Saturday, January 16, 2010

Maranjab Caravansary


Maranjab Caravansary is one of the oldest caravansaries in Maranjab, in the most northern part of Isfahan Province. It was built almost 400 years ago and is located 160 kilometers south of Tehran on the southern shore of Lake Qom or Namak Lake. Like other caravansaries of its period it was in deteriorating conditions although at the turn of the century renovations and restorations had begun in order to return it to its earlier glory days. It is currently a tourist attraction.


Maranjab Caravansary is among the many caravansaries built by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty. It lies on a section of the Silk Road which crossed Iran. Merchants traveling in commercial caravans frequently spent the night there and made business transactions. It supported the flow of commerce, information and travelers across the network of trade routes covering Asia, North Africa, and Southeastern Europe.


The whole building was constructed on a platform. It is located in the center of a small field and has two fresh water qanats running through it which join together in front of the caravansary in a pool spanning 10 by 4 meters. The fact that in such harsh desert conditions a source of fresh water exists is in itself remarkable.


The Caravansary has a square walled exterior with a single portal wide enough to permit large or heavily laden beasts to enter. The courtyard is open to the sky and the inside walls of the enclosure are outfitted with a number of identical stalls, bays, niches or chambers to accommodate merchants and their servants, animals, and merchandise. There are several rooms around the caravansary with a garden in the middle. It is comprised of four verandas and six watch towers. The stables used to be located in the western veranda and the entrance was on the northern porch. At the entrance there were two platforms in front of each other where the number of people, camels and the amount of merchandise were registered.


At the time of its construction during the Safavid era, Maranjab Caravansary’s location was considered strategically significant as it lay on the road connecting Khorasan to Isfahan, which was the capital of its time. It also acted as a connection for various other minor roads connecting Kashan to Garmsar, Varamin and Yazd. Furthermore, the attempted attacks of the Uzbeks and Afghans on Isfahan via the desert area necessitated this Caravansary to be equipped with its watch towers which at all times were populated by armed soldiers.


Maranjab Caravansary, which was built with the initial aim of safeguarding commercial caravans, is gradually being converted into a temporary residence in the desert and is currently functional. Thanks to the efforts of Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization it is now equipped with running water and electricity. As a result of the desert climate often times the Caravansary will be infested with scorpions, snakes or tarantulas and is thus periodically fumigated. For this reason it is recommended that guests not sleep on the roofs.

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