Iranian windmills one step closer to UNESCO status

April 29, 2020 - 23:0

TEHRAN – Iran is further moving towards inscribing its ancient windmills on the UNESCO World Heritage list as the country has recently completed their documentation as a preliminary stage.

The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts has almost completed preparations for a chain of ancient vertical-axis windmills for possibly becoming a UNESCO World Heritage. Vertical-axis windmills, which are locally known as “Asbads” can be found in Sistan-Baluchestan, South Khorasan, and Khorasan Razavi provinces, southeast, south, and northeast of the country, respectively.

“[A select of] Asbads that are scattered in Nashtifan region of Khaf county [in Razavi Khorasan province] has been documented and mapped for being inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage list,” CHTN quote Mohammad Rokni, the director of Asbad cultural heritage sites of Iran, as saying on Tuesday.

The magnificent collection is composed of 30 Asbads located in the historical core of Khaf country, the official said.

“Documentation and mapping work has been carried out by a group of six people specializing in mapping and restoration of historical buildings and structures.”

“Documentation and mapping of Khaf Asbads include various architectural plans, cross-section geometry, and perspectives of 30 Asbad devices, their photogrammetric photographs, their ownership documents, and determining proper points for the mapping projects,” Rokni explained.

The official also reminded: “All the documenting and mapping stages have been carried out based on the UNESCO standards and criteria.”

Briefing on the windmills and their stances, the official noted there are 107 Asbads within Khaf county, of which 36 located in Nashtifan, and six of them are still operational producing flour.

Iran plans to register a wide collection of its Asbads that are located in the three eastern provinces.

Asbad used to be a smart technique to grind grains. It also bears testimony to the human being’s adaption with nature by transforming environmental obstacles into opportunities.

“Asbad is a smart technique to grind grains, a technique which goes back to ancient times when the people living in the eastern parts of Iran, in an attempt to adapt themselves with nature and transform environmental obstacles into opportunities, managed to invent it,” according to UNESCO website.

“The earliest known references to windmills are to a Persian millwright in 644 CE and windmills in Seistan [Sistan], Iran, in 915 CE,” the Encyclopedia Britannica says.

Currently, avid visitors and researchers can examine the subtle yet simple mechanism in person as several windmills have been restored and brought back to life to testify how ancient Iranians harnessed the wind to make a living.

In the village of Nashtifan, Mohammad Etebari serves as the last keeper of the ancient tradition. Now elderly, Etebari has dedicated his life to keeping the town’s few dozen historic windmills turning.

But Etebari doesn’t know how much more time he has, and none of the younger generation seem interested in the hard work of daily maintenance. Without his regular attention, the windmills that have put the town on the tourist map may one day stop.

“It’s the pure, clean air that makes the windmills rotate—the life-giving air that everyone can breathe,” Etebari saied in an interview a couple of years ago.

Made of natural clay, straw, and wood, each of the windmills of Nashtifan is comprised of eight chambers, with each chamber housing six blades. As the area’s strong, steady wind enters the chambers it turns the blades, which then turn grindstones. The structures reach up to about 65 feet in height.

The region is so well known for its wind that the name Nashtifan is derived from words that mean “storm’s sting.”With the ample winds, the devices can readily glean enough power from the wind to turn a stone. If they were hooked up to a generator they would produce only a small amount of electricity, possibly not even enough for a lightbulb. Today’s power-harvesting turbines have more efficient designs that take advantage of lift to attain higher speeds, and therefore produce much more power.

In 2002 the windmills were recognized as a national heritage site by Iran.


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