Historic designs: Aden’s famed cisterns

Published on 22 August 2013 in Variety
Samar Qaed (author), Samar Qaed (photographer)

Samar Qaed


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Samar Qaed


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Researchers estimate there were originally about 53 tanks of varying shapes and sizes at the site. After a series of renovations, there are 13 remaining.

Researchers estimate there were originally about 53 tanks of varying shapes and sizes at the site. After a series of renovations, there are 13 remaining.

The city of Aden, the most well-known commercial port in southern Yemen, has long been famed for its ancient series of water storage tanks known as the Cisterns of Tawila because of their location in the Tawila Valley.

There is no conclusive evidence as to when the tanks were built, estimates range from the first century AD to the 11th. However, historians do agree that the structures were an extraordinary architectural feat for the time designed to capture and store water for the city in their interlinked design.

Strategically positioned below Shamsan Mountain in order to capture runoff rain water from the mountain, the cisterns are no longer used to provide a water supply. Instead, they draw tourists—domestically and internationally—who come to appreciate the structures  and this architectural feat.

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