In the middle of the flat, flat plain between Konya and Aksaray, at a lonely point on the ancient Silk Road, Seljuk Turkish Sultan Alaettin Keykubad I built a caravanserai, or caravan way-station between 1229 and 1236.
It was named, appropriately, the Sultan Han (hanmeaning caravanserai).
This truck-stop-for-camels was no doubt impressive, but it was in 1278 after a fire had damaged the original building that the great caravanserai took its present shape. It is the largest Seljuk caravanserai in Turkey, andwell worth a stop to see if you are traveling between Aksaray (or Cappadocia) and Konya.
In the last half-century, the little village that grew up around the Sultan Han has grown into a town(Sultanhanı) with basic services such as shops, fuel stations, restaurants, tea houses, etc. It is 42 km (26 miles, 45 minutes) west of Aksaray, and 110 km (68 miles, 1-3/4 hours) east of Konya.
The Sultan Han is a prime example of the Seljuk Turkish caravanserai with its lofty, elaborately-worked portalframed by utterly plain but massive walls; its stone-paved courtyard surrounded with rooms that served as treasury, refectory, hamam, repair shops and sleeping quarters.
The design, as always, is elegant in its simplicity.
At the center of the courtyard is a mescit(small mosque) raised above the tumult of animals and men. You can ascend to the mescit by either side of the twin staircase on the west side. The steps are huge.
To the right as you enter is a portico for storage of goods and for sleeping in warmer weather.
Beyond the courtyard is the huge enclosed hall of the caravanserai with its nave and side aisles supported by four rows of eight pillars and a forest of arches. A dome or lantern at the center of the nave lets in light and pigeons.
The Sultan Han has been repaired and restored numerous times in its eight centuries of existence, most recently within the past half century.
To visit the Sultan Han, turn off the Aksaray-Konya highway and enter the town of Sultanhani. Soon you’ll see the caravanserai hulking at its center. The Sultan Han is supposedly open from 09:00 am to 18:30 (6:30 pm), for TL5, but you may find it open earlier or later, depending on the guardian.
—by Tom Brosnahan