The Glory of Iran’s Qanats

History of Qanats in Iran

Iranian Qanats are considered as the most important factor in the development of civilization. The Iranians, with their innovations and the construction of Qanats, were able to use water safely and permanently throughout the year. They are themselves. Most areas of Iran are hot and dry. Life in these areas is impossible due to rain and insufficient water. But Iranians have been able to meet their water needs by digging Qanats.

Other hot and dry regions of the world, such as Australia, are uninhabited, but in Iran, due to the digging of Qanats and its unique water supply system, many cities and villages have been formed. Agriculture is also thriving in these hot and dry areas, and products such as fruits, vegetables and oilseeds are produced.

Researchers believe that the first Qanat was built in Iran. Then in the Achaemenid period, the secret of this water supply system by the Iranians went to Oman, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. The Muslims then took the secret to Spain.

In 2014, an old Qanat dating back to the third millennium BC was discovered near the Samira Dam (western Iran). This discovery showed that the Qanat system was widespread throughout Iran and was not used only in the desert. In 2003, after the Bam earthquake, an Qanat was discovered that is more than 2000 years old. This Qanat was excavated at the end of the Achaemenid period. It is said that the construction of Qanats has become popular in Iran since the Achaemenid period. Silas, the military commander of Darius I in the conquest of Egypt, built an Qanat in Egypt in 518 BC. Other Egyptian and Syrian Qanats were built during the Roman period.

The Greek Polybius describes an Qanat in the Persian desert in the second century BC. He says the Iranians mysteriously brought water from the depths of the earth to the surface. Vitruvius (80 BC) describes the Qanat in his book and reveals some technical secrets of this engineering phenomenon (Qanat).

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a French-British tourist named Jean Chardin wrote: The Iranians were not only able to locate the exact location of the water, but also had the ability to transport water up to a distance of 60 km or sometimes more.

What is an Qanat?

Several thousand years ago, the ancient Iranians invented a new system called the Qanat. The Qanat is an underground passageway that carries water from the groundwater aquifer to lower lands. The Qanat consists of several wells. These wells, which are drilled vertically on a sloping surface, are connected to each other underground with a gentler slope. The first well is called the mother well. The mother well, which is usually submerged in an alluvial cone, is deeper than the groundwater level. The Qanat system is similar to an ant nest. Because it starts from the foot of the mountain and continues to the desert where the water is collected.

Qanat structure:


A corridor or tunnel is an Qanat that is dug to access groundwater aquifers and transfer water to the ground. The dimensions of this corridor are almost horizontal in such a way as to allow workers to work and move easily. The height of the corridor is about 90 to 150 cm and its width is almost less than half of its height.

Qanat exit

the place where the Qanat corridor and the surface of the earth are integrated, is called Qanat output. This place is also called Mazhar (the place where the water appears).

Well shaft

Vertical wells that are dug to the Qanat corridor to connect the ground floor and the horizontal corridor of the Qanat is called. shafts have many uses. Their main use is to drain the soil resulting from digging the Qanat corridor. They also help ventilate and supply oxygen to workers. These wells help to send the required facilities and tools and discharge waste more easily. Hence the time and cost required for repairs and construction. These well shafts are drilled with a diameter between 80 to 100 cm.

Mother well

The farthest and deepest well shaft from the Qanat outlet that is dug in the upstream points is called mother well. The high flow of water in the mother well indicates the good flow of the Qanat. If the water level decreases and reaches below the mother well, water will no longer flow in the corridor of the Qanat and the Qanat will dry up. The depth of the mother well is different in different Qanats. The deepest mother well in Iran is excavated in Qasbeh Gonabad Qanat with about 300 meters.

Qanat-related structures


One of the structures related to the Qanat is Payab. Payab is a place of access to Qanat water. Payab is located in the courtyards of houses and mosques. The important thing about enduring is its very cool weather in summer. The bottoms have been used as refrigerators for food storage and in some cases for naps.

Windbreaker (Bad gir)

In houses, windbreaks are built on the Qanat. The use of wind deflectors is to circulate the air. The air that passes through the water of the Qanat cools the room. The combination of these two buildings (windbreak and running water of the Qanat) can be seen in most of the houses in the desert cities of Iran.

Investigation of Iranian Qanats

The deepest Qanat in Iran and the world

Qasbeh Qanat (Gonabad)

Qasbeh Qanat is an amazing phenomenon in Gonabad city. The Qasbeh Qanat dates back to 2500 to 2700 years ago. The length of this Qanat is 33. Its mother well is 350 meters deep, which is known as the deepest Qanat in the world. The Qanat water flow rate is about 150 liters per second and is almost constant throughout the year.

The longest Qanat in Iran

Zarch Qanat (Yazd)

The longest Qanat in Iran, “Zarch”, is in Yazd city. This Qanat is 100 km long. The number of wells is 2115. Its wells have been drilled at a depth of 23 meters. The Qanat is estimated to be up to three thousand years old in the Zoroastrian period. This Qanat is located next to the Yazd Grand Mosque.

Unfortunately, this Qanat has dried up due to the excessive digging of deep wells in the Qanat area, and only one of its branches is active.

The most special Qanat in the world

Our Qanat (Ardestan)

“Moon” Qanat is located in Ardestan city, Isfahan province. This Qanat is the only two-story Qanat in the world. The surprise of this Qanat is that the water of one of its floors does not penetrate the other. This 2,500-year-old Qanat has a water storage dam. Therefore, it is able to store agricultural water for four months. Experts consider the Qanat to be one of the masterpieces of engineering in ancient times in terms of observing the principles of drilling.

Qanat dating back to prehistoric Iran

Varzan Qanat

Varzan Qanat is about 3,000 years old. This Qanat is located in the city of Varzan, Isfahan. According to Japanese experts, this Qanat is one of the rarest Qanats in the world. This Qanat has a dam. The dam has a capacity of about 3,200 cubic meters of water for 120 days.

The first Qanat without a well

Ghias Abad Qanat

Ghias Abad Qanat is 350 to 400 meters long. The Qanat dates back to 1000 years ago. The use of this Qanat was to transfer water from one side of the mountain to the other, which is an agricultural field. Due to the special conditions of the Qanat, no wells have been dug in it.

The only conical Qanat in the world

Ibrahim Abad Qanat

Ibrahim Abad Arak Qanat is one of the masterpieces of Iranian art. This Qanat dates back to the sixth and seventh centuries AH. To dig an Qanat, a circle with a radius of one meter is dug and this circle becomes deeper. But the wonder of this Qanat is that it is conical in shape; The more the well goes down ،the wider and larger the well becomes.

The number of aqueducts in Iran is about 36,300. After many efforts, in 2016, 11 Iranian aqueducts were finally registered with UNESCO. Unique features, including the deepest, longest and strangest, are the reasons for registering these aqueducts. Visiting this attractive architecture and engineering will be fascinating for any viewer.

 By joining the UNESCO tours organized by Oak Travel agency, visit these special and spectacular Qanats.

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