Caravanserai: A roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey.
By the looks of this definition you might think we were describing a motel! In a few ways there are some similarities, but for the most part the differences were significant. The role that the caravanserais played was a crucial necessity to the survival of the Great Silk Road and its travelers. While it wasn’t unusual for travelers to sleep on the side of the road, it certainly wasn’t a comfortable place being exposed to the elements and potential attacks from thieves. We’re fairly certain that many of them would have preferred to travel from one caravanserai to the next and avoid sleeping outside. To bridge this necessity enterprising entrepreneurs from countries throughout the vast Great Silk Road network built them, and a few have survived to this day.
For the most part the caravanserai had a simple, but practical, architectural design. They were square or rectangular in shape with a single entrance that was large enough to allow camels to enter. The central area, or courtyard, was an uncovered and open space that allowed travelers to maneuver their livestock and merchandise. Inside the walls of the caravanserai were stalls to accommodate the traveler and his goods. While they lacked an ice machine the caravanserai provided water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning, the most precious commodity on the Great Silk Road. Additionally, supplies were made available for purchase, like fodder for the animals or other useful tools that a caravan could use.
While there are a large number of caravanserais in the world, one of the most famous is in Navoi, Uzbekistan. The Rabati Malik was built between 1068 – 1080 A.D. and originally occupied 8,277 sq. m. Inspired by Iranian architectural design, the portal is arch-shaped and complete with Arabic inscriptions. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1968 demolished what had remained of this beautiful caravanserai. However, many photographs were found which will allow future restoration projects to remain true to its original design.
On January 18, 2008 the Rabati Malik was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (Tentative).
Greg has lived and worked in Central Asia since 1997. His hands-on understanding of the people, culture, and tourist destinations provides our clients the opportunity to feel comfortable knowing that they are in good hands. His travels throughout Central Asia have given him the opportunity to interact with many professionals in the tourism industry that enables him to providing the highest quality of services anywhere in the world.