Great for: Architecture, Seljuks, Caravanserais, Fans of Karatay
Built in 1240, Karatay Hanı takes its name from its benefactor, the Seljuk vizier Jelaladdin Karatay, who also built Karatay Madrasah in the city centre of Konya (check out our City of Konya page for more on that). It was typical of the time for wealthy benefactors, such as Karatay or the sultan, to sponsor the building and maintenance of a caravanserai and so a good number of the Seljuk era caravanserais are named after wealthy families or nobles.
Karatay Caravanserai is a rather typical model with its single door entering into a large courtyard with covered wings (one side enclosed for protection from the elements and the other open for use in the hot summer months) making up the first portion of the structure. The second is a great hall of sorts, capped with the quintessential Seljuk peaked octagonal dome to draw out hot air.
As the caravanserai was meant to function like a small town with every need of the traveler taken care of, it was essential that a bath, a small room for prayers, and a small hospital wing were included. These can all be seen on either side of the main entrance.
What sets Karatay Caravanserai apart is the extent to which animal, monster, and human figures were used to decorate the building. While the Seljuks were certainly quicker to make use of these motifs than the Ottomans, it’s still more common to see geometrical patterns than living creatures. Sultanhanı, for example, has dragons but they are small and extremely subtle, appearing to be a part of the geometrical patterns around them.
In recent years the building has seen some decent restoration as well as an unfortunate attempt at modernizing some of the rooms for use as a hotel. While the idea is certainly great (we’d love to stay in a caravanserai ourselves) kitsch seems to have trumped historical esthetic.
The setting of Karatay Caravanserai is also rather interesting. Historically these caravanserais were built in the open countryside away from towns to provide protection in the open country with their fortress-like architecture. Over time, however, towns have grown up around many of these historic buildings. The town of Karatay appears to be quite old and full of stone homes built with impressive masonry of massive blocks not often seen these poorer villages. It’s the contrast of this massive, powerful looking building in the midst of twisting, dusting streets, and crumbling homes that makes this place even more interesting.
How To Get There
I wouldn’t recommend this place as one to visit by bus as it could be rather complicated getting off a coach bus then trying to flag one down again when you’re done here.
Driving out from one of the nearby centres is your best bet. From Kayseri Karatay is approximately 45 kilometres east along the D300 highway towards Malatya.
Where To Stay
While the Han has been partially converted into a hotel, it didn’t appear to be used often, so while staying in the caravanserai may be an option, I wouldn’t bank on it. The town didn’t appear to have anything for accommodation either. Karatay Hanı appears to be something you stop to see on the way to somewhere else so I wouldn’t recommend planning to stay a night in the village.
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