the Arabic name of a building for the accommodation of strangers in sequestered places, while khan is the usual designation of a similar structure situated in or near towns. SEE KHAN.
In the days of the earlier patriarchs there seems to have been no such provision for travelers, for we find Abraham looking out for their entertainment (Genesis 23), and the visitors of Lot proposed to lodge in the street, apparently as a matter of course (Ge 19:2), just as modern Orientals often do, wrapped in their hykes, although in Arab towns generally the stranger is conducted by the sheik to the menzil, where he is provided for the night (La Roque, De la Palestine, p. 124. In Egypt, however, there seems to have been some such building (Ge 42:27), probably only a rude shed. The innkeepers in that country were usually women (Herod. 2:38), just as in the days of the Hebrew spies (Jos 2:1); apparently women of easy virtue (Heb 11:31; Jas 2:25), if not absolutely courtesans. SEE HARLOT. In the times of Christ and his apostles, inns must have been common in Palestine, yet the frequent injunction contained in the Epistles to entertain strangers (e.g. Heb 13:2; Ro 12:3) show that they were very inadequate in their arrangements. SEE HOSPITALITY. They are mentioned in the N.T. under two names, πανδοχεῖον, or house for the reception of all kinds of guests, where the good Samaritan took the wounded stranger (Lu 10:34); probably a building like the modern comfortless and unfurnished ones on the great Eastern routes of travel, with a host (or janitor), however, who, on urgent occasions, will furnish supplies to the sick and destitute. The other word is κατάλυμα, properly the upper room reserved in large houses for guests (Mr 14:14; Lu 22:11), and also applied to the place where the nativity occurred (Lu 2:7). The tradition connects this event with a cave (Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. p. 303; Origen, cont. Cels.), and the spot, as such, is still pointed out. SEE BETHLEHEM. But this is opposed to all the circumstances and usages of the case. The exact distinction between this and the previous term has been matter of dispute, but the editor of the Pictorial Bible (note in loc.) suggests the most probable explanation, that the stable, in the retirement of which Mary brought forth the Savior, was one of the stalls running along the outside of the building, behind the apartments destined for the guests; and that the "manger" (q.v.), or φάτνη, was not the crib or contrivance for this purpose known to us (for such are not used in the East), but simply the projection of the floor of the guest-room into the cattle-shed, which was probably lower on the ground (see Strong's Harmony and Expos. of the Gospls, p. 14). SEE INN.
Oriental "inns," whether called khans or caravanserais, are not at all comparable, in point of comfort and convenience, with modern hotel accommodations, nor have they the least resemblance to the character and appurtenances of a respectable tavern. A khan is always to be found in the neighborhood of a town; and caravanserais, of various sizes and degrees of completeness, are generally disposed at regular stages along public roads, especially the mercantile and pilgrim thoroughfares, according to the character of the country. They have usually been built by rich merchants for trading purposes, or by wealthy devotees as an act of religious munificence. At a distance they resemble a castellated fort, but on a nearer approach are found to be a simple quadrangular building, enclosed by a high wall, usually about 100 yards on each side, and about 20 feet high, resting on a stone foundation. In the middle of the front there is a large arched entrance, with a porter's lodge on one or both sides, and apartments for the better class over it, surmounted by a dome. The interior is an open space for cattle, baggage, etc., with a well or fountain in the middle. Along the sides of this inner court-yard are piazzas opening every few yards into arched recesses or alcoves for travelers, having an inner door communicating with a small oblong chamber, sometimes lighted at the farther end, but entirely destitute of furniture, shelves, or closets. These cells are intended for dormitories, but travelers usually prefer the open door-way, which is either paved or level and hard earth, and raised two or three feet above the general area of the court. These sets of rooms have no communication with each other, but in the middle of the three sides there is a large hall for general assemblages; at the end of each side is a staircase for ascending to the flat roof for enjoying the breeze and the landscape. These lodging-chambers are thus usually on the ground-floor; but in the few buildings which have two stories, the lower rooms are used for servants, storage, etc., while the upper story serves for the travelers themselves. Sometimes also the porter's lodge affords a supply of commodities for their use, and cooks are occasionally found in attendance. Generally, however, the accommodations are of the most wretched description — bare walls, rooms filled with dirt and vermin, and no cooking apparatus to be obtained for love or money. The traveler must do all his own work, and even furnish his own subsistence. His baggage must supply his bed, his clothing must be his covering. He is usually obliged to content himself with such cold food or fruits as he has himself brought. His outfit should therefore consist at least of the following articles: a carpet, a mattress, a blanket, two saucepans with lids, contained within each other; two dishes, two plates, etc., a coffee-pot, all of well-tinned copper; also a small wooden box for salt and pepper, a round leather table, which he suspends from his saddle, small leather bottles or bags for oil, melted butter, water, a tinder-box, a coconut cup, some rice, dried raisins, dates, and, above all, coffeeberries, with a roaster and a wooden mortar to pound them; all this is in addition to such more substantial provisions as he may prefer or can conveniently carry. The porter in attendance can only be relied upon to show him his chamber, and perhaps furnish him with a key. In case of sickness, however, the latter is generally able to administer simple remedies, and may even set a broken limb. SEE CARAVAN.