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Source: REF/RL

Sep 29, 2023

Iran's Persian Caravanserai Recognized As UNESCO World Heritage

Caravanserais were roadside inns built along ancient Iranian routes, providing shelter, food, and water to caravans, pilgrims, and travelers. These establishments were pivotal to the Silk Road trade network, contributing significantly to the development of Persian and Islamic culture.

The Kuhpayeh caravanserai is a 300-year-old hotel located in the city of Kuhpayeh in Iran's Isfahan Province.

Iran's centuries-old roadside inns, or caravanserais, gained UNESCO World Heritage status on September 17. The selected 54 caravanserais "are considered to be the most influential and valuable examples of the caravanserais of Iran. They reveal a wide range of architectural styles, adaptations to climatic conditions, and construction materials spread across thousands of kilometers and built over many centuries," the committee said.

Robat-e Sharaf caravanserai, also known as the Sarakhs caravanserai, was built in the 12th century and is located between the cities of Merv and Nishapur.

The word "caravanserai" originates from the Persian words "karvan," meaning caravan, and "saray," meaning palace or dwelling.

A detail of the architectural decorations at the Robat-e Sharaf caravanserai

These dwellings played a pivotal role in facilitating trade along the Silk Road, connecting Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

A closer view of the stucco found at the Robat-e Sharaf caravanserai that is famous for having some of the most diverse and beautiful brick decorations in Iranian architecture.

Not only do caravanserais feature some of the most significant examples of Persian and Islamic architecture, but they also showcase the best craftsmen of that time.

Deyr-e Gachin caravanserai, located 80 kilometers northeast of Qom, is known as the "Mother of Iranian Caravanserais." It is estimated to be over 800 years old. Built along the ancient Silk Road and the historical road from Ray to Qom, it is located in the middle of Kavir National Park.

Caravanserais have been featured prominently in Persian poetry, literature, and art, often romanticizing the notions of travel and adventure they embody. 

The Izadkhast caravanserai, located in Fars Province, is one of the most important historical structures in the region.

The earliest caravanserais in Iran were built during the Achaemenid era (550–330 BC). Centuries later, when Shah Abbas I assumed power in 1588, he ordered the construction of a network of caravanserais across the country.

The Bisotun caravanserai, also known as the Sheikh Ali Khan caravanserai, is located in Bisotun, in Kermanshah Province. The style of this inn is of the Safavid period and is believed to have been built in the 12th century. It is considered one of the most beautiful monuments in western Iran. It features a central courtyard for animals and goods, along with chambers for travelers to rest. These structures were often fortified for protection.

The Sheikh Ali Khan (Chaleh Siyah) caravanserai, near Isfahan, is celebrated for its architectural design featuring Persian architectural elements, including intricate tilework, arched entrances, and a central courtyard. Its design reflects the artistic architectural style of the Safavid dynasty.

Mahyar caravanserai, near Shahreaza, renowned for its Safavid architecture, was built during the reign of Shah Ismail I (1501-1524). It's unique for its bazaar, mosque, teahouse, and bakery built in front of the caravanserai.

Experts say that the 54 selected are only a small percentage of the numerous caravanserais built along the ancient roads of Iran.

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