Arab Ki Serai is a 16th century caravan sarai within the Humayun’s tomb complex at Delhi, India. It is said to have been built by Mughal emperor Humayun’s widow Haji Begum. In recent times, it has been conserved by Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The lofty eastern gateway of a walled enclosure built in the 17th century — which was originally a market built during Jahangir’s reign along side Arab ki Sarai, Nizamuddin East.
According to Historian S.A.A. Naqvi, Mughal emperor Humayun’s widow Haji Begum built this sarai in 1560 to shelter three hundred Arab mullahs whom she was taking with her during her hajj to Mecca; however, historian Y.D. Sharma opines that the word Arab in the title is a misnomer as this building was built for the Persian craftsmen and workers who built the Humayun’s Tomb.
In January 2017, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture started a project to conserve the serai. The restoration was completed in November 2018. In March 2019, the trust announced a planned project to conserve the baoli (stepwell) of the serai with the help of funds from the embassy of Germany. This building along with other buildings form the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb complex.
The 13 metre-high, five-arched gateway, topped with battlements is two-bay deep. It also has chambers and a domed roof flanked by niches on both sides. The spandrels are ornamented with detailed tile work and medallions bearing Quranic inscriptions.
“The spandrels of these rectangular framing are decorated with marble medallions and carvings in Persian, which suggest that the bazaar gateway was built during Mughal emperor Jahangir’s period.”
The major portions of the sarai is with the Delhi government from where it runs an Industrial Training Institute, which was set up in 1948 by the ministry of rehabilitation as a vocational training center for people who were displaced during the country’s partition.