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AĞZIKARAHAN

agzi1On a side road off the main road running east from Aksaray to Nevşehir stand the ruins of the magnificent Ağzıkarahan ("Han of the Dark Mouth", AKA Hoca Mesut Caravanserai), one of the finest of all the Selçuk caravanserais. Unfortunately since the main road was diverted away from Ağzıkara village in 2010, the caravanserai has been left stranded, its once-busy tourism trade lost. Restoration is ongoing (2014) and the rumour is that it will be leased as a restaurant once it is complete. 

The caravanserai dates back to the reign of the great Selçuk leader, Alaadin Keykubat I, who had work begun on it in 1231. It was completed in 1239 by which time he had been succeeded by Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev. agzi2

In appearance the caravanserai conforms to a familiar type with a wonderful, elaborate portal opening via otherwise unadorned walls into a large courtyard with a mescid (chapel) raised up on stone stilts rather like a markethall in old English villages. The ground beneath the mescid is currently dug up, revealing the original terracotta pipes that carried water into the han. 

The mescid retains its carved mihrab and the ornemental niches carved into its corners. The ceiling is carved into a star-shape. Very steep steps run up from the mescid to the roof. The stairs that led up to the mescid itself were originally carved with the same lovely maqarnas (stalactites) that can be seen above the main entrance although here they are sadly worn. 

To the left of the courtyard is the huge winter stable with raised floors that made it easier to offload the baggage carried by the camels. A broken dome at the far end let light in. It was supported on squinches carved with more elegant maqarnas. 

On the right-hand side of the courtyard arches support an open but covered area for use in summer. Rooms where people could sleep and conduct business open off the far side of the courtyard.

agzi3Once-beautiful staircase up to the mescidTransport info

There are no buses to get you direct to the caravanserai. Without a car you can either look for a tour out of Göreme that takes in Ağzıkarahan or take a bus from Aksaray to Nevşehir and ask to be put off at the road junction just before the Tepsidelik Hanı (Öresin Hanı, 1188) pops up to the left of the main road (it has already been converted into a restaurant).

 

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