When the village man put his pickaxe in the yard to dig a sewage ditch, he hadn’t had any estimation that he was living on a precious archaeological site. In the plain lands near Kashan, a marvellous buried city exists in the depth of 18 meters down in the surface. Nushabad or Oui underground city is a labyrinthine network used as a safe shelter for centuries. Carved chambers, tunnels, stairs, air ducts, and canals prove that this city is an original architecture and engineering marvel of the ancient world.
Kashan is a touristic spot at the heart of Iran, in Isfahan Province. There are numerous unique attractions inside and around this historic city like trekking Deserts or wandering through old houses of the town. The mysterious underground city of Nushabad is one of these attractions. Eight kilometres away from Kashan, you can visit the biggest underground city in Iran. Like Edinburgh Vaults, in the United Kingdom, or Derinkuyu in Turkey, Noosh Abad is a multi-level underground city.
Archaeological excavations show that this city was built during the Sassanid era, about 1500 years ago. It was populated in the following periods of Seljuk and Safavid until the Qajar era. This underground city used to offer a joyful escape from the harsh hot weather of the region as the temperature is significantly low under the surface. Nushabad city was also a secure sanctuary against the raids and sudden attacks of foreign invaders.
There are several entrances to reach the subterranean City, some in specific houses of the inhabitants and others in the main gathering places like the main fort of the city, the mosque, and the bazaar. The whole subterranean area is equal to four kilometres. The depth of this hideout spot varies between three and eighteen kilometres at different parts. It is neither too deep to reach water tables and wet ground, nor too shallow with not enough living space.
The city was built in three levels and vertical spacious shafts connect each level to the lower one. Inhabitants dug chains of twisted passages, canals, chambers, staircases, water and food reservation spaces, toilets and air ducts with bare hands. Every family had a private room. Like hotel corridors, tunnels are connecting these spaces.
The residents planned for every need and necessity so they could easily live several days at this safe place. For instance, to light up the space, they designed small niches along the corridors to put tallow oil lamps in them.
The ventilation system is an awe-inspiring technique. Constructed vertical ducts passing through levels ventilate the air based on the differences of air pressure on the earth surface and inside the subterranean town. Air canals were erected beside Qanats, the chain of dug aqueducts, so the circulated air was always cool and fresh even in summer.
Since the whole structure is invisible beneath the earth, no one could guess that there should be an entire city under the visible houses of the village. Moreover, in case of finding this secret refugee, they wisely designed the passages. These passages are too narrow that only one person can walk through, and the height is nearly the same as a man height, 170-180 centimetres. But at some parts, the height is 120 centimetres so to pass through them one should bend his/her head. To resist against enemies they built the passages in curve forms also dug deep holes with rotating stones as the covers, so that any foreigner stepping on them would fall.
Nushabad underground city is a member of the Iran National Heritage Site list. If you have never experienced visiting an underground city, put it on your must-to-do list for sure.
By Samaneh Zohrabi / TastIran