Sitting in a remote valley about 70km (43 miles) north of Yazd in Central Iran, is the deserted and crumbling mud-brick village of Kharanaq. The site has been occupied for approximately 4,000 years, while the dilapidated adobe buildings that draw foreigners from around the world date back around 1,000 years. The abandoned town is a photographer’s dream with a 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 that welcomed merchants and pilgrims centuries ago.
Kharanaq is one the most interesting attractions in Iran, this several-thousand-year-old village had been in use up until 40 years ago. It is located atop of a hill between mountains. The alleys are nested and you can freely move in them. Some of the alleys are carved in the mountain, which you can roam in them and the houses. An old bathhouse and the first aqueduct in Iran are located in this village. The most important attraction in this village is its unique atmosphere and the beautiful scenery of mountains and desert.
Kharanaq, which means ‘place of birth of the sun’, is divided into two parts – the Old Town, which is almost completely deserted, and the New Town, where some 130 families continue to live.
The Old Town was constructed with sun-baked mud bricks, forming one of the largest collections of adobe buildings in Iran. It was once a prosperous farming village, but when water supplies dried up the inhabitants left, leaving the town to turn to ruins.
All poor and rich houses are basically stones that have been brought from along distance of mountain. Walls are constructed by raw-brick or mud. Roofs, doors, windows are whole wood.
The zig-zag streets with their different dimensions have a joint entrance considerably. They have a suitable formation view in the said complicated houses. Difference height from bottom to upper side of the village is too much. This difference with its suitable sample has made the streets a nice look. The covered side-walks (pass from under houses) are so difficult that a man mounted on a horse is nearly impossible. In view that none of a group mounted horses will be able to go in. in addition it is said that these complicated houses look like a castle protect all the residents (of course after walls and castle). The remained old walls, castles and the other residences have had a protection task against wild and tribal people attack.
Kharanagh has had a very hard life based on, quotations, during old years this place has been invaded or destructed by attackers many times but due to particular strategic condition and its geographical climate position further more, passing caravans over here, and rulers and militarists policy had a strong effect economically, the village be furnished again.
In recent years, a New Town was constructed within 2km (1.4 miles) of the ancient town with government-supplied water and electricity. Apart from a few elderly people who refused to leave their old houses and continue to live among the ruins, the rest of the Old Town’s inhabitants moved to the New Town.
Important monuments in Kharanaq
While most of the Old Town of Kharanaq consists of crumbling homes and collapsing roofs, there still remain a number of historically important and well-preserved monuments.
A Qajar era mosque has been fully restored and stands with a 15-meter-high minaret, known as the Shaking Minaret of Kharanaq. The 17th century minaret has three floors and a spiral staircase winding its way up inside. The minaret is frequently seen shaking and vibrating. The cause of this phenomenon remains unknown.
Another blue-domed mosque stands out against the earthen colors of the surrounding town and landscape.
A well-preserved caravanserai – a place where merchant caravans are halted – from the time of the Qajar Dynasty sits on the edge of Kharanaq. The caravanserai is fortified with stables for pack animals, storage areas, and rooms for travelers passing through.
Other highlights include an old castle linked to the historical periods of Islam (maybe Sasanian Empire), ancient aqueducts built to irrigate the surrounding fields, and an ancient but still functional bridge named "Pole Abrah" which dates back to Sasanian Empire.
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 60km 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.