Darbandikhan Khan

Alternative Names

Darband-i Khan; Derbendîxan Caravansary, Caravanserai

MMM Documentation Dates
Spring 2017
Site Type
Civic, Commercial, and Domestic Buildings
Sulaymaniyah Governorate

    Views over Darbandikhan (Including Khan)

    Darbandikhan Khan Outer Facades

    Darbandikhan Khan Dome and Vaulted Area

    Landscape and Ruins surrounding Darbandikhan Khan

    The Darbandikhan khan is located in the modern village of Sirwan, just southeast of the city of Darbandikhan in Sulaymaniyah/Slemani Governorate, Iraqi Kurdistan. It sits on a low hill overlooking the town, at a bend along the Sirwan River. The khan once served a caravan route running through the pass between Mt. Baranan to the north and Mt. Qawala to the south. It was reconstructed shortly before the MMM team documented the site in 2017.

    The caravanserai at Darbandikhan was built of roughly hewn stones. It was likely entered from the southern side, which faces the Sirwan River (see the panorama). The building’s plan can be described as a rectangle with its southeastern quadrant carved out, leaving an open forecourt in this area. Among the several arched portals in this forecourt, the largest leads north into a central room covered by a dome. This room forms a transitional space to a large rectangular courtyard, which opens all the way to the khan’s northern wall (see the panorama). Two wings run along the khan’s east and west sides; the western wing is significantly longer than the east, as it extends along the southeastern forecourt (see the panorama). Both of these wings are divided into an array of long, rectangular chambers—presumably the guest rooms—accessed by arched doorways. Many of the roofs have been restored in the form of barrel vaults, mainly along the west wing. Portions of the original walls, surviving from before the reconstruction, can be seen throughout the building.

    A minor caravan route—roughly tracing the valley of the Diyala/Sirwan River—ran though this pass, linking Khanaqin or Kifri in the southwest with Halabja in the northeast (and thence further east).1 The khan apparently escaped the attention of the travelers who traversed the area and described the pass during the 19th and early 20th centuries.2 The building’s exact date of construction is not immediately clear. It lay in ruins, nearly to its foundations, until its recent reconstruction under the auspices of the Sulaymaniyah/Slemani Directorate of Antiquities.

    • 1. On the caravan routes through this area: Cecil J. Edmonds, Kurds, Turks and Arabs (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), 19; Ely B. Soane, Report on the Sulaimania District of Kurdistan 1910 (Sulaymaniyah/Slemani: Kurdology Center, 2008; reprint [1910]), 27.
    • 2. Henry Rawlinson refers to what may be this site as “Banah-khilan” in his report of his travels in the year 1836; see “Notes on a March from Zoháb (…),” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 9 (1839), 29. Cecil J. Edmonds more certainly passed through the gorge of Darbandikhan in 1922 but makes no reference to the khan (or to any settlement); see Kurds, Turks and Arabs (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), 158.
    Content Manager
    Matthew Peebles (2020)