The Silk Road is generally known as the trade route that stretched from China to Europe and connected the West and the East. Venetian merchant Marco Polo successfully traveled along the Silk Road in the late 13th century to reach Kublai Kan in Beijing. Nowadays, pictures of caravans of horses and camels transporting spices, musical instruments, ivory, gunpowder, tapestry and silk fill the collective imagination.
But the Silk Road wasn’t only a trade route for spices and silk. It was also a political, cultural and religious inter-regional route. Merchants and traders faced the same problems modern travelers face today around the world, which included a language barrier, food poisoning, mandatory permits to enter city gates and having to learn the cultural customs and etiquettes of each country they visited.
The harsh terrain in Central Asia with its deserts and mountain passes, and the extreme weather with freezing temperatures at night and scorching sun during the day, made traveling the Silk Road extremely challenging and dangerous. The caravans often slept in yurts or under the stars and sometimes in caravanserai.
A caravanserai was a sort of inn with rooms, stables and food, not far from modern-day guesthouses, where traders and merchants could rest for a few days with their animals, usually for free. Profit was made from selling or trading goods and food as well as up-to-date information concerning the Silk Road.
This is the caravanserai of Tash Rabat in Eastern Kyrgyzstan near China at 3500m above sea level.