People, Travel

Nashtifan Windmills: Catching the Storm’s Sting

Catching the Storm’s Sting
Catching the Storm’s Sting

Nashtifan windmills are among the oldest windmills in the world. They were established around 500-900 A.D. They are the first known of their kind.  They have vertical sails made of reed and wood bundles attached to a central vertical shaft by horizontal struts.

In 2002 the windmills of Nashtifan were registered as a national heritage site by Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization.

Nashtifan, which is located in Sistan province, in eastern Iran, is subject to seasonal winds from different directions. The best known of these is the ‘120-day wind of Sistan’ known as the Levar. The windy season normally runs from mid-May to mid-September.

The winds develop when a strong pressure gradient is created by a persistent high-pressure system over the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in northern Afghanistan and combines with a summertime thermal low over desert lands of eastern Iran and western Afghanistan.

The winds become accelerated by the channeling effect of the surrounding orography and can at times reach up to 120 km per hour. They extend from Sistan-o-Baluchestan across the southern parts of Khorasan Razavi where they are referred to as the ‘Storm’s Sting’ by locals.

Nashtifan which translates to ‘storm sting’ is a town in Khaf county.  It is exposed to the stinging whip of Levar winds and has plenty of scorpions as well. The town has borne this name for at least 600 years.


The windmills have acted as barriers against these harsh, natural elements over the centuries, and are a testament to this region’s ingenuity.

The windmills of Nashtifan were erected during the Safavid Era. They reach up to 15 – 20 meters in height.  Wooden blades on the upper floor grind the millstones on the lower level.  The mill is housed in a vaulted room made of thatch.

There are approximately 30 such windmills scattered throughout the area. They usually consist of 8 rotating chambers each accomodating 6 vertical blades (essentially walls with slits). Once the chambers begin to rotate, propelled with the force of the wind, the main axles transfer the rotational force and turn the grain grinders. The mechanism is accompanied by some vibrations that shift the grains, gradually sliding them down from the container to the grain grinder.