Khan is a Persian word, meaning an inn or motel. Khan el-Basha is the biggest, most impressive of the five khans built in Nazareth, and is named after Suleiman Basha, Nazareth's governor, who repaired the khan in 1814. The building, which is opposite the Basilica of the Annunciation, is used for offices these days but is scheduled for preservation.
Khans evolved during the Mamluk Era (1260-1516) thanks to the prosperity of trade between the East and the West. They were built along major roads, especially those between Damascus and Cairo, offering lodging for caravans and passers-by. When the Arab Empire started to fail at the end of the 11th century, roads were no longer secure and khans were used as safe havens. They also became collecting points for road tolls and part of the postal system of the Empire. Urban khans became commercial markets as well as providing storage room for merchandise and animals.
Khan el-Basha was built at the entrance to Nazareth. It consists of a large yard surrounded by domed rooms on three of its sides, while the fourth side is a curved colonnade. Originally, the khan had only one floor, but at the end of the nineteenth century an additional floor, with 10 accommodation rooms, was added. These rooms were used as a modern hotel named el-Hadges. An 1839 painting by the British oriental artist David Roberts shows the khan as the most impressive and prominent building of the city.
The khan is one of the assets of the White Mosque. Due to changes in methods of transport and the citizens' way of life, the khan lost its importance over the years, and parts were converted into workshops, storage houses and offices.
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