Remarkable Ancient Windcatchers In The Middle East: Thousand-Year-Old Air Conditioning Systems

– All across the Middle East there are still many thousands years old windcatchers, also called wind towers. These huge structures were created by ancient engineers to as natural ventilation in buildings.

The windcatchers are so old that some have even suggested they are antediluvian remains.

As we have previous seen in one article published by, ancient Persian engineers mastered the technique of storing ice in the middle of summer in the desert. In order to accomplish this, they constructed ancient structures, called yakhchals that should not be confused with pyramids or ziggurats.

The yakhchals are in fact ancient “refrigerators” used to store ice and other food items.

The ancient engineers of the Middle East were highly skilled and also built windcatchers that we can still admire today. The ancient windcatchers appear throughout the Middle East.

We find them in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and they have all traditional Persian-influenced architecture. The windcatchers are also known in traditional Egyptian architecture in Ancient Egypt as demonstrated in Windcatchers on the Pharonic house of Neb- Ammun, Egypt, 19th Dynasty, c.1300 BC, British Museum.

It was revived in Neoislamic architecture as the works of Hassan Fathy. In Egypt the windcatchers are known as “Malqaf”.

Most buildings come in various sizes and a number of different styles. They can be uni-directional, bi-directional, and multi-directional and they are usually constructed from thick ceramic with high insulation values.

The reason for constructing these ancient wind towers is related to the climate in the region. Towns centered on desert oases tend to be packed very closely together with high walls and ceilings, maximizing shade at ground level. The heat of direct sunlight is minimized with small windows that face away from the sun.

Serving as ventilation systems they have given the people of the Middle East air conditioning for thousands of years.

They function in one of three ways. Some direct the airflow downwards and use direct wind entry. Others direct airflow up either using a temperature gradient assisted either by the sun or the wind.

Despite their very old origin, windcatchers may even provide a solution for some very modern architectural problems.

The ancient windcatcher approach has been utilized in Western architecture, such as in the visitor center at Zion National Park, Utah, where it functions without the addition of mechanical devices in order to regulate temperature.

It would seem there is still a lot our modern society can learn from the ancients.

You may also like...