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The interior of the Caravanserai of Saʿd al-Saltaneh in Qazvin, Iran.
The view from the courtyard of the Shah Abbas Caravanserai, now a hotel, in Isfahan, Iran.
Plan of a Safavid caravanserai

Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowing from Persian کاروانسرای ‎(kârvânserây), from کاروان ‎(kârvân, caravan) + سرای ‎(sarây, courtyard; dwelling; palace).



caravanserai ‎(plural caravanserais)

  1. A roadside inn having a central courtyard where caravans can rest.
    • 1859, Omar Khayyám, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám translated by Edward FitzGerald, XVI, [1]
      Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai / Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day, / How Sultán after Sultán with his Pomp / Abode his Hour or two, and went his way.
    • 1938, George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, Chapter XXXIV, [2]
      When we got to Cromley, it was too early to go to the spike, and we walked several miles farther, to a plantation beside a meadow, where one could sit down. It was a regular caravanserai of tramps—one could tell it by the worn grass and the sodden newspaper and rusty cans that they had left behind.
    • 1990, Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, Folio Society 2010, p. 48:
      Eight days later, after leaving the desert and riding through neatly tended villages and snow-capped mountain scenery, he arrived there, hiring himself a room in a caravanserai near the bazaar.
  2. (humorous) An upscale hotel.
    • 1838, Anonymous, A Guide to the Lakes of Killarney and the South of Ireland, London: J. Onwhyn, p. 56, [3]
      By the bye it is as well to mention, for the benefit of the inexperienced, that there are no Inns in Ireland; all are hotels, from the lowest road cabin to the splendid caravanserai, with all its appurtenances of luxury and ease.
    • 1940, Sinclair Lewis, Bethel Merriday, London: Jonathan Cape, Chapter XXVII, p. 281,
      Six anxious inquiries of marble-fronted-hotel clerks about rates; and twice when she angrily made it plain she couldn't afford it, and quit the caravanserai where Andy and Mahala and Mrs. Boyle were to loll in kitchenette-bedizened splendour and hunted up a smaller hotel that looked like a private house with obesity.
  3. A home or shelter for caravans.




  • Hillenbrand, Robert. 1994. Islamic Architecture: Form, function and meaning. NY: Columbia University Press. (see Chapter VI for an in depth overview of the caravanserai).
  • Sims, Eleanor. 1978. Trade and Travel: Markets and Caravanserais.' In: Michell, George. (ed.). 1978. Architecture of the Islamic World - Its History and Social Meaning. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 80-111.
  • Yavuz, Aysil Tükel. 1997. The Concepts that Shape Anatolian Seljuq Caravanserais. In: Gülru Necipoglu (ed). 1997. Muqarnas XIV: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 80-95. Available online as a PDF document, 1.98 MB