Tom Schutyser: Caravanserai - Traces, Places, Dialogue in the Middle East02/10/2012
For centuries, caravanserais - roadside inns found along ancient caravan routes - have populated and serviced the Silk Road that connected the Middle East and Central Asia. Providing accommodation to traders, pilgrims and other travelers, the caravanserais served as vital points of reference and supply to a global culture - effective in servicing an expanding overland trading system.
Thousands of caravanserais were built and continued to operate through centuries of empires, caliphates and wars, until the decline in caravan trade forced closure for many. Those that have not completely vanished survive as museums, shops, living quarters and military outposts, continuing to give life to the areas they inhabit and standing as an important reminder - particularly in today's political climate in that region - of ancient multicultural trade, as well as existing as beautiful relics of Muslim architecture.
For fifteen years, Belgian photographer Tom Schutyser has returned to the Silk Road, taking a particular interest in the caravanserais. First photographing those in Northeast Iran, Schutyser then began to focus on those constructed in the Levant region of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, documenting both ruined and restored buildings, as well as the surrounding environment.
Shutyser's photographs have now been compounded into a new publication, entitled, Caravanserai - Traces, Places, Dialogue in the Middle East, which is to be published this month. Both photo essay and travelogue, the book combines Shutyser's images with contributions from several eminent writers specializing in the Middle East and foreign relations, and tells a new story of the caravanserai - one which is presented in a modern context, set against today's debate concerning the region, and which, having shed light upon these relics, will hopefully inspire and interest a new following around the architecture, culture and history of the area and the wider Muslim world.