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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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The inns or caravanserais of the east, in which travellers are accommodated, are not all alike, some being simply places of rest, by the side of a fountain, if possible, and at a proper distance on the road. Many of these places are nothing more than naked walls; others have an attendant, who subsists either by some charitable donation, or the benevolence of passengers; others are more considerable establishments, where families reside, and take care of them, and furnish the necessary provisions. "Caravanserais," says Campbell, "were originally intended for, and are now pretty generally applied to, the accommodation of strangers and travellers, though, like every other good institution, sometimes perverted to the purposes of private emolument, or public job. They are built at proper distances through the roads of the Turkish dominions, and afford to the indigent or weary traveller an asylum from the inclemency of the weather, are in general built of the most solid and durable materials, have commonly one story above the ground floor, the lower of which is arched, and serves for warehouses to store goods, for lodgings, and for stables, while the upper is used merely for lodging; beside which they are always accommodated with a fountain, and have cooks' shops and other conveniences to supply the wants of lodgers. In Aleppo, the caravanserais are almost exclusively occupied by merchants, to whom they are, like other houses, rented." "In all other Turkish provinces," observes Antes, "particularly those in Asia, which are often thinly inhabited, travelling is subject to numberless inconveniences, since it is necessary not only to carry all sorts of provisions along with one, but even the very utensils to dress them in, beside a tent for shelter at night and in bad weather, as there are no inns, except here and there a caravanserai, where nothing but bare rooms, and those often very bad, and infested with all sorts of vermin, can be procured." "There are no inns any where," says Volney, "but the cities, and commonly the villages, have a large building called a kan or kervanserai, which serves as an asylum for all travellers. These houses of reception are always built without the precincts of towns, and consist of four wings round a square court, which serves by way of enclosure for the beasts of burden. The lodgings are cells, where you find nothing but bare walls, dust, and sometimes scorpions. The keeper of this kan gives the traveller the key and a mat, and he provides himself the rest; he must therefore carry with him his bed, his kitchen utensils, and even his provisions, for frequently not even bread is to be found in the villages. On this account the orientals contrive their equipage in the most simple and portable form. The baggage of a man who wishes to be completely provided, consists in a carpet, a mattress, a blanket, two sauce pans with lids contained within each other, two dishes, two plates, and a coffee pot, all of copper, well tinned, a small wooden box for salt and pepper, a round leathern table, which he suspends from the saddle of his horse, small leathern bottles or bags for oil, melted butter, water, and brandy, if the traveller be a Christian, a tinder box, a cup of cocoa nut, some rice, dried raisins, dates, Cyprus cheese, and, above all, coffee berries, with a roaster and wooden mortar to pound them." The Scriptures use two words to express a caravanserai, in both instances translated inn: "There was no room for them in the inn," καταλυματι , Luke 2:7; the place of untying, that is, of beasts for rest. "And brought him to the inn," πανδοχειον , Luke 10:34 , whose keeper is called in the next verse πανδοχευς . This word properly signifies "a receptacle open to all comers." "The serai or principal caravansary at Surat," observes Forbes, "was much neglected. Most of the eastern cities contain one, at least, for the reception of strangers; smaller places, called choultries, are erected by charitable persons, or munificent princes, in forests, plains, and deserts, for the accommodation of travellers. Near them is generally a well, and a cistern for the cattle; a brahmin, or fakeer, often resides there to furnish the pilgrim with food, and the few necessaries he may stand in need of. In the deserts of Persia and Arabia, these buildings are invaluable; in those pathless plains, for many miles together, not a tree, a bush, nor even a blade of grass, is to be seen; all is one undulating mass of sand, like waves on the trackless ocean. In these ruthless wastes, where no rural village or cheerful hamlet, no inn or house of refreshment, is to be found, how noble is the charity that rears the hospitable roof, that plants the shady grove and conducts the refreshing moisture into reservoirs!"

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Inn'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​i/inn.html. 1831-2.
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