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Dayahatyn Caravanserai
Alternative nameDayakhatyn, Daya-khatyn, Bai khatyn
Location Turkmenistan
Coordinates40°04′28″N 62°23′56″E / 40.074570°N 62.398800°E / 40.074570; 62.398800
Length53 metres
Width53 metres
MaterialAdobe bricks and burnt bricks
Founded9th century and transformed in the 11th to 12th centuries
Abandoned16th century
Site notes
Conditionunder restoration
Public accessClosed to the general public, in a restricted border area; special permission from the State Border Service is required.

Dayahatyn (also spelled Dayakhatyn or Daya-khatyn or Bai Khatyn in folk) is a medieval caravanserai, sitting on the left bank of Amu Darya. It is around 170 km to the northwest of the modern city of Turkmenabat, Lebap Wilayah, near the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is a fortified square enclosure with sides of 53 metres long. It was originally a fortress built by Tahir ibn Husayn in the 9th century. In the 11th century, it was transformed into a caravanserai with fascinating brick-structures, providing shelter for not only caravans but also elites during their long journeys. The integrity of Dayahatyn acts as a typical example showing the mastering skill of Seljuk architects on brickworks during the 11th and 12th centuries. Because of its artistic excellence, Dayahatyn is regarded as one of the most valuable and the finest example of caravanserai structure extant in the Central Asia.

The construction of Dayahatyn[edit]

There are several legends related to the construction of Dayahatyn. One of them is that the Rabat of Dayahatyn was built by a local ruler, who wished to hide from a beauty named Daya. Another version is about a rich man named Bai, who suspected his wife in infidelity and left home in the cloth of poor dervish. His wife Bai-Hatyn waited him to return for many years. In order to ease his suspicion, she built this beautiful Dayahatyn to show her love and fidelity to her husband. After years of wandering, Bai finally came back to the homeland as a worker in the caravanserai construction. Bai-Hatyn recognized him and they lived happily ever after.[1]

Based on the archaeological finds and historic records, it is believed that Dayahatyn was originally the Tahiriya fort. The construction of the Tahiriya fort (which is also spelled as Takhiria) is attributed to Tahir ibn Husayn, founder of the Tahirid dynasty, in the 9th century[2][3] This kind of fortresses of army detachments, or simply called as “Rabat”, were used for military training of the Ghazi Warriors. They studied the Koran and carried out military exercises and prayer offerings all within the fort.[3]

Because of the frequent international trading activities, large groups of people were travelling along the Silk Road. Caravanserais were built in every 25-35 kilometres in cities and deserts along the ancient Silk Road to provide a shelter for travellers. As some areas are in the desolate steppes, walls and towers are needed to protect the coaching inn. Therefore, fortresses were sometimes transformed into caravanserais.[3] In the 11th century, the Tahiriya fort was turned into a brick-caravanserai, which is the present Dayahatyn.


Interior arcade and chambers of the Dayahatyn caravansaray.

Dayahatyn caravanserai, with an adobe brick foundation and high-quality burnt brick structure on top, has a typical caravanserai- style square plan. It is enclosed by fortress walls of 53 metres long at each side with a round tower at each corner. Two mutually perpendicular axes are marked by projections and arches in the inner yard and medium towers on the outer wall. Towers at the corners and at intervals along the curtain walls conveyed a powerful and forbidding impression.[4] The entrance on the eastern wall is also located on the perdencular axis and is stressed by a high arch portal. The rooms along its perimeter are separated by an arch gallery from the four-avian yard. There was also a mosque, an oblong hall to the right of the lobby.This kind of plan structure and its spatial perception have been specified and developed in the architecture of the later Timurid epoch,[2][5]

At the stretches between the towers, there are symmetrically situated small rectangular towers excluding the pre-portal part. By archaeological investigations, these fortress walls are found be the residues of Tahiriya fort of the 9th century,[2] As the fortress changed its function into a caravanserai in the 11th century, the former fortress was being modernized during the 11th and 12th centuries to meet the aesthetic of that time,[3] The walls, masonry of arches, roofs and domes were all built during that period. The way of decorating walls with plain bricks reflects a typical Seljuk style of the 11th and 12th centuries.[5] Decorative stucco moulding is applied in some places in the interiors. Dayahatyn is centainly a masterpiece of the architect skill of the Northern Khorasan School of the “Golden Age”.[5]

On both sides of the entrance, the names of first successors to Prophet Mohammed (Ali, Omar, Osman and Abu Bakr) were found in kufic made by brickwork. By mentioning the names of four important caliphs, Dayahatyn, certainly, was not simply a caravanserai for caravans. It was indeed also served as a royal stopover for elites during the long trips across the expanses of their powers [3] Rooms with unusual layout and exceptionally inventive design are believed to be for the elites.[3]

Between the names of the four caliphs, there were some empty frames with traces of a missing outer layer. The missing parts are believed to be with some inscriptions on the history of the building and be removed in the later time for unknown reasons.[3]

Another reconstruction of Dayahatyn was held in the 15th and 16th centuries. The high arched portal at the entrance was the product of that time. Its style is completely different from filigree brickwork of Seljuk period. The portal, without any decoration, is also made of bricks but in a larger size and yet not as high quality as the one in the 11th and 12th centuries.


Along with the fall of the Silk Road, The Dayahatyn caravanserai lost its importance and was being abandoned. Since then, the former coaching inn became the shelter of no longer caravans, but sometimes military units and rare wanderers passed by.[3] The gorgeous structure was forgotten by the history. Not until the year of 1840, an officer of the East India Company rediscovered the buildings during his trip from Herat to Khiva. He was the first European making a note on the caravanserai. In 1887, Leo Evgrafovich Dmitriev drew a picture of the caravanserai from the river side. Dayahatyn has its first photograph taken by Mikhail Chernyshevsky in 1899 and was first examined in 1920s by Alexander Marushchenko who laid the foundations of Turkmenistan archaeology. The first detailed study of Dayahatyn was carried out in 1950 by Anna Maksimovna Pribytkova, an architectural historian. Later, her colleague Galina A. Pugachenkova wrote the most fundamental work on the architectural history of Turkmenistan. She devotes many pages on the Dayahatyn and regards it as “a sample of the mature style, which requires a functional rationale, constructive feasibility and artistic excellence as an integral whole” [3]


Main gate of the 11th-century Dayahatyn caravansaray in Lebap velayat, Turkmenistan. The gate is made of adobe bricks and sits in a dry, sandy area.
Partially restored main gate of the Dayahatyn Caravansaray as of June 2015.


At its highest, there were thousands of different caravanserais scattered along the Silk Road.[3] However, most of them have been completely demolished and only the masterpieces, like Dayahatyn, are left along the Silk Road. Its artistic excellence makes Dayahatyn the most fascinating caravanserai in Turkmenistan.[3] It represents the gorgeous brickwork of the 11th century. It is also one of the most remarkable example of caravanserai architecture in Central Asia, along with Rabat-i Malik and Rabat-i Sharaf.[3][5] These three caravanserais, with extraordinary artistic fineness, are believed to be the luxurious hotels along the Silk Road at that time.[3] Among them, Dayahatyn retained its general contours to this day and has the highest integrity. As the structural layout is simply symmetrical, the missing parts of the buildings and decorations could be restored easily without any speculation based on the existing remains. The complete structure of caravanserai could always be easily recreated.[3] Because of its architectural excellence and importance, Dayahatyn caravanserai is included in “The Analytic and Systematic Regional Inventory of Caravanserais in Central Asia”, organised by National Commission for UNESCO. Since 2002, Dayahatyn has been the subject of photographic surveys and drawing up of architectural documents.[6] Dayahatyn is also recommended for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its significance on the Silk Road [3]


Since its rediscovery in the late 19th century, not much proper heritage management and protection had been done on Dayahatyn. Visitors' behaviours were not governed that carvings done by visitors could be seen on the walls. Only in the recent years, conservation and management projects on Dayahatyn began to carry out. In 2012, Dayahatyn is awarded with a conservation grant from “Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation” from the U.S. Government. The conservation project would be administrated by the National administration for Protection, Research and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Monuments of Turkmenistan.[7] The administration is also responsible for monitoring the regime for management and use of Dayahatyn caravanserai and coordinating relevant practical works, like archaeological surveys and rehabilitation.[8]


Tower and wall of the Dayahatyn caravansaray.

As the Dayahatyn is located far from the common tourist routes and the movements of foreign visitors are still monitored by an extremely authoritarian government,[9] the tourism development condition of Dayahatyn is not very favourable. Very few tourists would be able to make a visit there. In order to develop the tourism, Dayahatyn caravanserai is included in “The Programme for tourism industry development in Turkmenistan in 2012-2016”. Within the programme, improvement works on tourism development in Dayahatyn would be carried out in the near future.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Orazov, Oraz (17 December 2012). "Dayahatyn along Great Silk Road". Turkmenistan: The Golden Age Online Newspaper. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Mamedov, Mukhammed; Muradov, Ruslan (1998). The Architecture of Turkmenistan: A Concise History. Mockba.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Muradov, Ruslan (2010). "A masterpiece on the bank of the Jeyhyn: Centuries-old caravanserai Daya-khatyn is one of the most beautiful places on the ancient Silk Road" (PDF). Turkmenistan Journal. 2009-10. 9 (2): 90–103. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  4. ^ "CARAVANSARY". Encyclopaedia Iranica Online. 15 December 1990. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d "Atamurat". Official Website of Ministry of Culture and TV & Radio Broadcasting of Turkmenistan. Ministry of Culture and TV & Radio Broadcasting of Turkmenistan. Archived from the original on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Caravanserais". UNESCO. 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  7. ^ "The U.S. Government Announces Two New Grants for Cultural Preservation Projects in Turkmenistan". Embassy of the United States. 2012. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  8. ^ Ministry of Culture & Broadcasting Services (16 January 2012). "Culture of Spirituality and creativity". IFACCA: the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  9. ^ Werner, Cynthis (2003). "The New Silk Road: Mediators and Tourism Development in Central Asia". Ethnology. Spring 2003. 42 (2): 148.
  10. ^ "Strategy for the tourism industry development in Turkmenistan: Concrete plans, comprehensive measures, long-term effect". Official website of Tourism Committee of Turkmenistan. Tourism Committee of Turkmenistan. Archived from the original on 28 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.

Dayahatyn Caravanserai[edit]