By Afshin Majlesi

Why lodging at a caravanserai is a must-do in Iran?

December 8, 2020 - 18:5

Imagine a place so serene in the heart of the ancient Silk Road(s) where you can plunge into a forgotten age while staying for a day or two.You may conjure up the hustle and bustle of the merchants selling their goods, bargaining on prices, telling their long-lived journey to one another while their animals chew on hay amid massive portals, elevated load-bearing walls, rooms encircling the courtyard, a heavy-doored gateway, and the tranquility of the surrounding nature!

Yes, this is one of the 999 caravanserais the legendary Persian king Shah Abbas built to shelter and provide food and safety to merchants, traders, travelers, and pilgrims beyond reasons such as desert, heat, star-studded sky, and tired travelers or in fact, caravanners.

In today’s modern world, traveling is more centered around annual holidays and can be fairly well predicted but in the past travelers- or, caravanners- who had to take long journeys crossing rough roads for days to reach their destination and thus, they needed roadside inns to rest and recover and get ready for the rest of their trip.

Caravanserai  is a compound word combining “caravan” with “sara”. The first stand for a group of travelers and sara means the building. Iran’s earliest caravanserais were built during the Achaemenid era (550 -330 BC). Centuries later, when Shah Abbas I assumed power from 1588 – to 1629, he ordered the construction of network caravanserais across the country.

A caravanserai  was usually constructed outside the walls of a town or village. The structure is quadrangular in form and is enclosed by a massive wall that has small windows near the top and only a few narrow air holes near the bottom. Inside, the ground floor consists of a central court surrounded by a cloister-like arcade, which is in turn surrounded by cellular storerooms.

The ground floor is connected by broad, open, stone stairways to a second story that is ringed by a somewhat lighter arcade, which gives access to many small rooms. The court is open to the sky and has a well with a fountain basin in its center.

The caravanserai  was always kept open for all arrivals from early dawn until late in the evening. Some caravansaries are of modest architectural merit, with well-hewn, massive walls and impressive proportions. Their gates are often decorated with intricate carving, as is the prayer niche within.

At night while you are standing on the roof of the isolated building imagining what it must have been like to see camel caravans coming across the barren desert while the sun is disappearing behind the mountains to the west.   

Don’t worry about the amenities, there are many ancient caravansaries, which have been fully restored and equipped to be boutique hotels or so. 



  • 2020-12-15 00:48
    Traveling through this ancient land and staying at caravansaries would be a dream experience. Good article.
  • 2020-12-15 14:40
    Where are they? more information if you want tourist into them.

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