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x0x Motels on the road - Ottoman style

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    [See photographs at: http://www.Turkradio.us/k/kervan/ ] x0x Motels on the road - Ottoman style NIKI GAMM ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News Located about a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2007
      [See photographs at:
      http://www.Turkradio.us/k/kervan/ ]

      x0x Motels on the road - Ottoman style

      NIKI GAMM

      ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

      Located about a reasonable day's camel ride apart,
      Caravansarays -- literally translated Caravan
      palaces -- provided security and a resting place
      for the many caravans that traversed the Ottoman
      Empire.

      In the cities, hans (inns), served a similar
      function for travelers and also for merchants
      interested in selling their wares.

      The heavily loaded camels must have smelled water
      even before the lights of the caravansaray
      appeared on the other side of the hill because
      they quickened their plodding pace. Their
      harnesses jingled more loudly. One of the scouts
      riding in front of the camel train came back to
      give the weary travelers the good news that the
      place they would rest that night was just ahead.
      The leader of the train breathed a sigh of relief
      since they had been able to come this far without
      encountering brigands and now they could rest. If
      the caravansaray wasn't full, they might even be
      able to rest for two or three days before
      continuing on the road to Istanbul.

      Until the advent of the automobile and truck, this
      was how goods were transported all over the Middle
      East for centuries. Camels were more common
      transporters, while for shorter distances mules
      were used as horses aren't always the best of
      burden-carrying beasts and there were no
      elephants.

      Distances between cities were often quite long and
      sometimes lawlessness was very threatening despite
      Ottoman Army garrisons here and there along the
      way because of local warlords or outright bandits.
      The Ottoman Empire didn't always have full control
      over its Anatolian provinces. So the building of
      caravansarays was viewed as an essential
      safekeeping element. They were like motels, if
      one can use the analogy -- a few nights' stop on
      the road but possibly not something to write home
      about.

      The Ottomans added some caravansarays to the
      system and a number of hans in cities but the
      greatest effort was towards the south after the
      Ottomans conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt and
      what is Saudi Arabia today. They had already begun
      to establish caravansarays in the Balkans when
      they went in that direction.

      The architecture of a caravansaray:

      Approaching an Anatolian caravansaray was usually
      awesome. The buildings were two or three stories
      high with thick defense walls of stone or a
      combination of stone and brick. Entrances, often
      decorated with design motifs and writing, were
      tall but wide enough to allow heavily laden camels
      to enter the courtyard and at times multiple
      courtyards. The caravansaray was there to protect
      the merchants and their wares as well as
      travelers. So every means was employed to ensure
      that everybody and all merchandise were safe.

      Architecturally these were square or rectangular
      buildings, with the first such Turkish example
      dating back to the 11th century. The caravansarays
      were located 30-40 kilometers apart, a reasonable
      distance for a loaded camel train to traverse
      between stops. This wasn't just a place for people
      to stay. You not only could eat here -- the first
      three days were free of charge -- but there was a
      stable, hamam (Turkish bath), depot, mosque,
      fountain, doctor, veterinary surgeon and people
      specializing in repairs. Even if you arrived at
      midnight there would be someone waiting to open
      the gates for you and see to it that you had a
      meal. Of course, if you stayed longer than three
      days, you had to pay.

      The merchants would be able to unload their camels
      and store the merchandise on the second floor of
      the caravansaray while they themselves stayed on
      the third floor. Two or three floors of porticoes
      would surround the courtyard and galleries behind
      which would be the rooms where they would stay.
      These could be reached by stairs leading from the
      courtyard. The horses, mules and camels would be
      stabled below, but in separate sections because of
      the impracticality of mixing the different
      animals.

      Upstairs, accommodation would be minimal. The
      stone walls were thick -- so it was very cold in
      winter and cool in summer. If you want to see what
      it is like to stay in one, then try the Rustem
      Pasa Caravansaray in Edirne. It will really give
      you an authentic experience. It has stone walls, a
      stone fireplace, and a bathroom that probably
      didn't exist in the 16th century. Off the
      courtyard is a central kitchen area now serving as
      a bar and restaurant. The courtyard where the
      caravan would have first arrived has been
      pleasantly landscaped and offers some relief from
      the heat. Today's entrance area might have been
      instead the protected second courtyard. Go through
      another gate and you'll find yourself in a grassy
      courtyard with rooms around the whole of the area
      that have been used as dormitories for students
      studying in Edirne. The staircases are narrow,
      steep and uneven so it's important to be careful.
      But it is authentic. Apparently, there were lots
      of complaints about how uncomfortable these
      caravansarays were, however, then they weren't
      meant to be anything other than a "motel." Three
      days without being charged? Who has the right to
      complain?

      Hans in the city:

      While caravansarays were built on the major
      Ottoman high roads, when it came to the major
      cities these same structures were known as hans.
      They kept the same structure with a large entry
      gate leading into a courtyard that was surrounded
      by a two, three or four story building where
      merchants would stay with their wares.

      Hans became particularly important in Istanbul
      starting from the conquest of the city by the
      Ottomans in 1453 and continuing for some 400
      years. One difference was that it is wasn't
      possible for the han to be square or rectangular
      unless the land on which it was to be built and
      the surrounding buildings permitted it.

      Some of the differences between hans depended on
      the types of people who went to them. Were they
      travelers, guests or tradesmen? Commercial hans
      were an Ottoman innovation since with their
      takeover of the city, there was no need to resort
      to providing a "fortress," but just a place in
      which a merchant's goods would be secure. Stores
      began to appear along the walls and more gates
      were opened to let people in and out.

      Today for example, there are 12 old hans left
      standing in the Eminönü area, which was the major
      sales point for the merchants who had silk,
      perfume and other valuable items for sale. The
      days when precious goods were sold in these
      buildings are long gone. These hans were usually
      near mosque complexes (kulliye) but not actually
      part of them and were erected by sultans,
      government officials or wealthy merchants.

      To find these structures, one has to explore the
      narrow streets at the back of the Misir Carsi in
      Eminönü. They are identifiable by huge doors that
      resemble those of the Egyptian Bazaar (Misir
      Carsi). Once in, you will find yourself in a large
      courtyard that has certainly not been designed for
      tourists but has been taken over by small
      businesses such as auto mechanics or tire repair
      shops ? they are actually big enough to fit cars
      in them.

      Then there are old but smaller hans that have been
      adapted to modern day requirements. These are
      three and four story buildings with galleries
      running around them in which there are innumerable
      small wholesale businesses, from printing presses
      to apparel, all in small workshops but definitely
      turning out good quality products.

      Someone commented that there are no examples of
      any of the wooden hans that were built under
      Ottoman rule, but that's no surprise as so many
      fires swept through the City throughout history.
      Even after a fire brigade was established, it
      wasn't efficient in dealing with the extremely
      narrow streets and no fire hydrants from which
      they could draw water. A friend's father lost his
      entire han filled with textiles that he sold to
      buyers from Anatolia and he had no insurance. Most
      Turks still don't really believe in insurance, and
      nor did the Ottoman visitors of hans and
      Caravansarays -- it's Allah's will.

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