Back in September-October 1995, I had traveled a North/South branch on the Silk Road from Urumqi in Xinjiang (China) through the Taklamakan Desert, via the Kashgar oasis to Pakistan. It was a fascinating journey, deep into China and its moslim population, traveling through the harsh desolate desert country and wandering around in the oasis of Kashgar on a crossroads in the Silk Road network. Then onwards over the Karakoram Highway crossing the massive mountain ranges of the Karakoram, Pamir and Himalaya, into Pakistan and its remote Northwestern mountains and valleys, onwards into bustling Peshawar, one of the largest Muslim cities in Pakistan.

In January-March 2003, I was traveling for the second time on the Silk Road, this time though from West to East. It was two months before the 2nd Gulf war and invasion in Iraq. But it was a fascinating journey again, that brought me from Iran, further in to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazachstan and onwards into China on my way to Shanghai. I left from Teheran, a major Muslim city, bustling, vibrant, with 7 million people in its metropolitan area, with two-thirds of its population under the age of 30 years. I traveled along the ancient trade route of the Silk Road, in Iran, skirting the Dasht-e-Kavir Desert on its northern fringes. Then traveled in Uzbekistan along the ancient cities of Khiva, Buchara, and Samarkand, onwards through Ferghana Valley, Osh, Bishkek, Almaty, to Urumqi in China. Then I reached Shanghai, China’s largest city, becoming a global metropolis, with 19 million people in its metropolitan area, with its bustling trade and commerce, a whole society on the move from a communist to a capitalist-communist system, proving the impossible to be possible.

In winter 2006, we were in Egypt and explored bustling Cairo, with a metropolitan area population of officially 17 million people. It is Africa’s most populous city and a major center for the Muslim community and religion. Then we made a mind-boggling two-weeks trip deep into the Egyptian Western Desert. Endless, static, majestic landscape, eerie silence. In 10 days we hardly saw a living being. But ancient caravan trails again had left traces between Egypt, the Nile, the oases, and the Sudanese oases along Darb al-Tarfawi en Darb al-Arbain, and other trails to the Libyan oasis of Kufra, and further onwards to the Tibesti in Chad.

In Iran in 2003, I encountered those “Caravanserai” along the Khorasan Road, between current day Teheran and Mashad, onwards to Saraghs on the border with Turkmenistan. Most caravanserai were in ruins, some were in restoration. Some are set in villages, some in eerie desolate desert. In Iran, there are ruins of caravanserai from 300 to 900 years old. Most are forlorn, some still revealed their splendor still somehow magnificent, like hidden gems in villages or lost in the desolate desert in North-East Iran , solemn ghostly relics of their ancient past and prosperity thanks to trade and communication, to economic and political power and balance.

Yet, today, relations between the Western and Muslim world are in turmoil. I find these caravanserai are like a metaphor for a successful platform of international exchange and communication. Maybe revealing stories and image material about these caravanserai, may give hints and inspiration in a quest for finding such new platforms between the Western and Muslim world.


Encounter with the Caravanserais

Silk Road North-South

China (Xinjiang), Pakistan


Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazachstan, China


Some video material

Western Desert



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