The Ancient Silk Road

The lands of Central Asia seems so empty these days. Driving along, you see the grass plains stretch out with the only movement herds of grazing sheep and horses or long grass bending from the wind. Towns are far between and sometimes they’re so small that you only realise you’re in them as you’re leaving. Mountains often provide either a backdrop or a foreground – beautiful but foreboding. Especially when you think about how many people have passed through this region throughout history.

For centuries, these lands connecting China, the Middle East and Europe, through countries like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, were the superhighway of international trade. Caravans of goods travelled in all directions, carrying wares to be traded. Necessities or luxuries, they created a moving market that entire economies relied on.

To support these traders, settlements sprung up. Some became cities that still exist today  – like the city of Osh, estimated to be more than 3000 years old. Others have disappeared completely. And some are in ruins. One of these is Tash Rabat, a mysterious site in Kyrgyzstan.


[source: Time Travel Turtle]

Tash Rabat – Inn of Stone

The last caravanserai before the endless Taklaman Desert.

Tash Rabat is what is known as a ‘caravanserai’, the name given to a sort of roadside inn where travellers could stop for the night or a few days to rest. They catered for both the humans and the animals that were travelling along the Silk Road and, as well as having accommodation and food facilities, often provided some opportunities for trade and religious rituals.

Archaeologists don’t know for sure either. They believe the location was used as a resting place for traders from about the 1400s but there’s also evidence that a Christian monastery  – Nestorians – may have been there from as early as the 900s. That could explain the odd layout – perhaps the travelling merchants just adapted an existing structure.

These days, the Tash Rabat caravanserai is in the middle of nowhere Kyrgyzstan and, it’s so empty around, it’s hard to imagine a thoroughfare of commerce passing through here once upon a time.


[source: Time Travel Turtle]