The Underground Water Structures of Gaziantep

The city of Gaziantep is located on the edge of the Alleben Stream and the settlement history of the city dates to end of the 5th century. The stream flows around the city however, the stream has low water levels, which is further reduced by hot summer days. The Gaziantep Plateau also has a small number of streams, with a large part of the rainfall seeping underground and forming underground waters.

The historical water system of Gaziantep consists of underground water tunnels (livas in local language) that bring water to the city. The livas’ are underground water tunnels created by digging through the limestone rock that the city was built on. As the city grew, the underground water network was enlarged by opening new tunnels in the same way. This has created the ‘system of livas’ that surrounds the underground of the city as a cobweb, continuing for miles.

The oldest livas line carrying water to the old city is the Pancarlı Livas Line, which carries water to the city from about 14 km northwest of the city. The date of construction is not known, however it is clear that the system has been added to over time in parallel with the growth of the settlement. It is understood from the registry records of the Ottoman era that this line proved to be an important water line, providing water for many monumental structures in the city, such as khans, madrasahs, baths, mosques, fountains and private houses by way of wells. The livas’ also provided water for public usage of water, referred to locally as kastels.

There is a livas system that provides clean water for every kastel structure while the sewage is moved from the structures by another system.  Six have survived trhough the ages to the present day:

  1. Kastel of Pişirici (Beşinci)
  2. Kastel of İhsan Bey (Esenbek)
  3. Kastel of Şeyh Fethullah
  4. Kastel of Kozluca
  5. Kastel of Ahmet Çelebi
  6. Kastel of İmam Gazali

The Kastel of Pişirici (Beşinci), thought to have been constructed during the period of Mameluke, between 1282-83. It is estimated to be the oldest of the existing kastels in Gaziantep. Going down the stairs from ground level, the first space encountered houses pools, places to sit, a toilet and bathing pool, while the second space, which is divided from the first space by two steps, functions as a small mosque. Restoration work has been completed and it is open to the public.

The Kastel of İhsan Bey (Esenbek) is located under the courtyard of the mosque, is completely below- ground. It is dated to the 15th century. While it is a rock-carved place, the room is separated by masonry walls. The kastel includes a pool, places to sit and a small mosque, although earlier records indicate a number of changes and additions that have been made over time. Today is serves as a museum.

The Kastel of Şeyh Fethullah is located in the courtyard of the Şeyh Fethullah Mosque and was a part of the mosque complex, together with hamam and religious school. Currently, half of the kastel is above ground, although some parts have no upper structure. The Kastel has two pools and toilet spaces and is still in use as a part of Şeyh Fethullah Mosque.

The Kastel of Kozluca is located to the south of the Kozluca Mosque. Half of the kastel is above ground with a traditional dwelling constructed over it.. The year of its construction is not known. Restoration of the kastel has been completed and today it serves as another museum.

The Kastel of Ahmet Çelebi is the one with the simplest constructions among kastels in Gaziantep. Currently, the kastel includes only a pool and a well, although earlier records show that it once contained toilets. The kastel is now used as a part of Ahmet Çelebi Mosque.

The Kastel of İmam Gazali is completely below- ground and, again, the year of construction is not known. It has another simple construction, which resembles The Kastel of Ahmet Çelebi, with a rock-carved place on the left side, where stairs lead downwards to a pool.

The Underground Water Structures of Gaziantep were added to the UNESCO Tentative List in May 2018.

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