Thursday, June 16, 2011

Caravanserai: The Real Stopping Place for Camel Caravans and Other Weary Travelers

In the 17th century (Safavid Dynasty), Abbas I set out to build 999 caravanserai to accommodate the camel caravans traversing Persia on the Silk Road(s). There were already lots of them in existence but he had a plan to boost the economy in a major way. We stopped at several as we were crossing Iran in our bus and passed many more that were in ruins.

Here we are in a caravanserai, converted to a restaurant, awaiting our dinner in Zanjan. It is not especially comfortable for foreigners, unaccustomed as we are to sitting on the floor. But the food was great and we ate it as best we could without dribbling on ourselves or the carpets. Fortunately our waiters spread plastic to protect them.

On the way to Jolfa, close to the northern border with the Republic of Azerbaijan, we stopped for tea and cookies at a refurbished caravanserai, soon to be opened as a hotel catering to skiers. The raised platform in the center of most caravanserai are for unloading and reloading the camels coming in through the one entrance.
The caravanserai in Meybod has been turned into a shopping area with a rug museum in the back corridor. The entrance is graced with a beautiful dome. One shop featured small pottery bird whistles which were very popular with our group and gathered school children. When the shop keeper returned with a box to refresh her supplies, I noticed that it was stamped Made in China.

This is a photo of our hotel in Esfahan before it was converted to the quite grand Hotel Abassi.

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