Khan Assad Basha (خان اسعد باشا) is the largest and most noteworthy of the several dozen khans in the old city of Damascus (دمشق). Also known as caravanserai, khans offered accommodation for travelers, particularly large trade caravans. They also functioned as warehouses for receiving, storing and dispatching trade goods. Today, most simply serve as extensions of the surrounding markets, containing workshops and storage space for nearby businesses. Some of the more impressive examples, such as Khan Assad Basha (خان اسعد باشا), have been restored as cultural heritage sites.
The khan was constructed in 1752 under Assad Basha al-Azem (أسعد باشا العظم), who served as the Ottoman governor of the city from 1743 until 1757. Assad Basha al-Azem (أسعد باشا العظم) was a member of the prominent al-Azem (العظم) family, which governed many cities throughout Lebanon and Syria during the 18th century. Prior to inheriting the governorship upon his father’s death in 1743, Assad Basha al-Azem (أسعد باشا العظم) resided in Hama (حماة). He was favored by Ottoman authorities as governor for ensuring the safe passage of annual pilgrimage caravans heading to Mecca and Medina, a task of major importance to the Ottoman sultan. He also relaxed restraints on the local Christian population and was responsible for the construction of the nearby Qasr al-Azem (قصر العظم), his palatial residence. His relationship with Ottoman authorities soured over the years, and he was removed from power in 1757. He was executed shortly after his removal from office, accused of inciting a Bedouin attack against a pilgrimage caravan.
Khan Assad Basha (خان اسعد باشا) is entered through a monumental gateway decorated with stone carvings and muqarnas on the western side of the building. The layout of the khan is a square plan featuring a sizable central courtyard covered by eight domes. The center of the courtyard, which includes a large fountain, is left open. Surrounding the courtyard are two floors of rooms. The upper floor has eighty rooms, originally for accommodating travelers. The building covers 2,500 square meters and was constructed utilizing alternating bands of black basalt and white limestone. The complex was recently restored, and often features art exhibits and other cultural events.
Getting There: Khan Assad Basha (خان اسعد باشا) is centrally located in the old city of Damascus (دمشق), only one hundred and fifty meters south of the Umayyad Mosque (الجامع الاموي) and fifty meters south of Qasr al-Azem (قصر العظم). The entrance is on the western side of the building, in the popular spice market.
Coordinates: 33°30’34.00″N / 36°18’24.00″E
Transliteration Variants: Khan Assad Pasha, Khan Asad Basha, Khan Asad Pasha, Khan Assaad Basha, Khan Assaad Pasha, Khan Asaad Basha, Khan Asaad Pasha
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