Kariz Kish, A Unique Spectacle Worth Exploring

Kariz Kish, A Unique  Spectacle Worth Exploring
Kariz Kish, A Unique  Spectacle Worth Exploring

Kariz Kish Complex or the Kish Underground City is among the most visited tourist attractions of Kish Island with over 100,000 domestic and international visitors. The city used to provide the island and its neighboring areas with fresh drinking water.

It is constructed on a point where three ancient waterways or Qanats (also called Kariz in Persian) meet. Situated on the Olympic square in Kish Island, It has turned into an eye catching spectacle, an underground city covering more than 10,000 Sq m, acording to Persian daily, Donya-e Eghtesad.


The founder of the cultural complex of Kariz, Mansour Haji Hosseini returned to his homeland after a 32 year stint in Germany, with a dream to revive the over 6000-year-old tradition of using qanats.  

He started the establishment of the complex in 1999, after thorough research on the ecosystem and on the water management system of the qanats.

He believed the unique location of the center would make it among the world’s must-see destinations:  

The close proximity of the center to the Kish coral reefs combines the possibility of visiting the corals, ancient fossils, and other underwater mysteries of the Persian Gulf with the wonders of the Qanats, a relic of ingenious Iranian engineering, fresh water, and a pleasant breeze, 14 meters down from the ground’s surface.

  The Complex

The coral roof of the Kariz Kish, which is 7 meters thick, was once the bed of the sea and now is filled with fossils of sea creatures and shells that create a fascinating image before the eyes of the visitors.

According to studies carried out at Munich University, the coral roof of the complex and its fossils is something from 53 to 570 million years old.

The resulting information of the tests will be displayed as ID cards next to the fossils inside Kariz Museum. A fossil of a 570-million-year-old turtle can be seen as a mesmerizing example of the ancient history of Kish qanat.

During the years, from 15 years ago when the project commenced, three tunnels have been dug 14 meters under the surface, beneath the 7-meter-thick coral roof which covers around 15,000 Sq m. They were all build manually, without using any modern instrument and machinery and only with pickaxe and hatchets.

The ancient qanat of Kish consists of 274 water wells, 74 of which lie within the perimeter of Kariz complex, providing an agreeable climate and a cool breeze particularly pleasant during the hot summers of the Persian Gulf Island.

The underground city includes several halls representing bazaars and pavilions to offer handicrafts from various places in Iran and around the world.


A qanat is one of a series of well-like vertical shafts, connected by gently sloping tunnels. The qanat technology is known to have been developed by the Iranian people sometime in the early 1st millennium BC and spread from there slowly westward and eastward.

They tap into subterranean waters in a manner that efficiently delivers large quantities of water to the surface without need for pumping. The water drains by gravity, with the destination lower than the source, which is typically an upland aquifer. Qanats allow water to be transported over long distances in hot dry climates without loss of much of the water to evaporation.

The value of the qanat is directly related to the quality, volume, and regularity of flow. Much of the population in Iran and other arid countries in Asia and North Africa historically depended upon the water from qanats; the areas of population corresponded closely to the areas where qanats are possible. Although a qanat was expensive to build, its long-term value to the community, and thereby to the group that invested in building and maintaining it, was substantial.

  Kish Qanats

Kish qanats date back to over 2000 years ago and are 15 kilometers long with a height of about 45 meters.  It is testament to the mastery and creativity of ancient Iranians who managed to apply the unique qanat construction method, which relies on a steep slope, to the lowlands of Kish Island.

The qanats of Kish are dug in the marlstone (also called Mergel in geology) layer of the earth. Marlstone or Marl occurs as loose, earthy deposits consisting chiefly of an intimate mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, formed under freshwater conditions.

It also describes a habit of coralline red alga. The term is today often used to describe indurated marine deposits which are less fissile than shale.

The fresh drinking water of the qanats are provided from the seasonal precipitations that pass through coral reefs and marlstone layers which work as a filter for the water.

Another special characteristic of the island’s qanats is the mild slope of the tunnels all throughout the 15 kilometers length of the qanat.

The declivity of the slope is designed and built in a very intelligent manner to provide water for irrigation as well as everyday consumption of the people where they can easily access the water and fill their buckets.

Kish qanat has six ‘Payabs’ which are over 800 years old; one of which can be accessed and visited in the complex.

Payab is a tunnel that channels water under the residential area to the cultivated land. A sloping corridor with steps leads from the surface to the payab. The first payab is used for taking drinking water. A network of smaller payabs runs from the main one.

The water of the qanats was also used in return for merchandise between the islands residents and other countries on the coasts of the Persian Gulf back in the day when Kish was the center of trade in the region.