Saturday, January 18, 2014

#725 Caravanserai (Hotel), Sheki, Azerbaijan

There are a few hotels in the world that can truly evoke history, and make the visitor feel like they are living in the past, maintaining the sense of the time without sacrificing (or putting too many) modern comforts. Sheki's Caravanserai is one place that can make that claim, although in winter it is a bit too true to its origins (i.e. too cold!). It's dowdy sparsely furnished rooms with living areas are atmospheric and excellently priced and dinner can be had in the garden restaurant beyond.
The Silk Road transported many goods in the middle ages from China and Asia to Europe, and as the caravans of merchants moved across Eurasia's land mass, they tended to stay in well-established centers. They are also dotted along Persia's 'Royal Road' which stretches from Sardis to Susa.
File:Carvansara plan.gif
Needing space for both their animals and themselves, the Middle East's hostelry were the Caravanserais (Karavanserays), a word that has both Turkish and Persian origins. Secure stone walled enclosures of 2 or 3 floors, with a communal courtyard space and rooms for all levels facing into the courtyard (and occasionally also onto the street beyond), they were places to recover from the hard journeys. Sheki had five by the 18th century representing the various Persian merchant factions (Esfahan, Tabriz, Lezgi, Ermeni and Taze) but only two of the buildings have survived. Merchants stored their goods in cellars, traded on the first floor, and lived on the second, but it was also a place for travelers. The one in Sheki is just down the road from the Palace of the Khan's Palace (#750).
Another Karavanseray in Sheki is not currently accessible to the public but holds shops on its lower level.
Source: Mark Elliot's Azerbaijan 4th Edition,_Azerbaijan

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