A thousand-year-old Iranian village nominated for the OMT label
TEHRAN – The millennia-old village of Kharanaq in Iran has been nominated for the “Best Tourist Villages” label, which will be awarded to selected rural destinations by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
Embracing a labyrinth of streets, tunnels, passageways and impressive buildings such as a tiny mosque, a shaking minaret and an old caravanserai, Kharanaq is sometimes considered a photographer’s dream. The village is located in Ardakan County of Yazd Province.
“Kharanaq has been nominated as one of the best tourist villages of the UNWTO. And, the village got the necessary points in a preliminary assessment [conducted by the UNWTO experts]”, Declared Tuesday the vice-minister of Tourism, Homa Khorshidi, quoted by the IRIB.
Indicators and initiatives such as sustainable tourism; economic, social and environmental factors; historical, cultural and natural attractions; tangible and intangible cultural heritage; local communities; traditional ceremonies and rituals were among the criteria assessed for the initial assessment, the official said.
“Tourism can be an engine of positive change for rural communities around the world. “According to UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, tourism can be a driver of positive change for rural communities around the world. “We want to recognize the uniqueness of each village and present the best initiatives to make tourism a means of a better future in rural areas. As we restart tourism, we are working to ensure that no one – and no village – is left behind. “
The World Tourism Organization aims to select the best examples of rural villages harnessing the power of tourism to provide opportunities and protect their communities, local traditions and heritage. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) initiative will identify villages adopting innovative and transformative approaches to tourism in rural areas in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With the vision of making tourism a positive force for transformation, rural development and community well-being, “UNWTO’s Best Tourist Villages” aims to maximize the sector’s contribution to reducing regional inequalities and combating rural exodus. It also seeks to advance the role of tourism in enhancing and safeguarding rural villages and their associated landscapes, knowledge systems, biological and cultural diversity, local values and activities, including gastronomy.
A village burned by the sun
Meaning “birthplace of the sun,” Kharanaq is divided into two parts: the old town, which is almost entirely deserted, and the new town, where dozens of families continue to live.
The old city was built with sun-baked mud bricks, forming one of the largest collections of adobe buildings in Iran. It was once a thriving farming village, but when the water supply ran out, the locals left, leaving the town to turn into ruins, writes Ancient Origins.
While most of Kharanaq’s Old Town consists of crumbling houses and crumbling roofs, there are some historically significant and well-preserved monuments left.
In recent years, a new town has been built within 2 km of the old town with water and electricity supplied by the government. Apart from a few old people who refused to leave their old houses and continued to live among the ruins, the rest of the inhabitants of the old town settled in the new town.
There are several magnificent monuments inside the sunburnt village. A fully restored 19th-century mosque stands with a 15-meter-high minaret, known as the quivering minaret of Kharanaq. The minaret is frequently seen to shake and vibrate. The cause of this phenomenon remains unknown.
Other highlights include an ancient castle linked to historical periods of Islam, ancient aqueducts built to irrigate the surrounding fields, and an old but still functional bridge.
Additionally, a well-preserved caravanserai – a place where merchant caravans are stopped – from the time of the Qajar Dynasty can be found on the edge of Kharanaq. The caravanserai is fortified with stables for beasts of burden, storage areas and rooms for passing travelers.