Monday, February 5, 2024

Kharanaq Village

Kharanaq is a village 70 kilometers north of Yazd in Yazd province. It serves as the capital of both the district and the rural district. Kharanaq means 'place of birth of the sun' and has been alleged to continuously be inhabited for 4,500 years, although architectural historians make a safer claim of one thousand years. It is divided into two parts; the Old Town, with its labyrinth of streets, tunnels, passageways, and rooms, as well as more impressive buildings such as a tiny mosque, a shaking minaret, and an old caravanserai, and the New Town, constructed within 2 kilometers of the ancient town where more than 400 people continue to live. 

It is surrounded by mountains on one side and desert on the other. Many buildings in Kharanaq are completely collapsed, but among them, the remaining mosque from the Qajar period, a shaking minaret from the 17th century and the caravanserai of the city have been reconstructed and can be visited. Kharanaq was prosperous in farming, but with the water supply drying up, the inhabitants left, leaving the Old Town in ruins.

The somewhat walled citadel is reminiscent of the Sassanid era. It contains 80 houses, watchtowers and is surrounded by a tall wall. Remnants of the empty homes hint that sheep or other livestock were kept below while families lived on the upper floors.

Among all the villages in Yazd, Kharanaq is the only village that has a bridge. It is believed that the bridge was not for animals or livestock but rather to transfer water from the seasonal river to the farms, or act as a dam. The bridge is 40 meters long and it was designed to prevent water shortages in the village.

The shaking minaret is one of the three moving minarets in Iran and was designed in Seljuk period. It is part of the nationally registered works of Iran. The minaret is made of clay and constructed in a way that one can shake it by giving a gentle push on its upper part. The minaret has three floors, which are interconnected through spiral stairs. For climbing or going down the stairs, there are two separate corridors. The width of the spiral staircase is 70 centimeters at the base and gradually narrows to a final width of 40 centimeters at the top.

Another blue-domed mosque, apparently containing the hand of Imam Reza, stands out against the earthen colors of the surrounding town and landscape.

The Kharanaq Caravanserai, fortified with stables for pack animals, storage areas, and rooms for travelers passing through, dates back to Sasanian Dynasty. It was rebuilt and reconstructed under the command of Muhammad Vali Mirza, the son of Fath Ali Shah Qajar. The large number of rooms and arcs in this caravanserai indicate that Kharanaq was a busy place where many travelers used to stay. It has a yard in the center and it is surrounded by rooms. Today, tourists can reserve a room and spend the nights at Kharanaq Village Caravanserai.

The bathhouse was constructed during the Qajar Dynasty. One of its key features is the principled and skillful design of the water and sewage inlet and outlet system for optimal use of water resources. The bath is built in such a way that the water of the Qanats were easily directed into it. Half-covered pits, now clogged with debris appear to be all that remains of this water system.

At the 2006 National Census, its population (meaning mainly the New Town) was 433 in 133 households. The following census in 2011 counted 251 people in 80 households while census in 2016 showed a population of 437 people in 125 households. The last remnants of this historic and awe-inspiring city are now under threat due to the existence of iron, uranium, barite, zinc, and granite deposits in the surrounding area.  The Saghand mine located 60 kilometers west of the village extracts some of these valuable minerals, and it is only a matter of time before profits are placed before the preservation of this ancient town.


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