Jangling tambourines rattle in the night wind while braying camels
linked together with colorful ropes plod diligently through the dry
steppe plains in the legendary passage via the Afghan mountains.
Carpet bags filled with luscious silks, aromatic spices and rare
teas from China sway and jostle like the dozing merchants upon the
Through multi-layers of red, orange and dust-covered fabrics,
tiny slits of fatigued eyes rejoice at the eminent shadow on the
horizon. Tinned ornate Arabic lanterns shine and glimmer in the
dusk to illuminate a large fortress a caravanserai inn that
provides refuge for these exhausted pilgrims regardless of
religion, race or language.
These inns are a safe haven, where merchants fill their bellies,
cure their sick, sell and trade their wares and rest their weary
heads for up to three days before continuing their grueling trek
towards Byzantine along the Silk Road.
Over 100 of these inns, sometimes called hans, still exist in
Turkey along the ancient Silk Road. Aptly called “The Long Road,”
it is a system of caravan trails, 7,000 miles long through China,
Persia, India and Turkey, used by Alexander the Great to add to his
military empire and famously by Marco Polo during his exploits.
Seljuk Turkish Sultans bolstered and fortified their part of the
Silk Road in the 11th century to create these inns which
safeguarded trade between Asia and Europe, thus quenching their
lavish fervor of silk and exotic goods from afar. Today, most of
these medieval roadside truck stops are in a shambles, but there
are a few good examples of caravanserais well preserved in the
Eastern Anatolia region in Cappadocia, Okuz Pasa Han in Kusadasi (a
popular destination for cruise ships), Horozlu Han in Konya and a
handful of inns within Istanbul that are easy to visit on a day
Just east of Greece, on the Mediterranean, lies Anatolia, the
southeastern part of Turkey offering your clients interesting
sights from the well of St. John the Baptist to Fairy Chimneys and
camel wrestling (much like bullfighting but without the gory
The charming Alara Han located just 10 miles from the
Mediterranean and famous for its lion-head sculptures used as oil
lamps and ornate expensive stone floors, is a popular destination
to see and experience the old Silk Road days firsthand. Alara hosts
present-day merchants selling their wares, and displays costumes
from the Seljuk days.
Down the road and near the sea is the sparse though completely
rebuilt Sarafsa Han that becomes a 13th-century nightclub at
Cappadocia in eastern Anatolia, with its exotic moon-like
landscape, has houses that are built in caves with Fairy Chimneys
in the Devree Valley; the Goreme Museum, which was once a Byzantine
monastery along the Silk Road; and 12 outstanding inns.
In the town of Aksaray is the enormous and elaborate Sultan Han,
the grandest of the Seljuk caravanserais in Anatolia, with its
astounding 24 marble towers and immense 40-foot-high marble gateway
richly decorated with ornate rosettes and arabesques.
One days’ journey away on foot and camel about 15 miles rests
the equally impressive Agzikara Han that has remained intact
throughout the centuries. South of Avenos, along the Aksaray-Konya
road, is the “yellow han” or Sari Hani, immaculately restored, it
offers dizzying shows of Melvana whirling dervishes in the wide
Follow the Silk Road west to Kusadasi on the Aegean Sea, which
has much to offer your clients from the Temple of Artemis in nearby
Ephesus (the former capital of Roman Asia and best-preserved
ancient city in Turkey) to the worlds oldest synagogue. This port
city is where the Silk Road caravans would load their cargo onto
boats and continue their journey up the Dardanelle straits and into
Istanbul the frontier of Europe.
Istanbul’s famous spice market has some hidden treasures around
its perimeter. Plenty of inns can be visited while meeting the
artisans and craftsmen that occupy them today. Clients are sure to
find luxurious silks, faraway exotic spices and many
out-of-the-ordinary goods that would have traveled the long and
arduous Silk Road.
Bazaar Turkey www.bazaarturkey.com
Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism
The Seljuk Han of Anatolia www.turkishhan.org
Silk Road Hotels www.silkroadhotels.com