These wonderful ancient coaching inns were once the equivalent of the roadside motel and many wonderful examples exist all over Turkey.

 

We are big fans of hans, or caravansary, as they are normally termed in English.

 

The hans were the coaching inns of the medieval Turkish era, built during the Seljuk dynasty (roughly 1050 – 1300) to improve trade.

They were constructed about 15 miles apart on the main trade routes as that was the length of an average day’s march for a camel.

There are still many of them surviving and the Sultan Han on the main road from Konya to Aksaray is the largest.

In fact it is enormous and, while it has been restored and is now open as a museum, it did survive pretty well on its own.

Gertrude Bell visited in 1907 and took photographs which show it in good condition then, almost 700 years after it was built.

It was originally built in 1229 by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad, and lies on what would have been one of the many tributaries of the Silk Road to China.

Inside the impressive entrance is a large courtyard with a mosque in the shape of tower built in the centre.

There are cloister-like space on either side of this courtyard where animals and men would have slept in the summer.

Then you continue into the han and find an incredible indoor space, used for winter accommodation, that closely resembles a cathedral.

We had long wanted to visit this han so were very pleased when we managed to do en route to Cappadocia.

If you are driving to Cappadocia it is on the way, and a visit is highly recommended.

And if you’d like to see some of Gertrude Bell’s 1907 photographs, go to www.turkishhan.org and click on ‘Sultan Han – Aksaray’.

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