A caravanserai, or khan, or fondouk, also Han (in Turkish), also known as caravansary, caravansera, or caravansara in English or Sarai in Indian subcontinent (Persian: كاروانسرا kārvānsarā or کاروانسرای kārvānsarāi, Turkish: kervansaray) 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."
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.
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.
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".
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- Caravan city
- List of Seljuk hans and kervansarays in Turkey
- Islamic architecture
- Persian architecture
- Persian gardens and bagh
- Turkish architecture
- List of Street, Hans and Gates in Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
- Branning, Katharine. 2002. turkishhan.org, The Seljuk Han in Anatolia. New York, USA.
- Encyclopædia Iranica, p. 798-802
- Erdmann, Kurt, Erdmann, Hanna. 1961. Das anatolische Karavansaray des 13. Jahrhunderts, 3 vols. Berlin: Mann, 1976, ISBN 3-7861-2241-5
- Hillenbrand, Robert. 1994. Islamic Architecture: Form, function and meaning. NY: Columbia University Press. (see Chapter VI for an in depth overview of the caravanserai).
- Kiani, Mohammad Yusef. 1976. Caravansaries in Khorasan Road. Reprinted from: Traditions Architecturales en Iran, Tehran, No. 2 & 3, 1976.
- Yavuz, Aysil Tükel. 1997. The Concepts that Shape Anatolian Seljuq Caravansara. In: Gülru Necipoglu (ed). 1997. Muqarnas XIV: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 80-95. [archnet.org/library/pubdownloader/pdf/8967/doc/DPC1304.pdf Available online as a PDF document, 1.98 MB]
- Shah Abbasi Caravanserai, Tishineh
- Caravansara Pictures
- Consideratcaravanserai.net, Texts and photos on research on caravanserais and travel journeys in Middle East and Central Asia.
- Caravanserais (Kervansaray) in Turkey
- The Seljuk Han in Anatolia