Iranian cultural heritage, handicrafts and tourism organization
Khurasan-e Razavi, Isfahan, Yazd
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The Caravanserais are one of the most important form of Persian Architecture that emerged and created cause of routes development and needs related to the travel’s demands and requirements.
In this file, there are 25 Caravanserais, from all over Iran under the name of Persian Caravanserais which are selected from hundreds of Caravanserais.
The name of these Caravanserais are:
Robat Sharaf, Robat Mahi, Sharif Abad, Robat Sang, Fakhre- Davood, Ghadamgah, Neyshaboor, Sange Kalil, zaferanyeh, Mehr, Mazinan, Myandasht, Myamey, Deh Molla, Ahovan, Qushe, Lasgerd, Dehnamak, Deyre Gachin, Eynol Rashid, Parand, Sado Saltaneh, Zeynol Din, Khamoshi, Farasfag, Bisooton, Izadkhast, Khan khoreh, Taj Abad, GHasre shirin, GHelli, Robat Eshgh.
As Iran historically is located between the main ancient civilizations, the historical roads are playing a critical role in Persian civilization. From the beginning of the history to the current time, the role of Iran as a bridge has encouraged the rulers and people to always care about roads and related structures as one of the main financial income resources. For example, Silk Roads is one of this long lasting corridors which played an important role in Persian Empire during the history. One of the famous Persian ancient road which known as Royal Road, during and after Achamenied period, which was connecting the main cities of Persian empire, there were several characteristic network of routes across the Iran that historically are well-known. The Silk Roads have connected civilizations and brought peoples and cultures into contact with each other from across the world for thousands of years, permitting not only an exchange of goods but an interaction of ideas and cultures that have shaped our world today. The historical roads have had several elements related to their functions. Bridges, Caravanserais, checkpoints, castles Bazaars and specifically caravanserais as a main element of historical road in Iran, were not only a simple place for travelers to rest and keeping safe their belongs, also were a meeting point for travelers, merchants, scientists, and many other scholars who wanted to exchange knowledge and ideas, as well as discover new civilizations.
The historic routes mostly were a network of trade routes across land and sea that spanned much of the globe from prehistoric times until the present day, along which people of many different cultures, religions and languages met, exchanged ideas and influenced each other.
One of the first historical documents that tells us about the geographical direction as well as the stations that caravans and merchants use was a book called Parthian Stations by Isidore of Charax (1th BC), which describes the road from the western border of Iran to the eastern part of Iran in detail. By reading this book we can find the location of the first caravanserais and the geographical locations of the roads which connected western to eastern Iran. It is also the first conclusive evidence of caravanserais existing and operating along the one of the most ancient roads in Iran.
The numbers of historical roads that is now called the Silk Road, Royal Roads, Khorasan Road and two pilgrimage roads in Iran, are hosting hundreds of caravanserais.
Today, many historic buildings and monuments still stand, marking the passage of the ancient Roads through caravanserais, ports and cities. However, the long-standing and ongoing legacy of this remarkable network is reflected in the many distinct but interconnected cultures, languages, customs and religions that have developed and spread over millennia along these routes. The passage of merchants and travelers of many different nationalities resulted not only in commercial exchange, but in a continuous and widespread process of cultural interaction. As such, from their early, exploratory origins, the Silk Roads developed to become a driving force in the formation of diverse societies across Eurasia and far beyond.
Caravanseray, Karavansaray, Robaat, Chapaar Khaneh,, are the several names of a building that first time emerged in Persian’s architectural history. This term goes from Persian to other languages across the world. In Persian its included two words: Caravan (group of travelers) + Seray (House and place to stay). It means (House for group of travelers). So the Persian culture donated this word to the world civilizations. According to the studies, the first types of Persian Caravanserais were the buildings which was built by Acheamenied rulers 2500 years ago across the main road of empire for safeguarding of the road and for supporting the governmental express messengers which called Chapar. Later on, during the next empires such as Sasanied and Ashkanied periods, Caravanserais became an extractable part of Iranian roads. Almost across all the main roads between Persian cities, hundreds of Caravanserais was built by both people and governments. Particularly after Islam, when the kings and wealthy individuals in Iran tried to restore the old Caravanserais and build the new ones where it was needed, specially across the pilgrimage routes like the roads towards holy shrines like Mashhad and Karbala.
Caravanserais are usually a place that provides safety for Caravans and travelers against natural risks like rain, snow, storms and floods, or from danger of robbers in the roads. That’s why the structure of Caravanserais is like a castle and good fortified. From a simple enclosure building at the first prototypes, to the highly decorated ones at the middle centuries or the very fortified types of it, are the evidence of progress, improvement and evolution of this kind of buildings.
The type and other characteristics of different Caravanserais also indirectly representing the safety of roads, wealth of people and the trade boom or the authority of government in the time of construction.
For example, the numbers of new Caravanserais constructions or restoration, reorganization and extending of old Caravanserais within the seljuq or Ilkhanied period shows the wealth and power of central government and same changes in Safavied period shows how the Safavied rulers at the same time were the wealth and powerful kings and also the pilgrimage destination were very important for them.
There are hundreds of Caravanserais in Iran which are protected under the national low as a national inventory, most of them are located beside the new and old roads. From 100m2 to 8000m2. The materials and construction technics are included the very wide ranges from mud brick to stone with several decorations styles. Some of them are unique in type and architectural- artistic point of view and some others important because of geographical location or the stories behind their constructions. All Caravanserais have some similarity at the basic aspects like function, materials and plan but there are several aspects of those that make each one of those different from the other one. Most of Caravanserais have similar spaces and elements like, inner courtyard, hall, cells, stable, well, Ivan, and staffs space. Some other have other services and spaces such as bath, mill, store, pray room, water cistern, and the security infrastructures from outstanding universal values point of view, there are 25 Caravanserais which are selected for nomination. Most of the Caravanserais are out of the cities and villages, but there are some Caravanserais that built inside the cities or beside the cities. The Caravanserais inside the cities are usually use to be outside but when the cities were developed, they joined to the cities. Type of Caravanserais that there are located beside the bazaars are mostly called Serays.
The intactness, uniqueness and also the well adaptation with the environment using the vernacular material and technics, choosing the locations are the most significance of selected Caravanserais. From very simple one to the most luxury ones, Caravanserais are built for servicing to travelers and constructed in the middle of roads and far from any settlements. Although large numbers of the Caravanserais now a day are located in the cities and villages, but according to the studies, they were the start point of these settlements, cities and villages. it means that emerging of some cities and settlements beside the roads are because of Caravanserais.
The most characteristic element of Persian Caravanserai is the central courtyard, this design is very functional and it’s the result of evolution. The central court allows the best form of fortification and provides four rows of rooms around the yard. On the back of rooms there are four halls for animals and stores.
There are three main periods that strongly affected to this architecture, the first period was the 10th century, when the very decorated Caravanserais emerged to being, second rush was around 14th century, when the Ilkhanied empire was ruling from far east to the middle of Europe and the third attempt was during the Safavied period at 16th century, when the safafied empire built a lot of Caravanserais and renewed large numbers of old Caravanserais from capital Isfahan to two pilgrimage destinations.
Over the centuries, the architecture of Caravanserais have gradually developed and evolved due to the economic, political, military and religious reasons.
The variety of Caravanserais in case of shapes and forms are depended to the limitations and environmental situations and conditions. From the very simple plans with foursquare form and central yard to the circle plan with covered yard with dome and from arched roof to the pillars and beams structure are the combination of architect plus the limitation of resources and force of nature.
Carvanserais are from unique examples of Iranian Architecture that in each historical period and in different parts of the Iran, significant examples have remained which can be considered as architectural masterpieces.
Schoff, W. H. 1914, Parthian Stations by Isidore of Charax, An account of the overland trade route between the Levant and India in the first century B.C, The Royal Asiatic Society, London
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Persian / Iranian Caravanserai is one of the amazing architectural structures in the history of architecture, which played the role of connecting bridges between civilizations and societies. Each one of them was a component of a communication route, which along with the other buildings on the roads, formed an integrated chain that had a significant/crucial role in commercial, economic, social and cultural changes during history. This role is the result of continuity of Iranian architectural tradition during several millennia that had no interruption.
Caravanserais as one the most important structures constructed on historical routes, such as silk road and pilgrimage routes, presented valuable ideas. This monuments in addition to commercial, economic and social functions, prepared/created a special space for human interactions. The style of architecture, the region, climate, constructing materials, and geographical location had a significant impact on establishment of this kind of constructions. Different environment, climate and seasons didn’t limit constructing caravanserais and Iranian skilled architects benefiting from and using their plentiful knowledge, constructed structures appropriate to the characteristics of each climate. In the plan of caravanserais, there is seen characteristics, which from the point of design, combination and decoration / architectural ornaments are considered as the most various/diverse kind of architectural structures.
Comparing the plan of 200 caravanserais there is seen no repeated or duplicated plan, therefore it is evident that caravanserais is the result and product of creativity and genius of Iranian architects during history. Furthermore, Iranian/Persian Caravanserais were directly involved in social, cultural changes, in a way that their impact can be seen in literature, poetry, paintings, miniature, music as well as architecture.
Criterion (ii): The Caravanserai exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning, and landscape design.
The richness of the exchange of cultural values that was facilitated by the presence of the Caravanserai, the diversity and variety in the heritage that is still present as a result of the extremely long period of time that the Caravanserais was continuously used, as well as the interaction between various civilizations along the span of the last three millennia since their initial establishment. According to archaeological evidence, caravanserais have been reconstructed and restored multiple times through-out the many years of their operation.
Furthermore, the very presence of caravanserais along the historical Road and Heritage Corridors of Iran played a vital role in the operation of this roads as it provided much needed infrastructure for the merchants and traders that travelled from Europe to Asia and vice versa, and the pilgrimage trips working as resupplying and overnight stations. In cases where the caravanserais were located near urban hubs such as Isfahan, Mashhad, Neyshabur, Rey and Tabriz, they played a central role in the exchange of cultural values as their geographical location allowed them to operate as centers of commerce and interaction.
Criterion (iii): The property bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is still living. The Caravanserai bear unique testimony to the civilizations that have occupied the Persian region from the 5nd century B.C, up until the early 20th century, most of the existing Caravanserais are from the Sassanid period, to the Qajar period. Furthermore, due to the pre-existing road network known as the Royal Road which were adopted into the Silk Road, these corridors bear testimony to even older civilizations such as the Achaemenid, Seleucid, and Parthian Empires.
Caravanserai in architectural point of view is a unique and exceptional type of building that emerged to the Persian region and represents the knowledge, art, creativity and adaptation with nature by the people of Persia which has developed and improved during the long time.
Criterion (iv): From architectural point of view, though the shape and form of Caravanserais have changed a bit, but there are a lot of similarities between all Caravanserais, and a lot of elements and functions remained intact from the prototypes. At the same time in the shape, plan and decorations of different Caravanserais, there are variety of forms and creations which are exceptional in case of differentiations.
Criterion (v): Be an outstanding example of traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which are representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible damage.
Through a series of measures of adapting to, utilizing and remodeling natural environments, including the successful development of desert lands, the Persian Caravanserais in Iran supported travelling and transport activities in deserts and eventually made possible intercontinental cultural routes. Therefore, it is an outstanding example of human interaction with natural environments for the purpose of long-distance transportation and communication. Choosing the best location for Caravanserais and defecting the natural risks for travelers in tough situations like deserts.
Criterion (vi): The Persian Caravanserais plus the aesthetical and artistic significance, has a very deep importance in social and cultural aspects. Caravanserais were not only a place for rest and safe stay, but also a place for interchanging the thought and ideas and sharing the knowledge and sciences between people from different cultures and nationals. This stations always been a focal point for debating and exporting the religions, cultures and thoughts in both national and international scales. Be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria).
The Caravanserais of Iran are directly and tangibly associated with the spread of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Mithraism.
A direct example of how beliefs and tradition are tangibly associated with the Silk Road and more specifically the caravanserais included in this nomination is the fact that they were owned, managed, and repaired by Waqf (the charitable organization responsible for managing donations to Islam). Other such intangible elements of cultural heritage include Kaleqe’i Printing, Turquoise mining and carving skills, navigation skills (maharatha-ye rahyaabi dar jade-ye abrisham), sericulture, all of which have been nominated for inscription on the Representative List in 2010.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
As been told, the caravanserais are different in the design, material, and geographical location, some of them are made by fire brick, some of them by stone, and some mixed. Depending on where the caravanserais are located and the climate in that area, the materials differ. Since there is a large number of caravanserais along the historical roads and Heritage Corridors, it has been choosing the best surviving examples of each shape, design, and period, dividing them as equally as possible in terms of geographical location. In selected examples, there are desert type, mountain type, and plain type. Furthermore, have been tried to choose the most intact in terms of authenticity and integrity. The 25 selected Caravanserais, are the most famous, important and valuable examples of Persian Caravanserais in Iran. Most of selected Caravanserais are now restored or rehabilitated or there are plan for them. Some of them are now under the restoration process and some of them are now using as a hotel or other functions with respect to the authenticity. Since, most of Caravanserais.
Are located in remote and far from cities and villages, the development pressures and other dangers are not affecting them and also it’s the reason that we have them more or less intact and integrate.
On average there is a distance of 20-30km between each caravanserai, since that was the distance that a trading caravan could cross in a single day of travelling but the chosen Caravanserais are not necessarily close to each other or in same direction.
Evaluation of authenticity of nominated properties is in accordance with “Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention” and involves the degree of authenticity of the following attributes: Form and Design, Materials and Substance, Use and Function, Tradition, Technique and Management System and Location and Setting.
Although there are not anymore the exact and authentic usage and role of Caravanserais in current time, but using Caravanserais for touristic purposes like accommodation, services and in some case as a site museums are very common and usual in Iran, which is barely is according to the authenticity of property. For the other aspects of authenticity since all the Caravanserais are in the national inventory list, according to the exciting Iranian lows, all the restorations and interventions should be with care of authenticity.
Comparison with other similar properties
In comparison point of view, the difference between Persian Caravanserais and a few other existing type of Caravanserais outside Iran are in shape and plan, since it seems that other kind of Caravanserais came from Persian prototypes.
For example, the Caravanserais in Turkey, are very similar with Persian ones in functions and their roles on providing safety and human interchanges. But from architectural aspect such as plan, shape, and decorations are very unlike. The Caravanserais in Turkey usually were built in two stores and mostly with rectangular or foursquare, since the plan of Caravanserais in Iran are very diverse and various.
More than 200 types of plan are known yet in Persian Caravanserais, while the Persian architects have used all geometric shapes for plan of Caravanserais from circle to triangle to polygonal shapes.
Usually in Caravanserais in Turkey, there are a small mosque in the middle of yards, but in Persian Caravanserais there is a platform for praying.
Both Caravanserais in Iran and Turkey are similar in materials depend on climate and environmental conditions but since there are not any deserts in Turkey, there are not any desert type of Caravanserais and there are not any earthen architecture Caravanserais in Turkey.
Number of Caravanserais in Turkey that representing all types of Caravanserais in this regions are Büyük Han and Capadocia’s Caravanserais.
Also there are some other Caravanserais at the east of today’s Iran across the Silk Road such as Dayahatyn Caravanserai in Turkmenistan and Rabati malik in Uzbekistan which have a Persian name and in comparison are in the same type with Persian ones.