Persian Qanat is one of the heritages of Iran that has been added to the list of UNESCO heritage sites due to its historical and cultural value. Qanat means “channel” in Persian and refers to underground tunnels that direct water from a source to several spots as a system of irrigation. Often referred to as Kariz, Persian qanat is an ancient system of conducting water along underground tunnels that made life possible in arid areas of Iran such as Yazd and Kerman. Undoubtedly, it can be named as one the symbols of civilization in these areas. Here we’re going to explain how this ingenious solution for providing water works. Read on.

Persian Qanats

How does a Persian Qanat work?

It may come as a surprise to many travelers that even some of the regions of Iran receive very little rainfall annually but still play an important role in the farming industry of the country. This has been achieved by the underground water supply system called Persian Qanat. Interestingly, other countries in the Middle East and even some of the Mediterranean countries have adopted this ancient method throughout history.

As an underground water provision system, Persian Qanat is a mining technique that makes extracting water from depths of the earth to the surface of the ground possible. In other words, Qanats feature several horizontal tunnels that collect water into a well. Water, conducted by the gravity, seeps into canals at the lower ends because of the slope. This ancient engineering gem dates back to 5000 years ago. It is still being used in several cities of the country and most of farming systems of Iran are irrigated by it.

Qanats of Iran

It is noteworthy that the tunnel’s slopes have to be precisely constructed at the right degree in order to prevent erosion that could lead to the collapse of the tunnel.

Several Functions of Persian Qanat

This sustainable way of providing water supply in cities of Iran that are located in deserts serves as a cooling system as well as being useful for watering the majestic Persian Gardens – another UNESCO heritage site of Iran that includes several gardens across the country featuring characteristics specific to Iranian architecture – due to its carefully designed canals.

Persian Ghanats

In addition, a Qanat or Kariz made for an ancient fridge for Iranians before every kitchen was occupied by a modern refrigerator. Let’s see how this brilliant invention helped the lives of Iranians in the ancient times.

Persian Qanat as a Cooling System

As can be guessed, the temperature in cities like Yazd and Kerman that are located in arid regions of Iran was reason enough for Iranians to look for a way to cool their indoor spaces before modern air conditioners were invented. But how did they do that?

Iranians had invented wind-catchers (Badgir) that could help cool the indoor temperature when used in combination with Persian Qanat. Wind-catchers or wind-towers are high structures that receive the wind, cool it and direct it into the indoors. Cooling the wind is done by the cool water provided by the Persian Qanat. This method of cooling the weather is still used in some of the cities of Iran and make for an integral part of Iranian architecture and culture.

Persian Ghanat Cooling System

An Ancient Fridge

As explained earlier, Iranians had come up with an idea of having fridges centuries before these modern huge rectangle shaped boxes were invented. Yakhchal, literally meaning “ice pit”, is a dome shaped structure featuring an underground space that works as a water reservoir. Not to mention that the water was conducted to the reservoir by Qanats. The water would naturally freeze and turn into ice during the colder months of the year but sometimes people would bring ice from the mountains as well. Interestingly, the word ”Yakhchal” is now used to refer to modern refrigerators too. 

Iranian Ghanat System

The Most Famous Examples of Persian Qanat

Iran displays several Qanats but there are eleven of them that have been officially recognized as UNESCO heritage sites. Note that each of these Qanats are architecturally and historically valuable and unique in their own right. 

Ghasabeh Qanat, Gonabad

The oldest and deepest Kariz of the world, Ghasabeh Qanat has survived severe earthquakes throughout history. This magnificent Persian Qanat, featuring a main well with a depth of 350 meters is located in Khorasan Razavi Province and has been mentioned in the epic of Shahnameh of Ferdowsi (977 AD – 1010 AD).

Baladeh Ferdows Qanat, Southern Khorasan

A complex containing 15 Qanats which dates back to the Sassanid era and is located in South Khorasan Province, Baladeh Ferdows Qanat irrigates the main farmlands near the city of Ferdows.

Zarch Qanat, Yazd

Zarch Qanat

The lengthiest Qanat of Iran, Zarch features a length of 100 km and 2115 wells. It dates back to the Sassanid era which means it’s 2000 to 3000 years old.

Qanat of Mun, Ardestan

The only two-level Qanat in the whole world, Qanat of Mun is located in Ardestan near the historic city of Yazd. An architectural masterpiece, this Persian Qanat is approximately 800 years old and displays the surprisingly advanced engineering system of its time. You’ll be astonished by seeing that water is streaming in each of the levels of this Qanat separately without one being mixed with the other.  

Qanat of Vazvan, Isfahan province

This Persian Qanat is predominantly famous for having underground dams and is approximately 3000 years old. Don’t miss out on visiting it while traveling the adorable Isfahan Province. 

Tween Qanats of Bam

Qanat of Ghasem-Abad and Qanat of Akbar-Abad are known as twin Qanats and that’s why they have been added to the list of UNESCO heritage sites. They are located in the city of Bam in Kerman Province.

Qanat of Mozd-Abad in Isfahan Province, Qanat of Hassan Abad in Mehriz, Qanat of Goharriz in Kerman Province and Qanat of Ebrahim-Abad in Arak are other examples of Persian Qanat that are worth to visit while traveling in Iran.

Want to Travel to Iran and Visit its UNESCO Heritage Sites?

Iran, as a country with awe-inspiring history and numerous cultural attractions has so many beautiful sites that have been added to UNESCO’s world heritage list. Contact us at Land of Turquoise Domes for information about our diverse tours and itineraries that include visiting many of these places according to your personal interests. We help you get the most out of your amazing trip to Iran.