Persian caravansaries | Ancient Iranian inns

Caravansaray_Shah-Abbasi_Karaj_

Caravansaray Shah Abbasi Karaj

A caravansary was an inn on the roadside that travelers could stay and rest during their journey. In Persian language, the word caravansary is composed of ‘caravan’ which means a group of travellers and ‘Sara’ which means a house or place to stay. So caravansaries were homes for travellers. These historical residences are scattered in different parts of Iran and many of them are considered as artistic and architectural masterpieces in the time of their construction. Persian Caravansaries were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The nominated caravansaries by UNESCO

Robat Sharaf, Robat Mahi, Sharif Abad, Robat Sang, Fakhr-e Davood, Ghadamgah, Neyshaboor, Mehr, Mazinan, Myandasht, Myamey, Deh Molla, Ahovan, Qushe, Lasgerd, Dehnamk, Deyr-e Ghachin, Eynol Rashid, Parand, Sado Saltaneh, Zeynol Din, khamoshi, Farasfag, bistoon, Izadkhast, Kan Khoreh, Taj Abad, Ghasr-e Shirin, Ghelli and Robat Eshgh.

The History of Persian caravansaries

The first caravansaries were built during Achaemenid Empire to safeguard the roads and support the governmental Royal carriers called Chapar. Silk Road (which connected different civilizations), Royal Roads (which connected the main cities of Persian Empire) and two pilgrimage roads have hundreds of these historical residences.

During the reign of Safavid dynasty, under the rule of Shah Abbas I many beautiful caravansaries were built and repaired, that their designs diversified and four-Iwan (four-vaulted) caravansaries, other forms like circular, octagonal and desert caravansaries were introduced too.

Caravansaries, places for rest and cultural exchange

Persian caravansaries had a deep influence on social, cultural, commercial and economic aspects during history. Not only it provided food, a resting place and a shelter against rain, snow and storms for travellers, but also it was a place for interchanging thoughts and ideas, sharing knowledge and sciences between people from different cultures. Travellers, merchants, scientists and scholars could meet in these buildings and exchange knowledge and ideas and know about other civilizations and cultures.

The architecture of caravansaries

They often had a foursquare plan and the central court yard is their most characteristic element which allows the best fortification. The rooms were around the court yard and behind the rooms there were passage for animals and stores. The basic architecture of these buildings was determined by the local style and construction materials available in that area.

Desert type caravansaries, have wind catchers to cool the rooms ’air, mountainous types are fully roofed and plain types that are located in central parts of Iran have courtyards.

Types of caravansaries that are located beside the bazaars are mostly called Serays, which had 2 floors, the first floor was used for rest and the second floor was used to keep and store goods.

* Written by Arefeh Firouzan.

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