0534 GMT September 23, 2020
Aqueduct tourism has been recently used across Iran’s desert areas, which owe their survival to the aqueduct water supply system.
Qanat is a gently sloping underground water channel, or aqueduct, to transport water from an aquifer, or well, to the surface for irrigation and drinking.
In fact, the old aqueducts, which had previously been abandoned due to drought, obstruction of the routes and the infiltration of urban sewage water, have been revived with the boom of the tourism industry. After several years, the doors of these old aqueducts have been opened to domestic and foreign tourists.
At present, tourists can step into the deep and long corridors of these historical and ancient waterways and enjoy walking and watching the attractive and spectacular architecture of the amazing labyrinth of desert.
Currently, in the Bahaeddin aqueduct in Ardakan City in Iran’s central province of Yazd, an underground tourism route with an approximate length of 700 meters is set up. This route passes under the monuments and historical buildings of Tiran Ardakan neighborhood, and it can be reached through payab (a place where water comes to the surface).
This tourism route includes various sections such as the aqueduct route, rest areas, payabs, underground cold storages and water reservoirs. The Taqdirian historical house is dedicated to the construction of Ardakan aqueduct, which is considered to be the first aqueduct museum in the country where tourists can visit the aqueduct route.
Tourists can visit the routes and water reservoirs and get acquainted with the special tools, knowledge and techniques of water transfer in aqueducts.
The Bahaeddin aqueduct tourism route has been implemented in cooperation with the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism of Ardakan, said Javad Qanei, who is in charge of the Ardakan aqueduct and has made great efforts to revive it.
He is one of the best well-diggers in Ardakan; he entered this profession in childhood, following his father, Haj Mohammad Qanei.
Regarding the Bahaeddin aqueduct, Qanei said that according to a history book of Ardakan, written by Ali Sepehri-Ardakani, this aqueduct dates back 837 years. Those who used the water of this aqueduct were obliged to pay as much money as they could to the hungry people and Chahar Menar Mosque in Yazd.
He said that this aqueduct and, in general, all Ardakan aqueducts are fed from the Shirkooh watershed. The Bahaeddin aqueduct in the city center is divided into seven branches which met the water demands of the area’s inhabitants, and the rest of the water was used for agriculture.
Speaking about the length of the aqueduct, including its branches, he said it is about 18 kilometers long but, according to documents from the past, the length of this aqueduct continues to 30 to 35 kilometers, he added.
According to Qanei, the Bahaeddin aqueduct has several branches, and the length of this continuous water network under the city of Ardakan is 7.5 kilometers. In fact, under the historical context of Ardakan, there is an underground city, with intricate alleys and passages, which can be amazing and attractive to tourists.
He said the operations of reviving the aqueduct started in October 2017.
Before the start of the operation, payabs were completely blocked with dirt, and even urban sewage systems were connected to it, so that it was not possible to enter the aqueduct and breathe.
“With the efforts made, we have been able to clear one kilometer of this underground route of the aqueduct, and about 700 meters have been prepared for the public,” he said.
He added that this route does not take more than a quarter of an hour to pass, but walking the final 300 meters has some difficulties; it is more for researchers and explorers, he said.
“Every 35 to 40 meters along this route, there is a payab, which was actually the route for households to access the aqueduct water,” he said.
Thus far, the longest time spent continuously walking in the underground paths in the heart of the Bahaeddin aqueduct has been 18 hours and 12 minutes. This figure has been recorded by a number of locals and explorers who have passed this route.
According to Qanei, despite efforts to dredge the Bahaeddin aqueduct, reviving the aqueduct requires public determination and collective participation. To revive the aqueduct, deep water wells dug in the neighborhood must be closed.
The revival of the Bahaeddin aqueduct is 100 percent possible, he said. The first requirement is that the people and officials must realize the importance and value of hydrology and aqueduct technology.
In the next phase, governments must prevent the issuance of permits to dig deep wells, and deal with those who try to dig illegal wells.
Digging water wells causes land subsidence, earthquakes and the emission of toxic gases from the heart of the earth; they can have very dangerous consequences for the people who reside near the wells.
He concluded, “It is not clear whether the coldness of the water can be felt again along the Bahaeddin aqueduct, but certainly the development of aqueduct tourism can lead to the revival of old aqueducts.”
“Creating a new function for aqueducts, the protection and maintenance of these amazing structures of Iranian architecture is economically justified and its revenues can be used to rehabilitate the aqueducts.”