Dayahatyn Caravanserai


Dayahatyn is a Silk Road caravanserai that stands on the ancient route between Amul and Khorezm and dates to around the 12th century, just off the main road 170 km to the north of Turkmenabat. Even though abandoned around 500 years ago, most of the structure stands whole, although in a fairly ruinous state. So fat Dayahattin is the best-preserved medieval caravanserai surviving in Turkmenistan. Dating from the 11th or 12th century, it was built to service the trade route between Amul and Khorezm and perhaps continued in use until the 16th century. 

This square shape caravanserai’s walls reach up to 53m long. The central courtyard is surrounded by brick arches heading into a vaulted arcade it runs to the various small rooms. The main gate which is an arched roof of fired bricks is still in place, lies on the eastern wall, facing the river. The patterned decorations in which the bricks have been laid on the external east wall are unusually accurate. The outer defensive walls circling the caravansary are diminished and perhaps the pack animals would have overnighted in the area. And today it accommodates a small graveyard. You can go out of the central courtyard, surrounded by a vaulted arcade and small cells, and climb up on the walls.



Residents call Dayahattin Caravansaray as Bayhattin, ‘Rich Woman’, and tell a legend about the place that runs roughly as follows. There lived a wealthy merchant, who had a beautiful wife, desired by a friend of the merchant. The merchant departed on a trading trip, and the friend, seeing his opportunity, made advances to the wife. She was faithful to her husband and rejected these. The amorous friend hooked up with an old lady. He secreted himself in a trunk, into which he had bored holes, enabling him to see out. The old lady told the wife that she needed to leave town for a few days, and could she leave the trunk containing her precious belongings in the wife’s safekeeping? The wife agreed. The unfriendly friend was thereby able to spy on the object of his affections, noticing as she undressed a mole on her back. After a couple of days, the old lady returned and took back delivery of her trunk. When the merchant returned, his ‘friend’ reported that his wife had been unfaithful, citing as evidence his knowledge of her mole. The humiliated merchant left immediately, to begin a new life as an itinerant tramp. 

The merchant’s wife used her wealth to construct a glorious caravansary, which would be able to give refuge to those, like her husband, who wandered the desert. Bricks were brought from Merv for the new construction. By this time, the merchant, pining for his wife, had returned home. But he was still too proud to show himself, and so worked as a humble laborer on his wife’s great project. One day the wife recognized her husband but kept this fact a secret until the building was complete. On that day she held a great feast to mark the inauguration of the splendid new caravansary, to which all those who had worked on its construction were invited. At the feast, the wife told a tale, intended to demonstrate to her husband the facts of her faithfulness and his friend’s trickery. Husband and wife were reunited. According to one more bloodthirsty version of the story, the couple then killed the merchant’s friend, whose body lies now in the graveyard next to the caravansary.

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