A caravanserai (Persian: كاروانسرا kārvānsarā, Turkish kervansaray) was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey. Caravanserais supported the flow of commerce, information, and people across the network of trade routes covering Asia, North Africa, and South-Eastern Europe.
Most typically it was a building with a square or rectangular walled exterior, with a single portal wide enough to permit large or heavily laden beasts such as camels to enter. The courtyard was almost always open to the sky, and the inside walls of the enclosure were outfitted with a number of identical stalls, bays, niches, or chambers to accommodate merchants and their servants, animals, and merchandise. Caravanserais provided water for human and animal consumption, washing, and ritual ablutions. Sometimes they even had elaborate baths. They also kept fodder for animals and had shops for travellers where they could acquire new supplies. In addition, there could be shops where merchants could dispose of some of their goods.
The word is also rendered as caravansarai or caravansary. The Persian word kārvānsarā is a compound word combining ”kārvānsarā (caravan) with sara (palace, building with enclosed courts), to which the Persian suffix -yi is added. Here “caravan” means a group of traders, pilgrims, or other travelers, engaged in long distance travel.
The caravanserai was also known as a khan (Persian خان) or han (Turkish)