Saturday, July 24, 2010

We should mourn these desert staging posts

By Robert Fisk

"So what, readers, is a "caravanserai"? In Persian (or Dari), it is "karvansara", in Turkish, "keravandaray" – yes, from which we get our "caravan" – and it is an inn (or "pub" as we might call it) and I am inspired this week to praise the "caravanserai" because it is where we all met in the age before steamships and aircraft. Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Christian, we would all meet there.....

There were thousands of these caravanserais, staging posts across the known world, accommodating, as Schutyser says, traders, pilgrims and travellers. They were for commerce and for multicultural meetings. Some caravanserais had their own translators so that Persians and Indians and Arabs (and Brits, too, of course) could speak to each other.

In Jordan, in Iran, here in Lebanon, I come across these places of peace and solitude and happiness, usually in ruins. And oh, if only we could re-create their world. What airport today will give you a translator? What railway station will tell you what your fellow traveller is saying? Some caravanserais had libraries – books – in which a tired family could read of their fellow guests. How we should miss these places."

No comments: