The Silk Road legacy: Tash Rabat caravanserai in Kyrgyzstan

Gulzat Matisakova | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Built in the 15th century during the blossom of the Great Silk Road, Tash Rabat is an architectural monument for trading that changed the world. It served as a caravanserai for travellers crossing the Ti[an-Shan]( Mountains. Located at 3600 meters above the sea level, literally in the middle of mountains, it was the only building where wanderers could find exile from cold and thieves. It holds great historical value as a window to the past, and architectural significance as one of the few buildings in Ky[rgyzstan]( preserved from the time of silk trade.  

A small oasis in the mountains

© Flickr/STATIC6

One of the main architectural sightseeings of Kyrgyzstan, Tash Rabat, is a symbol of mountain architecture. It is located in a picturesque gorge of the Tian Shan Mountains, by the river Tash Rabat, 110 KM away from Naryn city and not far from the Chinese borders. When the Great Silk Road was full with caravans of traders, Tash Rabat fortress had a function of the caravanserai. Speaking in modern terms, it was a hotel, where travellers could sleep, buy more food for the road, change horses, and even trade goods with the locals. Its location, in the centre of the Tian Shan Mountains, helped travellers from Qashqar, Fergana, and Chuy regions to meet. 

Visiting grandiose Tash Rabat

© Flickr/STATIC6

There are still many caravanserais from the Great Silk Road times. What makes Tash Rabat special is its location in the difficult-to-reach vast open space. Even now, in the 21st century, the road can be buried in snow, and hardly visible, not mentioning an altitude sickness that one might experience or frequent earthquakes. That's why these vast landscapes and lack of other tourists, can make the visitors feel the medieval atmosphere and reflect on how hard it was to travel back then. Archaeologists find the layout of Tash Rabat mysterious, as the layout is unusual for a caravanserai, and reminds more of a monastery. Recently, it was discovered that in the year 900, there was a Christian monastery at the same place, and perhaps travellers adjusted the building to the needs of those times. Square shaped, built entirely with stones, it has 34 rooms and is lightened only by the holes on the roofs. There is a dome in the centre of the structure - probably the main place where visitors would eat and have religious rituals. 

© Flickr/STATIC6

Contrary to what its name suggests, the Great Silk Road wasn't that smooth at all. Many people had to sacrifice their lives in these harsh lands in order for the exchange of goods, cultures, and ideas between east and west to happen. Caravanserais were a safe haven for brave-hearted travellers. Tash Rabat, still a lonely building, surrounded by mountains, depicts that era of ascetic travelling. It seems like time stood still here since the 15th century

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