The golden caravanserai and the ‘fort with two doors’

I’ve been finishing the first drafts of my two papers about Shah Abbas’ thousand kilometre walk in 1601.  Abbas’ stopping places were relatively easy to find in the first part of the walk; but only three specific names were given by Munajjim Yazdi along the Khorassan Highroad.

The 'golden' caravanserai, viewed northwards through the village of Zafaraniyya
The 'golden' caravanserai, viewed northwards through the village of Zafaraniyya

One of those was the Ribat-i Do Dar – literally, the ‘fort with two doors’.

Melville suggested that this was at or near Zafaraniyya, with its famous golden caravanserai.  This was apparently so-coloured after a charitable man helped out a merchant with an unsellable load of saffron – by buying it to mix into the mortar of the caravanserai.

When Ferrier visited in 1857, he wrote:

Multistorey buildings inside the 'old town' at Zafaraniyya
Multistorey buildings at Zafaraniyya in the 'old town'

“Tradition says that in former days there were 1700 rooms within [Zaffouroonee’s] walls, also baths, a mosque, and handsome gardens. I suspect that tradition is, in this case, somewhat of a romancer—not an uncommon thing.”

Some of the tradition was, however, correct: in 1858 Khanikoff did indeed find the remains of a mosque and baths – as well as confirmation that the building was from the (Sunni) Seljuk era (11th to 14th centuries AD).

The caravanserai is itself sometimes called a ribat – but the 1943 floor plan and my own visit showed only one ‘door’, so I think the building is very unlikely to be Shah Abbas’ Ribat-i Do Dar.

Satellite map of Zafaraniyya

When I was in the village, I was shown the ‘old town’ two hundred metres south of the caravanserai.  This had not been in use within extended living memory although I could see the remains of walls and even multi-storey buildings, as shown here above.

When I returned to the UK and looked at the satellite images on Google Earth, I got a startling new perspective (shown here, or click for a magnified image).

The ‘golden’ caravanserai faces onto the north side of must surely have been the traditional roadway through Zafaraniyya, with the modern motorways 400 metres to the north.  Although the north-east and south-west walls of the ‘old town’ are now partially broken down, the 90m by 110m enclosure might well have been large enough to need, and be able to defend, two entrances.

So I think I’ve found the ‘fort with two doors’!

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