconstructed.

A list of caravansarais on the Khorasan road are as follows:

Turk Robat, Sar-poushideh Robat, Ribod Robat, Shouriab Robat, Dahneh Robat, Kolidar Robat, all were built along Khorasan road, between Shahroud and Neishabour.

There are 4 caravansarais between Tehran and Semnan, built in Safavid era:

Ivaneh-Keif Caravansary, 60 Km east of Tehran

Deh Namak Caravansary, 120 Km east of Tehran, 4-verandas plan, 26 chambers

Lasjerd Caravansary, 160 Km east of Tehran, 4-verandas plan, 24 chambers

Semnan Caravansary, in Semnan City, 4-verandas plan

14 caravansarais between Semnan and Neishabour:

Ahovan Safavid Caravansary, 40 Km east of Semnan

Anushirvani Robat, 40 Km east of Semnan

Qousheh Caravansary, 80 Km east of Semnan

Be-dasht Caravansary, 8 Km east of Shahroud

Miami Caravansary, 70 Km East of Shahroud

Mian-dasht Caravansary, 110 Km east of Shahroud

Elhak Caravansary, 20 Km east of Mian-dasht Caravansary

Abbas-abad Caravansary, 120 Km east of Shahroud

Mazinan Caravansari, Mazinan Village, near Sabzevar

Sadr-abad Caravansary, Shahroud-Sabzevar road

Mehr Caravansary, 50 Km east of Sabzevar

Zaferanieh Caravansary, in Zaferanieh village, near Sabzevar

Neishabour Caravansary, in Neishabour City

Qadam-gah Caravansary, 25 Km east of Neishabour

Caravanserai, Funduq, Han, Qaisariyya, Wakala in Cairo, Egypt


In Ottoman times (1517-1798) there have been upto 360 locations of caravanserais known in the city of Cairo.

In the research "The markets in Cairo, Translation recorded from Maqrizi" (orig. Fr), from A. Raymond and G. Wiet, the following lists are published:

- "List of Caravanserais (Funduq, Han, Qaisariyya, Wakala) mentioned by Maqrizi" (orig. Fr), pp. 233-236. This is in 15th Century AD.

- "List of Caravanserais mentioned by authors later than Maqrizi and not listed by Marqizi (before 1517)" (orig. Fr), pp. 241-243.

- "List of Wakala and Han of Ottoman era (1517-1798)" (orig. Fr), pp. 260-297.


*Al-Maqrizi (1364 - 1442), the leader of the Islamic Egyptian historians was born and raised in Cairo and studied in Al-Azhar. He specialized in the study of doctrine, the Hadith and theology. He was appointed more than once as a preacher, Hadith reader and orator at the mosques of Amr Ibn Al-As and Sultan Hassan and in the school of Al-Muayyad Sheikh. He was also appointed Imam of the Al-Hakim mosque. He obtained the post of treasurer in the city of Cairo, and other administrative positions in Cairo and Damascus. The historical importance of Al-Maqrizi is found in the new and original methods of his historical researches that were unusual to his ancestors. More on www.eternalegypt.org.


For a complete list: See Cairo Caravanserais

Seljuk caravanserais in Anatolia, Turkey

As the Seljuk empire grew in the 12th and 13th centuries, it came to control important trade routes in central Anatolia. There were two main routes, one east-west from Persia to the Aegean Sea and the other north-south from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean through the Seljuk cities of Samsun, Kayseri, Konya, and Antalya.

Despite the regional Seljuk control, travel was still difficult and dangerous. Whether by a caravan of 400 camels or a party of only a few donkeys, all travelers needed a safe place to spend the night. Because of this, caravanserais were built every 30 km (one day's journey) along the trade routes. The buildings were open to any traveler, and while the most basic of the khans comprised of lodging for people and stables for their animals, fresh water, and a masjid (check), many also included baths, markets, kitchens, blacksmiths, and an infirmary.

Services of a caravanserai were free, paid for by foundations and wealthy patrons. The most spectacular Seljuk "Sultanhans" are royal khans sponsored by the sultans of the thirteenth century.

As way-points along trade routes, caravanserais are not typically associated with towns. Instead, they were built as fortified structures with high stone walls, no windows, and only one entrance. The layout is typically a courtyard surrounded by rooms along the walls, and an adjoining closed hall for protection from harsh Anatolian winters. Larger Khans included a masjid in the center of the courtyard, while others incorporated the masjid into the walls over the main entrance.

As with other caravanserais, the exterior of the Seljuk caravanserai remained severely plain. The walls were smoothly finished but devoid of decoration. But the Seljuk caravanserais are usually exceptional for its decorations at the main portal and the portal to the covered hall, as well as the masjid. The Seljuk style incorporated highly geometric patterns, stylized inscriptions and animal motifs. Supporting towers or buttresses may be in geometric shapes (half-cylinder, half-octagon, half-hexagon, etc) and the outlets for roof runoff may be stylized animal heads. The main portal, is elaborately decorated with bands of geometric design, Kur’anic inscriptions in Arabic script, and the sculpted geometric patterns of mukarnas (stalactite vaulting).

The Sultan Han, grandest of all, is west of Aksaray on the Konya highway. Another Sultan Han and the fine Karatay Han are east of Kayseri.

The richest concentration of hans is along the Silk Road from Aksaray east to Nevsehir and Avanos: Agzikarahan, Tepesidelik Han, Alay Han, Sari Han.





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