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Introducing two water reservoirs with seven windcatchers in Yazd province

Water reservoir, the phenomenon, and the miracle of the desert

Under the pretext of approaching the hot season and the necessity of water

From ancient times respecting water and avoiding wasting and polluting it has deep roots in the people’s culture of Iran. As the Iranian goddess, Anahita, the guardian angel of water, was considered one of the most respected goddesses in Iran, and many shrines have been set up to honor her. Also, one part of the Avesta, which is called “Aban yasht,” is dedicated to the worship of Anahita, and also in the Khorde Avesta, there are verses called “Ab Zour,” which are recited in honor of water by the mobed. The connection between water and religious rituals continued in post-Islamic Iran until Anahita’s shrine was replaced by majestic prayer halls, where Iranians gathered to pray for rain and sent greetings and prayers to the Imams while drinking water. The dry air and water shortage made the people of this region to search for water in the depth of the earth and find a way to store it. The sanctity of water for Iranians makes the architecture of Ab Anbar more dignified and magnificent, and it manifests itself as an everlasting reminiscence in the heart of a town or village.  The urgent need of the desert man for water, this life-giving element, has created a masterpiece, and this masterpiece gives the residents of the desert the courage to live.  In desert cities and towns, ab-anbar (water reservoirs) are the beating heart of the city. In the cities, water reservoirs vitalize mosques, shrines, Hussainiyas, baths, bazaars, and the city center.

Historical background of reservoirs:

The history of the construction of reservoirs, undoubtedly, dates back to several thousand years ago. The oldest related reservoir discovered is the reservoir of the Elamite city of Orantash near the Chogha Zanbil shrine. Its longevity dates back to the 13th century BC. In some books it is mentioned that Iranians were the first to build the kariz (qanat or aqueduct) in human civilizations, and much later on this technique of preserving water was transferred to other countries such as Egypt, India, etc.

The reservoirs that now remain belong to the Islamic period. But since most of them do not have historical inscriptions, it is impossible to determine how many of them date back to the first centuries of Islam.

Ab-anbar is called “ambar” in the Yazdi dialect.  Estakhri has named several ponds in his books on the route between Yazd and Khorasan. Other contemporary geographers described it in more or less the same way. Among the reservoirs of Yazd, without mentioning the reservoir’s name, two karizes of Nasiri and Taft have been cited as the source of water of about five hundred reservoirs in the city and outside the city. The writer of a practical, comprehensive book has also dedicated a part of his book to Yazd houses and mentions that “each neighborhood had at least one reservoir and in large neighborhoods, there were two or more reservoirs.”

Categorisation of reservoirs:

In general, reservoirs can be classified into two categories:

  1. Public reservoirs located in neighborhoods, villages, caravanserais, and a single structure in the caravan route
  2. Private reservoirs inside houses.

In Yazd, more than one hundred water reservoirs have been identified, and most of them are endowed and the principles governing their design are almost the same. Due to direct contact with water and dampness, bricks and structures that can withstand the destructive effects of humidity have been used in the reservoir. One of the main structures of the reservoir is “Dimeh,” which is made of lime, ash, and sand. This mortar also blocks water spoilage while sealing the structure. The addition of lead to the flooring of the reservoir, besides its strengthening quality, has also been used to keep water cool in summer.

Reservoir architecture quality:

The main parts of the reservoir are:

  1. The water storage tank
  2. Tank cover
  3. Windcatcher and ventilator
  4. Stairs and Pasheer
  5. Decorative entrance
  • The water storage tank: the tank of the reservoir is made in four shapes: cube, rectangular cube, ‌ octagon, and cylinder. All or most of these tanks are dug underground.  The diameter of the cylindrical tanks do not exceed 20 m and can hold upto 3000 cbm of water.
  • The Tank cover: You may find the cover of the tank as a dome, cone, track or flat. The main cover of single-story reservoirs is made in the form of a round or conical half-dome. In the tropical regions of the country, to absorb as little sunlight as possible, the outer wall of the domes is whitewashed. In rural areas and out of cities, they use stones to build small domes and cover medium and large domes with bricks. Flat roofs were mostly built in reservoirs which were part of a complex consisting of mosque, school, caranansarai and timcheh (market place).
  • Windcatcher and ventilator: windcatchers are usually mounted above the water tank to create an air flow and keep water purified and cold. Windcatchers can vary in number, from 1 to 6. Multiple single-span and multi-span windcatchers exist above some water reservoirs since they can be used wherever the wind blows and the airflow is constantly exchanged. Reservoirs that do not have a tall windcatcher, a hole is needed made in the top of the semi-mountain arch or cone-shaped reservoir, and a ventilator, like a short windcatcher is built in to let the air flow.

Stairs and pasheer (the space where a tap is installed):  The stairs of the reservoir are built next to the tank and usually in the middle of the very impressive and artistically built entrance that overlooks the city’s circle (or square), allowing access to the tap and the space where water is drawn.  Sometimes the stairs are steep, but they are wide enough for people to be able to easily pass by each other when going up or down, with their buckets, pales, jars or musk.  The width of each stair is often between 25 and 30 cm and the surface of each stair is between 30 and 50 cm.  After a certain number of stairs there is a stairway landing that also serves as a place where vendors can display their commodities.  Sometimes, there are upto 3 taps in the tap area (pasheer) where water is taken so that people do not have to wait much.  Taps are installed 1l meter above the bottom of the tank so that the sediments are not disturbed.  Stairs of large reservoirs are often made of cut stone.  Otherwise stairs are usually made of brick. In Yazd, Zoroastrian-built reservoirs often have two water withdrawal steps, one for Zoroastrians and one for Muslims, like the well-known “Rig” reservoir.

Entrance: The portal (top of the doorway) or a reservoir is supposed to be the most impressive, decorative and skillfully displayed part. Such entrances in some of the ancient cities of Iran are among the most remarkable signs of the original Iranian architecture.  Unfortunately, a complete example of such entrances have not been found from pre-Safavid period.  But, from the Safavid period, many such entrances have remained.  The size of the reservoir entrance vary depending on the size of the tank and how it is allocated in the texture of the complex.  One framework with two vertical walls, inscription in stone, podium on each side, a keystone, tiling and a small stone inscription indicating the builder and the donor of the reservoir are the basic components of the entrance.

Introduction of two unique reservoirs with seven windcatchers in Yazd province:

Due to its climatic and biological conditions, Yazd province has been in need of water more than any other area in Iran, an element that is most crucial and basic for survival. Therefore, its people thought of many solutions to preserve this vital element; one of them was to build reservoirs. And, in order to keep the water cool, safe and pure, windcatchers were added to the architecture.  Numerous reservoirs, from the most simple form of architecture to the most complex; from a simple reservoir without windcatcher to the reservoir having 7 windcatchers, have been built in Yazd so that this area is now as the land of reservoirs, and which has become the symbol of Yazd.  Surprisingly, all over Iran and the whole world, there are one two 7-windcatcher reservoirs which are both in Yazd province, briefly described below:

Asr-abad seven-windcatchers reservoir:

This reservoir is located in the abandoned village of Asrabad one of the territories of Ashkezar District of Sodough County.  As its name tells, the 7-windcatcher reservoir has 7 windcatchers and two water tanks with a large domed roof, the exterior of the dome is made of brick as well as its windcatcher. The windcatchers are decorated with Sharafi bricks in the upper part, and each windcatcher is divided into four encasements in its four directions.

Above the entrance of the seven-windcatchers reservoir, which has a staircase to reach Pasheer, stone inscription measuring 42 x 94 cm were built in.  These inscriptions are now kept in the Yazd Cultural Heritage of Yazd Province) on which the names of the founders and donator, and the date of construction of reservoir (1321 AH) is written in silver. This reservoir has been registered in the country’s national heritage list, but as yet no action has been taken to determine its boundaries.

7 windcatcher reservoir in Hossein abad

Seven-windcatchers reservoir of Hussain Abad

This reservoir is located in a village by the same name, in the Allah Abad district of Rastaq, next to the seven-windcatchers reservoir in the Ar Abad. This reservoir has 7 windcatchers, two water tanks and two entrances, each for muslims and zoroastrian’s use. The wind deflectors are open on all four sides and are beautifully decorated with mouse and zigzag ornaments. The walls of the tanks of these reservoirs are covered with bricks, known as Sharafi brick, and its dome is oval shaped.  The keystone of the roof of the entrance porch are decorated with geometric designs with colored bricks and have stone inscriptions that the inscription of the Muslim entrance is not available now. The *karbandi roof of the entrance porch is a sign of beauty and splendor. The material used in construction of the reservoir is brick, clay, rubble, cement, and plaster.

View of Seven-windcatchers reservoir of Hussain Abad

View of the entrance of Seven-windcatchers reservoir of Hussain Abad and its inscriptions

*Karbandi is the structure of a kind of roofing, consisting of ribs with a particular arched form that interlock according to specific geometrical rules and forms the mainframe of the roof.

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