Kish Underground City


Useful Information

Location: Near Safil, Kish Island.
Open: All year [2007]
Fee: free [2007]
Classification: SubterraneaQanat
Light: electric.
Dimension: Ar=18,000m², D=16m.
Guided tours:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The island of Kish, 93km² in size and 18km off the Iranian coast is Iran's first Free Trade-Industrial Zone. It is one of the nearest visa free zone exits from the United Arab Emirates, only 240km from Dubai, and thus very popular for day and weekend trips. Beneath toll free shopping opportunities, there are numerous archaeological sites. The ancient cities Payab and Harireh, and Kish Underground City are the most poular archaeological sites on the island. About 75% of the visitors are from the UAE.

The Kish Underground City seems to have no real name. It is called Kariz, Underground Town of Cariz, or Qanat of Kish. But this are not really names, it describes what it is, an Kariz or Quanat. Both names mean the same, an underground structure which is intended to collect, purify and store water. Obviously this is an important, sometimes an essential task, to allow life in this arid climate.

The kariz was build about 2,500 to 2,000 years ago by the inhabitants of Harireh city. The ancient water management system collected water from 274 wells in an area of 14km² and conducts the water to a central filter shaft. The central shaft is filled with three layers of filter material. The top layer was coral gravel which was used to neutralize the acids in the water and filter bigger solids in the water. Then a layer of coral grit with clay was filtering fine solids, and the lowest lever was made of marn, a special sort of clay.

Obviously the amount of water which flows through the different layer decreases from top to bottom. Because of this some water was collected from different heights. After the first layer of filtration it was used for irrigating fields, and the best quality water at the bottom was for drinking. There were even underground tunnels which allowed sailing boats to enter the lowest level and collect drinking water from the lowest well.

The vast underground was abandoned long time ago. Modern technology allows filtering much more water but needs a lot of energy. The abandoned city was rediscovered in 1999, when a project was started to build an underground shopping complex. The complex was developed for numerous shops and restaurants, traditional teahouses, amphitheaters, conference centers, and art galleries. At first it had a size of 10,000m², in 2006 it was enlarged to 18,000m², about 16m below the surface.

As a part of the whole structure, the original water filtering unit was renovated also. It now works again, filtering continually water, which is used mainly for irrigation. The restauration project was financed by Mansour Haji-Hosseini, an Iranian who lives in Germany.