“ Historic location in Cappadocia, Turkey. „
The silk routes.
In the 1st century when the silk routes were first becoming established between the Far East and the Mediterranean camel trains would travel across the vast distances often unprotected and frequently at the mercy of bandits and the harsh weather. In total over 4000 miles of routes supplied countries in the East, West, North and South.
Why were they called the silk routes?
The reason it was called the Silk route was because primarily silk, jade, gems, porcelain and spices were traded between China and countries around the Mediterranean in return for gold, spices, perfumes and other fine commodities. Slaves were also traded between countries. Over time all kinds of merchandise was being traded and the camel trains became bigger.
Safe havens were built along the route to house the Caravans for the traders, the camels and train drivers to rest. Markets were set up inside the caravanserai so that goods could be traded. I visited two such places in Turkey on the silk route which is still in pretty good condition. The Caravanserai were similar to the stage coach inns found throughout the UK providing resting places for the merchants, horses and time to recuperate from their journeys.
The Caravanserai was surrounded by very thick high walls and the gateway was highly decorated and carved out of the solid stones with a wooden door that could be bolted from the inside. Entering through the large gateway you come into a square with rooms around the side for travellers and on one side in arched recesses where different traders would ply their goods.
In the centre of the square is a small square structure that was used as a mosque. Around the courtyard the walls had beautiful carvings which were above the portal of each of the rooms.
Towards the rear of the Caravanserai was a huge covered area which housed the camels. Entering through the wide doorway you come into a cathedral sized cavernous hall which is sectioned off six times down each side providing stabling for the camels. It was here that the camels slept or rested usually with their owners and were fed and watered.
Not only did it provide much needed shelter for a day or two it also gave some protection from the searing elements. It was quite cool inside the hall and provided some respite from the searing heat of the sun outside. There was a small hole in the roof which let in beams of light but it was quite dark it would have been lit up at night by oil lamps. I should imagine during the night it could get very cold inside.
If any of the camels were sick they were not allowed inside the main hall but were either tended to in a smaller hall so that they did not pass on any potential sickness to the other camels.
I was very fortunate to visit two of these places. The first one was just how it would have been in ancient times but the other one had been converted into a theatre and where we were able to watch a show.
Some of the caravanserai were located near springs which provided hot water. Foods were brought in and traded with the merchants from the camel trains. Sadly many of these Caravanserai have fallen into decay and are no longer used. Luckily the two that I visited are quite well preserved. They are pretty much still intact due the strong building materials used and the thick walls built in the 13th century.
Should you ever have the opportunity to visit one I would heartily encourage you to do so. The two that I visited were in central Turkey in the Cappadocia area.
There was no charge to enter the Caravanserai with the exception to the one where there was a show.