Gaziantep’s underground facilities on UNESCO tentative list

Gaziantep’s underground facilities on UNESCO tentative list

Gaziantep’s underground facilities on UNESCO tentative list

The underground water system in the southeastern province of Gaziantep has recently been added to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Gaziantep’s historical water system consists of underground water tunnels (livas) that bring water to the city from the main source far from the settlement area and water structures (kastels) that open the water coming from these tunnels for use. 

Speaking to press members at the Pişirici Kstel, Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin said the decision made them very happy. 

“Since there is no other structure like this in the world, we wanted it to bring tourism. We have prepared a report with the technical team. You cannot succeed [in its tourism] if you do not do a good job reporting its beauty or writing its story,” said Şahin. 

The mayor also said it had been used as a water distribution system in the past. 

“It is nice and cool here. Of course, the administration of water in our city is old as humanity. There is a process related to the water line in the city starting from the Roman era. Every civilization had its own method of providing water for its people based on that era,” he said, adding that the sound of water was peaceful. 

Şahin said the structures were built in the 1280s. “This is a unique structure from the Seljuk and Ottoman periods. It is a real engineering miracle that brings fresh water through 10-kilometer lines. Thanks to our efforts, UNESCO has included Gaziantep’s kastels and livas on its tentative list,” he said. 

Livas and kastels 

The underground water tunnels were built by human laborers, who dug the limestone rock block that the city was built on.

The essence of the livas system is based on the principle of bringing water from a source outside the settlement to the center of the city through the underground water tunnels. As the city grew, the underground water network was enlarged by opening new tunnels the same way. 

Kastels are structures where water from the livas are opened for public use. Depending on the elevation of the livas, kastels are located at varying depths. Instead of taking the water up with an additional system, their construction was built at water level. 

They are quite comprehensively planned structures because they include spatial arrangements for many different functions, such as pools, wells, sitting places, small mosques, water closets and places for bathing. With these functions, kastels, together with water-related service areas, have become an important daily meeting place for the social life of the city where people come together, spend time, do their work and perform their religious worship. They were also used for cooling off during hot summer days. With the possibilities provided by these structures, they have brought along an important municipal social service. 

The Pişirici Kastel is thought to have been constructed in the years of 1282-1283. It is estimated to be the oldest of the existing kastels in Gaziantep.