Historical Waterways: A Look at UNESCO-Listed Iranian Qanats
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The Qasabeh Gonabad qanat, with a depth of 300 meters, is the world’s most bottomless mother well and, at 2,500 years old, is registered as the most senior and indeed the most water-rich qanat globally. Over 470 shafts were dug along its route to prevent various wells from going blind. This qanat, with its winding, myriad, deep, and dark pathway and a surreal ambiance, reflects the qanat-building style of our ancestors. Pottery found along the qanat dates back to the Achaemenid period. In past years, Gonabad had no other qanats or wells, and Qasabeh’s qanat was the lifeline that brought water and prosperity to this now-significant city.
The Zarch qanat, with 120 kilometers and 2,115 shafts, is Iran’s longest qanat. This 3,000-year-old qanat is dug 23 meters deep and was still productive up to 150 years ago. However, drilling numerous wells along its path has significantly reduced its water level. International attention to this qanat might revive it once again.
The Baladeh qanat in Ferdows dates back to the Sassanid era. Although pottery found near the qanat estimates its age to be 2,000 years old. The Baladeh qanat system comprises 15 qanat streams and four springs, forming a vibrant water stream. This qanat has been the source of life for villages like Baghstan Upper and Lower and Islamieh. Along its 35-kilometer route, it rejuvenates 2,382 hectares of agricultural land and 1,800 orchards.
The 750-year-old Goharriz qanat dates back to the Safavid period and is currently one of the most active qanats in Jupar. With 129 shafts over its 3.75-kilometer course, it irrigates approximately 330 hectares of lands and orchards and provides drinking water for the town and villages along its path. The water of this qanat offers a suitable habitat for the blind whitefish.
This qanat dates back to the 8th century AD. The Hassanabad qanat is dug at a shallow depth, and its unique feature is that layers of gypsum and salt do not form throughout its channel. For this reason, the water of this qanat reaches its final destination with the highest quality. The water from this qanat is stored in reservoirs, irrigated orchards and agricultural lands, and powering water mills. Although today, the water of this qanat is primarily used for irrigating orchards.
One of the reasons the qanats of Bam are registered is their twin nature. The Akbarabad qanat is located in a village of the same name in the Rigan district of Bam. With 35 healthy shafts, it irrigates 16 hectares of agricultural land and orchards along its 1,100-meter route. However, the Qasemabad qanat, with 50 beneficial beams and a 2,300-meter course, irrigates 100 hectares of agricultural land.
With a history of 2000 years, the Mazdabad qanat is the second oldest Iranian qanat. It is dug 100 meters deep into the ground, 18 kilometers between Shahin Shahr and Meme. The depth of this qanat has resulted in unique features. Mazdabad resembles an underground river and, due to limestone crystallization and the formation of stalagmites and stalactites, appears similar to the Ali Sadr Cave in Hamedan.
This qanat is also one of the architectural masterpieces from the pre-Sassanid era. Its mother well is located in the province of Isfahan, south of Meme, and is dug 18 meters deep. Vazvan, with 64 healthy shafts, covers a 1,200-meter route, irrigating numerous orchards and lands. A unique feature of Vazvan is its underground dam that allows the exit gate to be closed, storing water for seasons when farmers need more water.
The Moon Qanat of Ardestan, with a history of 800 years, is one of the most magnificent, mysterious, and masterful among the qanats of Iran and the world. It has a unique feature: Moon is the only two-story qanat in the world. In the levels of this qanat, separate streams of water flow that never collide. Despite the estimated age of 800 years, documents suggest this qanat dates back to the pre-Islamic Sassanid era. The retrieved documents further enhance the marvel of this qanat.
Located on the Qom to Arak road, this qanat belongs to the 5th and 6th centuries AD and is ingeniously and peculiarly designed. With 348 healthy shafts, it spans 11 kilometers and, in addition to supplying drinking water to the village of Ibrahimabad, it irrigates about 100 hectares of village lands. The unique feature of Ibrahimabad is its conical shape; it’s the only conical qanat in the world. Entering this cave is challenging due to its conical shape, wet walls, and utter darkness, and in the last 100 years, only two locals have managed to find their way inside.