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View from the courtyard of the main entrance of the Dayahatyn caravanserai, March 2018
Dayahatyn Caravanserai
Dayahatyn Caravansaray, Main Gate.JPG
Dayahatyn Caravanserai of present-day
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 accessyes

Dayahatyn (also spelled Dayakhatyn or Daya-khatyn or Bai Khatyn in folk) is a medieval caravanserai, sitting on the left bank of the Amu Darya. It is around 170 km to the northwest of the modern city of Turkmenabat, Lebap welaýaty, near the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is a fortified square enclosure with sides 53 metres long. It is believed to have been 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 is a typical example of the mastery of Seljuk architects in brickwork during the 11th and 12th centuries. Because of its artistic excellence, Dayahatyn is regarded as one of the most valuable examples, and perhaps the finest example, of caravanserai structure extant in Central Asia.

The construction of Dayahatyn[edit]

Several legends relate the construction of Dayahatyn. One 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 Bay, who suspected his wife in infidelity and left home in the cloth of poor dervish. His wife Bay-Hatyn waited for him to return for many years. In order to ease his suspicion, she built the beautiful Dayahatyn to demonstrate her love and fidelity to her husband. After years of wandering, Bay finally returned to his homeland as a worker in the caravanserai construction. Bay-Hatyn recognized him and they lived happily ever after.[1]

Based on archaeological finds and historical records, it is believed that Dayahatyn was originally a Tahiriya fort. Construction of the Tahiriya fort (also spelled Takhiria) is attributed to Tahir ibn Husayn, founder of the Tahirid dynasty, in the 9th century.[2][3][4] This type of army detachment fortress, simply called “rabat”, was used for military training of Ghazi warriors. They studied the Koran and carried out military exercises and prayer offerings within the fortress.[3]

Because of frequent international trade, large groups of people traveled the Silk Road. Caravanserais were built every 25-35 kilometres in cities and deserts along the ancient Silk Road to provide shelter for travelers. As some areas are in the desolate steppes, walls and towers were needed to protect travelers. 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, was designed on a typical caravanserai-style square plan. It is enclosed by fortress walls 53 metres long on each side with a round tower at each corner. Two 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.[5] The entrance on the eastern wall is also located on the perpendicular axis and is stressed by a high arch portal. The rooms along its perimeter are separated by an arch gallery from the open yard. The ensemble included a mosque, an oblong hall to the right of the lobby. This kind of plan structure and its spatial perception were specified and developed in the architecture of the later Timurid epoch.[2][6]

On the stretches between the towers, there are symmetrically situated small rectangular towers. By archaeological investigations, these fortress walls were found be the remains of the Tahiriya fort of the 9th century.[2] As the fortress changed its function into a caravanserai in the 11th century, the former fortress was modernized during the 11th and 12th centuries to meet the aesthetics of that time.[3] The walls, masonry of arches, roofs, and domes were all built during that period. Decorating walls with plain bricks reflects a typical Seljuk style of the 11th and 12th centuries.[6] Decorative stucco moulding was applied in some places in the interiors. Dayahatyn is certainly a masterpiece of the architectural skill of the Northern Khorasan School of the “Golden Age”.[6]

On both sides of the entrance, the names of first successors to Prophet Mohammed (Ali, Omar, Osman and Abu Bakr) are found in kufic script expressed in brickwork. By mentioning the names of four important caliphs, Dayahatyn, certainly, was not simply a caravanserai for caravans. It indeed also served as a royal stopover for elites during long journeys across the expanses of their domains.[3] Rooms with unusual layout and exceptionally inventive design are believed to have been intended 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 have held inscriptions on the history of the building and to have been removed at a later time for unknown reasons.[3]

Another reconstruction of Dayahatyn was carried out 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 ornamentation, 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 abandoned. Since then, the former inn became the shelter no longer of caravans, but rather at times of military units and rare wanderers.[3] The gorgeous structure was forgotten by the history. Not until 1840 did an officer of the East India Company rediscover the buildings during his trip from Herat to Khiva. He was the first European to take note on the caravanserai. In 1887, Leo Evgrafovich Dmitriev drew a picture of the caravanserai from the river side. Dayahatyn's first photograph was taken by Mikhail Chernyshevsky in 1899, and it was first examined in the 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 to 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 have been completely demolished and only the masterpieces, like Dayahatyn, are left. 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 examples of caravanserai architecture in Central Asia, along with Rabat-i Malik and Rabat-i Sharaf.[3][6] These three caravanserais, with extraordinary artistic fineness, are believed to have been the luxury hotels along the Silk Road at that time.[3] Among them, Dayahatyn has retained its general contours to this day and displays 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 the National Commission for UNESCO. Since 2002, Dayahatyn has been the subject of photographic surveys and drawing up of architectural documents.[7] 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, such that carvings done by visitors could be seen on the walls. Only in the recent years did conservation and management projects on Dayahatyn begin to be carried out. In 2012, Dayahatyn was awarded a conservation grant from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation by the U.S. Government. The project was administered by the National Administration for Protection, Research and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Monuments of Turkmenistan.[8] This administration is also responsible for monitoring management and use of Dayahatyn caravanserai and coordinating relevant practical works, like archaeological surveys and rehabilitation.[9]


Tower and wall of the Dayahatyn caravansaray.

As Dayahatyn is located far from common tourist routes and movements of foreign visitors are still monitored by an extremely authoritarian government,[10] tourism development conditions of Dayahatyn are not very favourable. Very few tourists are able visit, although since 2018 the caravansarai is no longer behind the border fence. In order to develop tourism, the Dayahatyn caravanserai is included in the Programme for Tourism Industry Development in Turkmenistan in 2012–2016. Within this programme, improvement of tourism development in Dayahatyn could be carried out in the near future.[11]

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. ^ Soltanov, Agamyrat (29 November 2021). "Restoration and repair works of Dayahatyn Caravansary". Turkmenistan: Golden age.
  5. ^ "CARAVANSARY". Encyclopaedia Iranica Online. 15 December 1990. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Caravanserais". UNESCO. 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Werner, Cynthis (2003). "The New Silk Road: Mediators and Tourism Development in Central Asia". Ethnology. Spring 2003. 42 (2): 148.
  11. ^ "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.