Undoubtedly, among countless natural and historical sites in Iran, the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a must see! It is surprisingly an advanced “industrial site before the industrial revolution” that furthermore benefits from a beautiful view. It traces back to 500 BC in Achamenidae era, but was mostly constructed during the Sassanid dynasty about 1500 years ago. This engineering masterpiece is in Shushtar city, Khuzestan Province, southwest of Iran.
The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a unique combination of canals, bridges, dams, weirs, watercourses and water mills. It clearly demonstrates Persian developments in efficiently utilizing nature towards human welfare, by using water engineering techniques. Here is the structure of this wonderful hydraulic system. First of all, an artificial branch generates from Karoon river to Shushtar city, called Gargar river. Secondly, weirs are wisely built on the river to increase the water level. In order to guide water to farms and gardens by benefiting from watercourses. Next, they constructedseveral dams on the river to handle the water current. Then, the water reaches the water mills through canals and then tunnels carved in stone. Following the skillful use of water for spinning the mills’ huge graining stones, the wasting water eventually flows to a central so called pool and causes a breathtaking scene. After a while, Gargar river, successfully accomplished its task, joins back to Karoon river. Ancient Iranians built all of these structure using “Sarouj” (traditional cement), lime and of course local stones.
Considering that the whole Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System lies at a lower level than the ground, it is possible to have a nice view of the site while walking on the sidewalk. Yet in order to fully enjoy the site and completely get its magnificent details, we recommend to get down the ancient stairs and welcome yourself to the world of genius! As touring around you’d probably imagine ancient millers working hard or resting in small rooms beside stairs while enjoying the cool weather and stunning views. You may also visualize people passing on bridges or on the way to reach the river through stairs to take water for their daily use. Then you will consequently sense the glory of our ancestor’s knowledge. It’s amazing to notice the standard stone pole which was used to measure the water level. Or the small praying room in a corner among these working buildings. There is also remaining of the Salasal castle near Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, it was the control center of the hydraulic system, defended the city against invaders and last but not least was the governor’s residence.
The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is a unique site and highly admired due to its completeness and diverse features. Including: 1-decreasing the intensity of water flow to prevent damage and making it possible to build bridges to cross the river 2-defending the city 3- providing consuming water of the residents 4-activating meals 5-irrigation and at last 6-milding the hot climate and totally bringing life to a dry land.
Restaurants and hotels are available near the site. There are also handicraft stores at the site for you to buy souvenirs. Furthermore, it is possible to ride on boats on the river to enjoy the wonderful harmony of mankind and nature. Obviously the best time to visit the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, is early evening in the spring to benefit from a mild weather beside daylight.
This sophisticated yet fantastic site made it to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage in 2009; stating that it testifies to human creative genius.