Caravan Stops Crumble Along Abandoned Silk Road

Yaseri pointed out, “These khans were not only hostels from the past but more than this, they used to be a place for communication as well as cultural exchange and trade, especially during religious events. These huge buildings were mainly built on desert crossroads or between big cities, and hosted people from different backgrounds.”

From a historical point of view, these khans, or caravanserais, embodied the architectural culture in the region. Caravanserais were once plentiful along caravan routes called the Silk Road, which stretches across Turkey, Iraq and Syria all the way to China, providing places for merchants to rest after their arduous journey and to exchange goods during their stays.

Khan al-Noss is one of dozens of other well-known khans such as Khan al-Musalla northeast of Najaf and the famous khans of Baghdad such as Khan Jahan, Hellah’s khans and Khan Abu Dahn in Karbala.

Khan al-Noss is now one of Iraq’s historic buildings that have been neglected and reduced to ruins. According to a statement issued by the Supreme National de-Baathification Commission on Feb. 27, 2014, the place was used as a cemetery to bury those killed in the March 1991 uprisings by the Saddam Hussein regime.

It can be argued that modern transportation is the main reason behind the disappearance of these khans. Today, people use cars and no longer need to spend the night at khans during their travels. Journeys that used to take days are now made in hours.

But these buildings were much more than hostels, and their architecture is a priceless artistic and cultural asset. Their neglect has been a major cultural loss to Iraq.

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