Caravan Stops Crumble Along Abandoned Silk Road

By Wassim Bassem, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Once-lively Caravan Stops Crumble Along Abandoned Silk Road

In an interview with Al-Monitor, 85-year-old Hussein Khazraji described how he used to cross the distance between his hometown, Najaf, and Karbala on foot in the 1950s. He would visit the holy shrines, especially that of Hussein bin Ali in Karbala, as part of the hajj.

He and other pilgrims would stop halfway on the nearly 47-kilometer (29-mile) journey between the two cities to spend the night at the enormous Khan al-Noss building dating back to 1774.

Khazraji still vividly remembers this ancient edifice that used to serve as a hostel, where “horses and other livestock would enter the khan’s vast courtyard during the night while people would sleep over in the dozens of rooms in the upper floor.”

This once grand building now lies in ruins. Al-Monitor visited the location only to find a shapeless structure of yellow bricks, surrounded by vegetation. On close inspection, the rubble's only remaining features were a flattened dome and the remnants of Islamic decorations that had fallen victim to the wind, rain and human negligence.

While there, Al-Monitor interviewed Haleem Yaseri, an archaeologist and history teacher at Babil High School who grew up in Karbala. He remembered of the building's entrance, “It had a wooden gate guarded by armed men, with a small door through which people would enter and exit. The gate would be locked during periods of unrest and at night to prevent thieves from attacking the khan.”

A tour inside the building revealed dozens of rooms adorned with Islamic arches surrounding a vast yard, where brick remnants were piled alongside the remnants of wells. Vegetation covered everything.

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