An air view of Qanat, could rise a question mark in every one’s mind. What are these orderly holes? It appears as if some holes are pierced in the arid desert ground.

Thanks to early writers, we have now an excellent documentation of how this intelligent system works. As early as the first millennium BCE. Persians came up with an ingenious system to figure the water problem out in the dry mountain basins. It not only solved the problem in the time, but is an enduring solution after years.

How it works?

They started constructing painstaking tunnel systems, called qanats, for extracting underground water. This tunnels were hand-dug and tight enough to accommodate only a person while digging. Vertical shafts, every 20 to 30 Km cut this long tunnels in order to excavate materials, provide ventilation and maintenance purposes. The combined length of the tunnels is about the same as the distance between the earth and the moon. The main tunnel slopes gently down from a mountainous area or head of a former river or a cave lake to an outlet at a village. From there canals distribute water to fields for irrigation.

The result would be an oasis in the middle of the desert and domestic use. These inventive irrigation systems allowed arid desert bloom with agriculture.


Written records leave little doubt that ancient Iran (Persia) was the birthplace of the qanat, as early as the 7th century BC. However, the technology didn’t remain exclusive. It spread, through Silk Road trade and Muslim conquest, and now we can find qanats as far as Morocco and Spain.


Qanat water system has remarkable advantages including:

  • Majority of the channel is locating underground which prevents water loss from seepage and evaporation.
  • We don’t require piping since the gravity force runs the system.
Where to visit them?

Qanats are wildly spread in Iran’s main desert cities such as Khorasan-e Razavi, South Khorasan, Yazd, Kerman, Isfahan and Markazi provinces. UNESCO has listed them, so you can get a chance to visit them if you travel to one these cities during your trip to Iran.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 + 12 =