The old bridge and aqueduct
Two interesting sights are the old bridge and aqueduct, located down in the valley below the ancient village, by the newmosque. There’s a path that leads you there that starts right by the caravanserrail. The aqueduct is still in use and it’s quite complex and fascinating – the bridge is stunning and hair-rising. It’s very high and narrow – in fact it was mainly used to convey waters to the nearby fields – and only secondarily to allow people to walk on it.
On the bridge, be careful. There’s no protection whatsoever, so you need to be sure-footed and not afraid of heights if you decide to cross it. Alternatively, do as I did, walk up and down the hill a couple of hundred metres towards the old mosque.
The new mosque
The new mosque is so brand new that it is not yet finished - and yet it is an ancient sight, site and holy shrine. It's just a bit of an intricate story. This new mosque was born as a shrine on the site where one of the followers of the Imam Reza died, on his way to Mashad. This man was Baba Khadem, and his tomb is much revered.
The new mosque is basically just an over-all shell. A new protective roof is being built on top of the shrine, to protect it from harsh weather conditions and not so very likely acts of vandalism. Eventually it looks like this construction will become a mosque the third mosque of Kharanaq.
This caravanserrail is at the same time both fascinating and disappointing. It’s a very old one – it was built under the orders of Mohammad Vali Mriza, the offspring of Fath Ali Shah - and it is called Shahzadeh caravanserrail. It was a mighty construction – and it has completely been restored – hence the disappointment…
Restoration works have not been carried out using old materials and techniques – it looks new although it has kept all its original featured, but it is completely deprived of charm. At first we did not quite understand why it had been gived this “new” life – but it became clear after we read about the plans to open it up as a posh hotel and conference centre. I need to add that I’m not quite happy about this.
The shaking minaret
The shaking minaret of Kharanagh dates back to the 17th-century and it is very beautiful – but it is not the only one in Iran… there are others. The best known, I think, are in Isfahan. There is however a good reason why one should visit this one and not the others… it’s because here you are allowed to shake it yourself.
You just need to have someone open the locked door for you (no problem, just ask the guesthouse) and climb up the very narrow and extremely dark winding stair to the top – and once there just balance yourself so as to make it shake. It’s quite impressive. Keep in mind that if you are claustrophobic, you had better stay on the ground and watch it shake from down below.
Sidenote: no one knows why there are shaking minarets in Iran: some people think there was an architectural problem in their structure, others believe they were made to shake on purpose.
What people call the Castle is the most evident sight in Kharanaq– basically it’s a very old five towered citadel made of bricks dried in the sun. There are many little sights in this citadel: an old dilapidated hammam, a tiny mosque on two floors (the bottom one for men and the top one for women), a shaking minaret and – in particular – a fascinating labyrinth of little lanes, streets, tunnels and passageways which offer great views over the surrounding landscape and farmed land.
It is designed as a maze for a very special reason: in case a thief from outside would come to this village to steal something, he would most likely get lost in it, giving time to local villagers to catch him and recover the loot the thief had taken.