What are Khettaras? Unveiling the Mystery of Mini-Volcanoes in Marrakech’s Palm Grove.
You’ve probably seen those mysterious mini-volcanoes in the palm groves of Marrakech. But what are they? “Water follows air,” goes a local proverb. Here, Marrakech Insiders delves deep into the ancient engineering marvel known as khettaras.
The Origins of Khettaras: From Persia to Morocco
The technique of building khettaras dates back to the 6th century in Persia, although it was originally invented by the Romans. Introduced to Morocco by the Almoravides dynasty, these underground tunnels were developed to address Marrakech’s growing need for water, transforming it from a mere oasis to a thriving city around 1050 AD.
How Khettaras Work: Engineering Masterpiece
Constructed meticulously by human hands, khettaras funnel water from the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech through subterranean canals. The canals are built on a slight incline and feature wells at regular intervals. Each khettara concludes at a pond guarded by gated sections, each belonging to a family that has contributed to its construction and maintenance.
The Social Ritual of Khettaras
The gates to these ponds are opened in accordance with the timing of daily prayers. Families who put forth greater effort in building the khettaras are rewarded with more favorable times to draw water for their agriculture and livestock needs.
The Decline of Khettaras and the Water Crisis in Marrakech
Sadly, the last functional wells in Marrakech dried out in the 1990s. The increasing demands of golf courses, hotel gardens, and the city’s one million residents have drained this age-old system. In response, the Moroccan government and even international companies are taking steps to address the growing water scarcity issue.
Future Measures: Sustainable Water Solutions for Marrakech
New initiatives have been undertaken, such as using a dedicated water plant for watering golf courses, to alleviate the water scarcity. It’s rumored that King Mohammed VI has even signed a contract to construct an aqueduct, bringing water from Northern Morocco to sustain Marrakech.