The Zein-o-Din Caravanserai is located in Zein-o-din, Yazd, Iran. The caravanserai dates to the 16th century and is situated on the ancient Silk Road. It is one of 999 such inns that were built during the reign of Shah Abbas I to provide facilities to travelers. Of these, Zeinodin is one of two caravanserais built with circular towers. After its refurbishment, it has operated as an inn. A similarly built caravanserai near Esfahan is in ruins.
The caravanserai is situated on the Silk Road which was, until 1500, the main trade route between Europe and Asia. A motorway to Yazd passes through Zeinodin. In earlier centuries, it was reached after a two-day camel ride from south of Yazd, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) on the main road to Kerman.
The caravanserai’s exterior view appears like a “derelict ruin” though its interior is well furbished in its original form making it an “atmospheric and fascinating” place to stay.
The first caravanserais were reported 2,500 years ago, when Persia was ruled by the Achaemenid Empire. During the Safavid period in Iran, caravanserais were established at convenient sites at a distance of every 20 to 30 miles along the trade routes across the country. Many such buildings were built on old and new caravan routes under the direction of Shah Abbas I (1587–1629) and Shah Abbas II (1642–66). The caravanserai is one of the 999 such hostels built to promote trade. An entry fee was charged along with a daily fee for an 8ft-square room. The rooms were fitted with a fireplace, and servants had a separate place in which to stay. The caretaker of the caravanserai was legally authorized to collect sales tax and oversee all transactions; they sometimes tended to overcharge and cheat the merchants. It was incumbent on the caretakers to provide security to the merchants and their goods against theft. The running of the caravanserais in Iran was considered at par with those that were run during the Ottoman Empire.
Architecture and fittings
The caravanserai is a two-storied structures, square in plan, with a courtyard and a water pool. Only two caravanserais have been built with circular towers. One of these is the Zeinodin Caravanserai and the other, in a ruined state, is near Esfahan. This caravanserai has withstood inclement weather as it was initially well built. Its recent renovation took three years to complete, and included the use of 13,000 pumice stones to remove the grime on the interior walls. Restored to a near original state, the rooms are on a raised base and mattresses are provided on the floor, which are covered with carpets. There is no door separating the rooms from the corridor, with only a curtain providing privacy to the occupants. However, the common bathroom facility is well fitted. The building accommodates 60 to 80 tourists daily; tourists from 70 countries are reported to have stayed here.
As the caravanserai is located away from the city, the noise level is minimum and the night skies are clear and star studded. An amateur astronomer conducts astronomy lectures on the rooftop.