a quote a qanat cura

ameneh karimian
/ architect & researcher
photographs by ameneh karimian. photograph with saskia's testimony by omid zehtab
2010 map and 1960 aerial view provided by ICQHS
text by edouard sors except for forewords by ameneh karimian
coordinates 31.544, 54.424 / mehriz / yazd district / iran / asia
Quotes extracted from the testimonies of World Heritage Volunteers Farzaneh Ghorbani, Niusha Khatami, & Saskia Casert, all WHV with Omid Zehtab to 2017 or 2019 World Heritage Camps on Mehriz site.
A quote is by definition a cropped expression and as such is like a nature morte.
Yet a crop can be appreciated for its yield and can be the promise of a field, a seed for a welcoming ground.
However, a quote cannot be used out of context without risking betraying the initial point of view of its author: the idea would be altered, the seed would be corrupt.
But somehow, to quote a qanat restoration worker within a photo of a qanat waterscape – even one that doesn’t match the context referred to -
triggers the imagination intensively and irrigates the mind with minute details and helps the imagery to take root.
And the words of the volunteers are the nutrients to our mindscape.
The verb is the virtual water of our inner visions.
The first three photos show a landscape in Baluchistan, east of Iran.
The other two photos under the maps show qanat Hassan Abad between Mehriz and Yazd, in the central Plateau.
Both are qanat-scapes in which the work and the verb still make water run.


A hand full of humid clay, pebbles and silt can transport you to another desert, to the seat before yours, in a luscious garden at the feet of a snowy mountain that echoes with the names inherited from antique Persia... Unveil the mental patterns of those who assist the resilient dwellers of the arid  Iranian Plateau in deeds of renaissance and you’ll voyage back to the origins and simultaneously look fast-forward to what it takes to do well indeed...


The barren environment of the qanat minefields of Yazd has been the theatre to a lot of activity these late years: not only the ancestral payab access stairs to the vivid underground stream saw their frequentation soar: the madar chah mother wells by the mountainsides, the water mills meters below ground level, the kanvar well copings punctuating the plateau for miles on end, the mazhar emergences where groundwater finally meet the open sky, the miraculous gardens, orchards or cultivation areas... The watercourses of some remarkable qanats have been the ground to many a field study by experts, students and volunteers from all over the world.

The recent concern and activity around the traditional qanat irrigation networks can neither be explained by the quest for water, for shade and freshness in the summertime – it has always been so for generations on end – nor really by the growing feeling that the country stands on the brink of a massive water crisis – fear triggers instead of a race for deeper extraction, for more barrages or even for desalinisation plants by the coast. The beginning of an answer lays on the contrary in the perseverance of a few against all odds: their consciousness of the value of this sustainable yet almost abandoned water mining technique called for its rehabilitation in order to be preserved for future generation and for the preciousness of water to become the concern of all again.

This recognition led in 2005 to the establishment in Yazd of the ICQHS, the International Centre on Qanats and Historic Hydraulic Structures, under the auspices of the UNESCO. It has since undertaken a long, patient and ongoing inventory and rehabilitation of the knowhow and customs associated to this system, from the engineering genius required for the digging and channelling, to the culture of water divide and share, for all the grounds this tapping technique spread to during 3 millenniums to benefit from feedback and counselling.

A very symbolic yet effective result of the ‘groundbreaking’ international collaborations of the ‘qanation’ was the inscription to the World Heritage List of Persian Qanat in 2016: eleven representative qanats amongst the more than 40 000 that Iran once counted were selected for their unique specificities to be safeguarded and promoted. The Hassan Abad-i Moshir qanat is one of these outstanding entities: spanning more than 50 kilometres from Mehriz to Yazd, it delivers up to 200 litres per second and notably irrigates the Pahlavanpour garden (inscribed with 8 other Persian Gardens in 2011 to the WH list).

In 2017 and 2019, Hassan Abad qanat and Pahlavanpour garden were home to World Heritage Volunteer Camps hosted by NGO Sarvsaan Cultural Heritage Group for young participants from Asia and Europe to collaborate, learn and contribute to specific safeguarding missions ranging from the depollution of water to earthworks on historic monuments, as well as the promotion of local gardening, of ecological farming practices and traditional pharmacopeia and cuisine. More so - beyond the assemblies and works of the ‘qanation’ field scientists and scholars active in Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, China, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Oman, Uzbekistan, Spain, Tunisia, Yemen not to mention Iran or Morocco -, the recognition of the qanat culture has provided communities living from earth and water under the sun with a strong sense of embeddedness and legitimacy, incapacitating them to defy the fatality of modernity and its abusive extractivism. That is one small step for a man, a giant leap in sobering the ecological footprint for mankind.

Ameneh Karimian is a witness and contributor to qanat rehabilitation, from her early participation to the Hydrocity workshops with Edouard Sors to her later collaborations with various organisations, from her caring research in the Baluchistan outback or the metropolis of Tehran all the way through to her benevolent leadership of the enthusiastic international volunteers in the World Heritage Camps. Armed with a qalam cut from dried reed, Ameneh meets two requirements to design and sign on behalf of traditional water systems; she embraces the technique and is not embarrassed by demonstrations of empathy... She encourages readers to act for qanats, be it with a qalam, to become reeders.


Jupar [Qanat] opened the world’s gateway to me. It was from this very point that I started to travel in more than 70 countries and publish some 30 books. Jupar was my first love, and no one can forget his first love” said Anthony Smith (British explorer) when he was asked why he dived into the water of qanat on his last visitation. Likewise, qanats were a turning page for me and I was constantly dragged to them by their strong power of attraction since my first encounter back in 2012. Through various projects and initiatives, they empowered me to travel 2000 years ago, take journeys all around the country, visit Paris and Kyoto and share the taste of water drop of qanat worldwide.

“God created large fields with water for men to live on, and deserts so that they discover their soul” is a Tuareg proverb stated by Prof Kobori in one of his lectures. The WHV camps were special tributes to the hands that were digging the qanats for thousands of years in the harsh desert environment. They enabled us to stall a moment from this arbitrary world, stroll in a garden reminiscent of the promised garden and look deep into ourselves as the water passed along, enlightening the past and the future. Since after all, we are the Blind White Fish trapped in the galleries of qanats, deep underground, spending a lifetime seeking for truth.

Sweet freshwater of “Karez [qanat]” will irrigate friendship” said Sung Yi Tung (Chinese investigator). The ancient network system of qanats interweave people throughout the world. I witnessed how they act as a basis to bring people closer and root their friendship. The WHV camps on qanats were a true testimony. With all the embargo going on in the country, they offered a platform where East meets West and everyone was able to enjoy a dazzling touch of its sweet freshwater. Living and working for 12 days in a reflection of Paradise Garden with qanat circulating it as a life-blood was an act to declare a concrete safeguarding manifesto for this ancient heritage.

In the time of quarantine, let us inhale deeply and walk along the sweet water of qanats once again, enjoy the pure simplicity and ingenuity of this living heritage and cultivate our friendships.

Ameneh Karimian


ARTICLE_ Sarvsan 2017 WHV @ 
PAGE_ Sarvsan 2019 WHV @