An impressive building of Yellow Caravanserai, referred to in Turkish as Sarı Han or Saru Han, stands on the outskirts of Avanos. Its name, as you might imagine, comes from the color of stone blocks that were used for its erection in 1249. Yellow Caravanserai owes its present appearance to a thorough renovation, carried out in 1991. Travelers visiting Cappadocia usually have the opportunity to visit this caravanserai, if they decide to participate in sema ceremony that is the show of famous whirling dervishes.
The Seljuk sultans who ruled over the central regions of Asia Minor in the 12th and 13th centuries, ordered the construction of many caravanserais, both along the famous Silk Road, as well as on other important trade routes. The money flowed from the state treasury not only for the construction of these inns but also to compensate for the merchants who were assaulted and robbed during their journeys. Foreign merchants enjoyed a discount of customs duties. With such support, trade in Anatolia flourished.
All the travelling merchants, regardless of their origin, could use the caravanserais. They had guaranteed free food and drinks for the first three days of their stay. They also had the medical care and help with pack animals. Each caravanserai employed an innkeeper, a doctor, a veterinarian, a blacksmith, a cook and an imam to ensure full services for travellers.
Cappadocian caravanserais, located on the Silk Road, were built with volcanic rock. Their walls are thick and very high, providing protection against the attacks of bandits. The most decorative elements of these buildings were their portals i.e. door frames. They represent the finest examples of Seljuk stone sculpture. The doors placed in these portals were made of iron.
Most of the Seljuk caravanserais were built during the reign of two sultans: Kılıç Arslan II, who reigned from 1156 to 1192, and Alaaddin Keykubat I, known for the expansion of Alanya, who ruled from 1220 to 1237. However, the Yellow Caravanserai was built later, when Izzettin Keykavus II was the Seljuk sultan (1246-1257), perhaps even on his direct orders. It makes Sarı Han the last caravanserai built by the Seljuk sultans.
The caravanserai is situated on the banks of the Damsa Creek, and its gate is facing west. It was built from blocks of volcanic rock in three colours - yellow, beige, and pink. These colours were used to obtain a decorative effect on the arches of external and internal portals. What's interesting - a small mosque (tr. mescit) is located above the main gate. This architectural solution distinguishes Sarı Han from other buildings of this type because the prayer room was usually placed in the middle of the courtyard.
The building covers an area of approximately two thousand square meters, and its central part is the vast courtyard. To the left, looking from the entrance, there are six open spaces covered with vaulted arches. On the right side, there are roofed rooms, also with ornately carved portals.
Opposite the entrance, there is another richly decorated portal, leading to a darkened and spacious room, which hosts the shows of whirling dervishes. This room is covered with a hemispherical dome, with small holes providing sparse interior lighting.
In 1991, the caravanserai underwent an extensive renovation, as it had been partly ruined. The impact of this improvement arises mixed feelings - some commentators are delighted with the achieved result and call Sarı Han the most impressive of the Seljuk caravanserais, and others - are mourning the lost soul of the original building.
Sarı Han Caravanserai can be visited from 9 am, during the daylight hours. The ticket costs 3 TL.
In the evening, the shows of whirling dervishes take place there. The price of participation in the ceremony is from 25 to 35 euros, depending on the margins that the intermediary will charge for making a reservation. Reservations are necessary and can be done using virtually any local travel agency in Cappadocia, or through your hotel reception. You can also try to book a place directly from the organiser (tel. 511 3795), but then you have to organise your transport, that can be much less cost-effective than a trip with a travel agency.
The show lasts about 45 minutes and begins at 9:30 pm (during the summer season, from April to October) or 9:00 pm (in the winter season, from November to March). The show is not available to children under ten years of age. It is also forbidden to take photos during the ceremony.
By car: Sarı Han Caravanserai is situated just off the D300 route that connects Kayseri (58 km to the east) with Nevşehir (22 km to the west). The nearest town where it is possible to find hotels and restaurants is Avanos (7 km to the west).
By taxi: the easiest and the cheapest solution is to take a taxi from Avanos. The trip there and back with some waiting time should cost approximately 30 TL.
With public transport: there are no minibuses to Sarı Han and hitch-hiking is difficult as there is not much traffic on the D300 route.