Iran’s ancient engineering marvel

Source: BBC News

What on Earth are those? I thought to myself shortly before landing in the Iranian city of Esfahan one summer. From the aeroplane window, I could see what looked like a cross between freakishly large anthills and obscure symbols left by an extraterrestrial race. Little could I – then only a teenager – have guessed what lay beneath their mysterious surfaces.

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The ancient Iranians had a huge task not only to survive, but also to conquer almost all their then-known world

If, throughout the ages, there’s one element my people have revered more than fire – known as the ‘Son of God’ in the ancient Iranian faith of Zoroastrianism – it’s undoubtedly water. The Iran in which various Aryan tribes settled millennia ago was a rich, vast and variegated expanse of land, as it is today. It also, however, happened to be incredibly dry. The ancient Iranians had a huge task not only to survive, but also to conquer almost all their then-known world.

To find pure water in an arid and unforgiving landscape, and create lush vistas in (literally) the middle of nowhere, might have seemed an impossible undertaking. However, they found an effective and sustainable solution to Iran’s dearth of easily accessible water in the marvel of ancient Iranian engineering known as the kariz, more popularly known by its Arabic name, the qanat. Dating back some 3,000-odd years, and added to Unesco’s World Heritage list in 2016, the qanat is a testament to the ingenuity of the ancient Iranians.

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