In Turkey, one can find many historic inns for travelers, traditionally known as hans (caravanserais), built in Seljuk and Ottoman times. Some of them slowly fall into ruin and oblivion, while others are carefully restored and converted into ethnographic expositions, and others - still serve the travelers, although in a way that probably would surprise medieval merchants. One of the caravanserais belonging to the latter category is Şarapsa Han (also known as Sarafsa Han), probably the most visited caravanserai in Turkey.
Do you not recognize the name? It is not surprising at all as the building is now known as Ali Han Kervansaray and is a popular nightclub, which hosts the so-called "Turkish Nights." During almost every night in the summer, the building is full of thumping music, and its historic walls host traditional belly dancers. Beverages, especially alcoholic, are poured in torrents, the guests fill their plates with the specialties from the open buffet, and in all the confusion hardly anyone draws their attention to the environment in which the whole event takes place. Time to change this, so we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the history and architecture of this caravanserai and take a closer look at the building during your stay in and around Alanya.
The construction of the caravanserai was personally ordered the Seljuk Sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II, which means that the building belongs to a particular category of Sultan Hans. It is evidenced by the inscription placed above the main gate of the building on which the name of the sultan is engraved, unfortunately without the date of building construction. Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II reigned from 1237 until his death in 1246, so caravanserai had to be erected during this period. It is the third han built by this ruler, the other ones being Eğridir Han and İncir Han, located further north, on the road leading through the Taurus Mountains to Lake Eğridir.
Şarapsa Han was the first inn on the road for the travelers moving along the Mediterranean coast between Alanya and Antalya. This route was called "High Way" and its course overlaps with the modern route D400, which is traveled every year by hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers transported from Antalya Airport to the hotels located along the coast. The times have changed, sultans and the caravans of camels passed into history, and the coastal road still has tremendous economic importance. Even modern hotels may bring to mind the old caravanserai, as indeed some of them are trying to imitate Seljuk buildings for better or worse results.
Architecturally Şarapsa Han is a unique design - in contrast to other Seljuk caravanserais. It is a simple, single-nave building. Its interior is one long hall, covered with a barrel vaulted ceiling that somewhat resembles a tunnel. The dimensions of this room are only 9 meters wide to 62 meters long. The conventional division into nine smaller rooms is marked by the presence of transverse arches on the ceiling.
The building was constructed from stone blocks. From the outside, it is strengthened by 24 towers, placed along the sides of the caravanserai and its corners. The main entrance gate is located on the northern side of the building and is its principal adornment. The northern facade is a simple stone wall with the adjacent towers. The southern facade (facing towards the coast), in addition to the towers, has a narrow, arched windows.
The appearance of the caravanserai can arouse amazement and the people who have seen such buildings in Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries at the sight of it start asking some questions and cast doubt on its identification as an inn for travelers. Experts speculate that the building was erected for a different purpose - perhaps as a military post, a magazine or even a treasury. Actually, as a military building, Şarapsa Han would not play its role properly as it lacks the access to the roof, where the guards could be placed. However, there are visible ground platforms that might facilitate unloading of goods, and the interior of the building is reminiscent of a storage space.
At the caravanserai there is a small mosque, having an independent entrance and still used for religious purposes. On the sides of the mosque stand the towers, built from the parts of old Byzantine structures, including - Ionic column capitals. To the west of the han modest remains of a free-standing two-storey building are visible. Its function is unknown, although it is believed that it was a watchtower or a sleeping chamber for the sultan and his court.
With the exception of the evening hours, when the entrance to the caravanserai is reserved for participants of the "Turkish Night," the building can be visited free of charge from the outside and from the inside.
Şarapsa Han is just 100 meters north of the main road linking Antalya and Alanya, next to the river Sarepsu. Since the building was erected on a small hill is clearly visible from the road and is difficult to miss. The caravanserai is located in the town of Konaklı, about 13 km west of Alanya and 70 km east of Manavgat.
By public transport: by any minibus from Alanya that goes to the towns to the west. Get off it in Konaklı, near Titan Garden and Eftalia Aqua hotels.
By car: take D400 route from Alanya and drive to the west, in the direction of Manavgat and Antalya. There are parking spaces next to the caravanserai, and during the day there is no problem of finding a free place for a car. In the evenings the parking lot is filled with the buses that transport holidaymakers for the party.
An excursion from a travel agency: all local travel agencies that operate in Alanya organize the "Turkish Nights" in this venue. During such an event you can eat, drink and be entertained, but it 's hard to talk about quiet contemplation of the building's architecture.