Friday, December 22, 2023

Ghasr’e Bahram Caravansary

Ghasr’e Bahram Caravansaray (کاروانسرای قصر بهرام), literally meaning the “Palace of Bahram Caravansary” is a historical monument located in the middle of “Kavir National Park”, 65 kilometers from Garmsar city in Semnan province, and 154 kilometers from Tehran. It is said that Bahram V (also known as Bahram Gor), the fifteenth king of Sassanid empire, built this structure while during the Safavid era, Shah-Abbas Safavid rebuilt and turned it into a caravansary in order to accommodate his trips between Mazandaran and Isfahan.

Although the caravansary is a magnificent monument itself, the unique location of it has turned Ghasr’e Bahram into a wonderfully unique tourist destination. It lies in the slopes of Siahkooh Mount and in the middle of Kavir desert, the largest desert of Iran. Remnants of a cobblestone road (35 kilometers long and five meters wide) leading to the caravansary are still evident.

The region, with an area more than 4,000 square kilometers, is a protected ecological zone, one of the largest and oldest protected areas of the country. It is also known as little Africa or Iran’s Serengeti, as it has a wonderful biological diversity in wildlife. In Kavir National Park, you will have the chance to see some of the most important wildlife species of Iran such as onager, Asiatic cheetah, leopard, striped hyena, caracal, beech marten, camel, flamingo and even ruddy shelduck. As well as a very diverse wildlife, Namak lake (Salt Lake) is another attraction of the region. This impressive natural attraction is known as the largest natural mirror of Iran as it perfectly reflects the picture of the sky above it. As Ghasr’e Bahram Caravansary is situated right in the middle of this vast protected area with no human inhabitants, it has become a perfect place for those who seek peace and tranquility of the desert.

Ghasr’e Bahram is notable for its architecture and stone structure. Unlike most caravansaries in Iran, no brick or clay is used in constructing this monument and instead it is all made out of stone. The building is well preserved and even today serves as a residential complex and its rooms are provided to tourists as accommodation. 

It consists of four semicircular watchtowers (for security) and 24 rooms facing a rectangular pool. 

Behind the rooms are areas allocated to visitors’ livestock and loads. Some areas contain an oven to accommodate meal preparations. Water was provided to the caravansary via artificial channels redirecting springs of Siahkooh mountains water from six kilometers away. In the back of the structure a few pools were utilized for keeping water available at all times.

The courtyard and the space inside the caravansary have been preserved in its traditional form. Near this ancient structure are other historical buildings as well. As only kings used the main caravansary in the past, another caravansary was built close to the main one for ordinary people. In addition the ruins of a palace called “Haramsara” is also to the south of Ghasr’e Bahram.

Visiting Ghasr’e Bahram Caravansary, due to its location in the heart of Kavir National Park, requires a permit from the Environmental Protection Organization. In 1975 Ghasr’e Bahram was registered as one of the national monuments of Iran and subsequently in 2023 UNESCO inscribed it (along with 53 other caravansaries) as a World Heritage Site.

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