Caravansarai, off Highway 91, near Kuh-e Denband, north of Ravar, Kerman Province, Iran

Another (Abandoned) Caravanserai
Exhilaration and sorrow upon finding another jewel of the desert

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Where on earth do you find an abandoned caravanserai by the roadside – wide open for your personal inspection? Here in Iran. For Saeideh and I it’s turning into a habit.

It’s past sunset and I’m driving a 4WD in central Iran, just past Ravar toward Tabas. From the corner of an eye, I see the eclipse of a lookout tower against the golden sky, sticking out from a rocky ridge, like a missile about to take off.

If there’s a lookout tower, there’s gotta be more; why else would someone build a lookout? And sure enough, just before the road veers away, I have the split-second glimpse of a fortress-like structure down in the plains below.

Without a moment’s thought, I make a sharp turn off the asphalt and plow into the dirt.

“What happened?” Saeideh screams, trying to balance herself.

“Found another caravanserai,” I say.

She’s not terribly surprised. I’ve written before about such serendipitous finds. And she knows I won’t let go. She’ll have to pry me away.

Caravansarai, Off Highway 91, Near Kuh E Denband, North Of Ravar
Caravansarai, off Highway 91, near Kuh-e Denband, north of Ravar, Kerman Province, Iran

A caravanserai (also spelled caravansary, caravansaray, caravanseray and caravansara) is the fortress-hotel of the pre-modern age, built to shield travelers and their pack animals from raiders. They were crucial to trade between the East and West for many centuries. On the ancient Silk Road there was one an average of every 35 km, closer on steep roads, and much closer in the hellish heat of the Persian Gulf coastal areas. The Crusaders imported the design into Europe.

They are marvels of design and construction – in particular contrast to Iran’s current disposable mentality. A modern home here is rarely habitable beyond 40 years.

About a kilometer from the road we step outside and slowly approach the entrance. I’m shooting away like the paparazzi, fascinated by both the subject and the otherworldly landscape around us. The sharp rocky peaks remind me of the NASA pictures recently transmitted from Mars.

Lost Caravansarai Iran Ali Torkzadeh Com

On satellite photos, the landscape looks particularly alien from above. The caravanserai looks like a tiny square computer chip in middle of a giant field of churning lava.

“Ali, look how wisely they picked the location,” Saeideh whispers in awe.

We walked this nameless jewel – there are no signs anywhere – up and down and every which way. My guess is it’s 130 to 200 years old, built by the Qajar dynasty, with the typical square “courtyard plan”, towers on the corners, single entrance, courtyard surrounded by arcaded porticoes.

As I clicked away, Saeideh asked: “Do you wish you had the money to save all of Iran’s caravanserais?” That would take a lot of money. Close to 500 caravanserais allegedly have been documented. But even saving a single one would be a monumental task, considering the bureaucratic obstacles.

When it was too dark to see much, I wanted to spread out our sleeping bags and lay out in the open, maybe make a fire. But Saeideh is too fearful of the unknown. She says with a few more companions, she would feel safe enough.

We drove away with a heavy heart. I looked back one last time at the lookout tower, now nearly dissolved into the murky sky. It felt like abandoning an old friend.

Caravansarai, Off Highway 91, Near Kuh E Denband, North Of Ravar
Caravanserai, off Highway 91, near Kuh-e Denband, north of Ravar, Kerman Province, Iran

UPDATE

The caravanserai now has four reviews on Google. It’s called “Well inn Curran”, a phonetic translation of its Farsi name: کاروانسرای چاه کوران (Pronounce: CHAW-KOO-run). Google says it’s open “24 hours”. No kidding. Orphans don’t have anything else to do but wait for somebody who gives a darn.

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Ali and Saeideh plan their Iran roadtrips from their home in Mashhad. More about us here >>

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Comments

2 responses to “Another (Abandoned) Caravanserai
Exhilaration and sorrow upon finding another jewel of the desert

  1. Alberto Antón Avatar

    Hi Ali & Saeideh,
    We are an Spanish couple travelling by bicycle (tandem bicycle) from Spain to China, along the ancient Silk Road. We are currently in Iran, I have found your blog searching for abandoned Caranvanserai in Iran. We are pretty interested to find one. Our next destination is Mashhad from Tehran, I would like to ask you if you know, by the way, any abandoned caravanserai in the road from Tehran to Mashhad, If so, I kindly ask you for the coordinates or any reference we can find it.
    Thank you so much, for your attention, and congratulations for your blog.
    Kind Regards.
    Alberto+Ana
    http://www.pardenomadas.com
    Instagram: pardenomadas

    1. Ali Torkzadeh with Saeideh Ajilchi Avatar
      Ali Torkzadeh with Saeideh Ajilchi

      Hello, I am seeing this comment now because site failed to email me when you posted, like it should. I am sorry for the VERY late reply. To find this caravanserai, go the Google map at the bottom of post. You can actually see the Caravanserai in the satellite map. Click on VIEW LARGER MAP button. It will open up the map inside the Google Maps site, through which you can map directions to the Caravanserai from wherever. Hope this helps, thank you for your post and sorry for the very very late response!

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