No one is really knows for certain when the first hotels or inns appeared, there are several biblical references to inns and we are all familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus when there was “no room in the inn” for Mary and Joseph. On a recent trip to Iran I visited a Caravanserai which defiantly wasn’t the oldest hotel in the world but it is almost certainly a forerunner of today’s motel.
For hundreds of years travellers, merchants and pilgrims stayed in inns called caravanserai, which were built along the roadside or on the outskirts of the major towns throughout Iran and the Middle East.
Throughout history Iran has been central to the flow of commerce between North Africa, Europe, India and China which in turn gave rise to the need for more trade routes and roadside caravanserais.
Most Caravanserais were square or rectangular buildings with a tall wide gate, to allow easy entrance for heavily laden camels.
The typical Caravanserai would be square or rectangular in shape with a open-roofed courtyard which was surrounded by rooms, stalls and storage bays to accommodate travellers along with their, animals, and merchandise.
They often doubled up as trading posts where merchants could haggle over their goods and stock up on supplies for what was often a long and arduous journey ahead
As with today’s hotels Caravanserai varied greatly in standard some where very basic whilst others where beautifully decorated with traditional Persian tile work and some even had elaborate bath houses where weary travellers could wash away the desert dust.
Whilst we at Sarova Hotels do not claim our three hotels, The Rembrandt in London’s Knightsbridge, The Bull in Gerrards Cross and The Abbey in Great Malvern have the same historical mysticism of the Caravanserai (although one could justifiably argue The Bull dating back 1688 may give them a run for their money), we are however proud to continue the tradition of excellent hospitality that has existed for thousands for years.
Submitted by When Ian Kingston is not travelling he is Assistant Financial Controller at The Rembrandt Hotel.