South-east of Iran at 1060 meters above sea level, between the Lut Desert and the Jebal Barez Mountains, rests the ancient city of Bam. What is now a mostly modern city in the province of Kerman, used to be a key trade hub of the Silk Road. It was the connection between Central Asia, the Persian Gulf and Egypt. The many influences of the interactions among the cultures were reflected in their use of the land and architecture. Intricate ancient canalizations, colonies and fortresses of Bam are the tangible remains of that era’s evolution. The secret to the creation and evolution of this oasis was the local’s knowledge of the construction and maintenance of underground water canals (qânât) and irrigation system.. Evidence of the advancement and evolution of this technology has been preserved for over two millennia and are still functioning to this day. The oasis and its medieval fortress, signify a cultural landscape unique to a developed trade hub in a desert environment. Being such an exceptional testimony to the life and culture of its era, Arg-e Bam (Bam’s Citadel) and its surrounding area is an official UNESCO registered world heritage site.
In the heart of this land lies a rich ancient culture, in which it holds what was once recognized as the largest adobe (mud-brick) citadel in the world: Arg-e Bam. Dating all the back to the Achaemenid period (6th to 4th century BC), the enormous 44 acre citadel was on a main crossroads of trade. At the time, Bam was very well known for its production of silk and cotton garments. Located within the northern confines of the citadel, the illustrious Government Head Quarters sits 45 meters high on a rocky plateau. The main residential areas and historic part of the town are located in the southern area. Another structure worth mentioning is the bazaar, which connects the southern entrance to the Government Quarters in the north. Among the entire town, there are 38 watchtowers and 4 entrance gates, with the main entrance being in the south. To the east of the town, there is the Congregational Mosque, the Mirza Na-im ensemble and the Mir House. The Mosque here is one of the oldest in all of Iran, dating back to circa 8th century (rebuilt circa 17th century). Other protected historic structures on the outer limits of the town, are Qal-eh Dokhtar (Maidens Fortress) of 7th century, Emamzadeh Zeyd’s Mausoleum (11-12th century) and Emamzade Asiri’s Mausoleum (12th century).
The great citadel now lies partially in ruins due to a devastating 6.6 Mw earthquake that hit in 2003. The city’s ancient mud-brick and mud layer architecture could not withstand the force of the quake, which resulted in the passing of nearly half of the city’s population and left the surviving half injured and without homes. Since that date, Iran’s government has been busy restoring and rebuilding the city. The citadel is also being restored with the care of specialists from Iran’s Ministry of Culture, as well as some Japanese Universities. The new urban plan for the city will still follow the traditional street structures and ‘garden–city’ approach to maintain its historical essence. The earthen structures have also held on to their original urban forms as they are being rebuilt, although now abiding by international construction methods (earthquake safety).
Address: Arg-e Bam, Viewing way, Bam