Bam Travel Guide

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Bam citadel before the earthquake

Bam citadel before the earthquake

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Bam is located in South-eastern corner Kerman province. Maintaining its position in the middle of the Southern trade route, this small-fortified city on the outskirts of the vast Dasht-i-L.t desert is just 350km west of the modern day Pakistan and 450km north of the Persian Gulf. Whether you are heading in either direction, Bam is an ideal place to stop for rest.

Ancient Bam

Located in southeastern Iran, 200 kilometers south of Kerman, the ancient city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm trees. The city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 AD) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 12th century, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722). During Safavid times, the city occupied six square kilometers, was surrounded by a rampart with 38 towers, and had between 9000 and 13,000 inhabitants. Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple (dating to early Sassanian times) and as a commercial and trading center on the famous Silk Road.
Upon the site of the Zoroastrian temple the Jame Mosque was built during the Saffarian period (866-903 AD) and adjacent to this mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer who lived three hundred years ago. Bam declined in importance following an invasion by Afghans in 1722 and another by invaders from the region of Shiraz in 1810. The city was used as a barracks for the army until 1932 and then completely abandoned. Intensive restoration work began in 1953 and continued till the earthquake.

Ancient Bam, or the Arg-e-Bam, at its peak of political, economic, and military power had some 11,000 citizens living in 400 houses within its city walls, which still stand much the way they did hundreds of years ago. Since the city's inception, judged to be between 250 BC . 224 AD, Bam has thrived as an energetic market place and a focal point for the region. It was not until a devastating Afghan invasion in 1722, which crippled the city and forced its inhabitants to flee, that Bam's downfall began. Existing in shadows of its own historical greatness from 1722 and 1890, the city eventually closed its illustrious gates to civilians at the turn of the century. For the forty-year period following, the city was an active military barracks, and then lay vacant until the restoration process began in the early 1950s.

A moment is all it will take for you long to realize that Bam is an extraordinary historical site. Many of the well-visited historical sites in the world, such as the Acropolis in Athens and the Coliseum in Rome, only give the archaeologist and tourist a limited slice of history. Bam, on the other hand, clearly displayed the imprints of over 2000 years of continuous history. Surrounded by inhospitable deserts and mountains, the Arg-i-Bam seemed to shine out amongst its inhospitable surroundings.

When you strolled through front gates, you came face to face with ancient Bam. Houses, schools, mosques, gymnasiums, and bathhouses stand in the same places they did centuries ago. These structures maintained their allure, and they had the rare ability to give visitors a most inspiring adrenaline rush at first sight. Mud and sand stone buildings held much of their original shape. Little imagination was required in viewing the site and grasping how these people went about their daily lives. The superb archways and narrow dirt paths between apartment blocks, shops, markets and mosques provided the privacy and intrigue that made this historical site Iran's most treasured.

Dec. 2003: Devastation

A powerful earthquake struck southeastern Iran on December 26, 2003, killing over 43,000 people, injured 20,000, left 60,000 homeless and destroyed much of the city of Bam. The USGS National Earthquake information center is reported a magnitude of 6.6 for the quake, which was located just southwest of the city. About 60 percent of the buildings in Bam were destroyed. The old quarter and a 2,000-year-old citadel (severely damaged by the earthquake) were built primarily of mud brick.

Future?

Before the quake, Bam was sustained thanks to its palm trees (Bam dates are the best in Iran, what means that they are the best in the world) and also from the heavy drug traffic (opium) than comes from Afghanistan. That's still what remains in Bam: a bit less date business and opium everywhere; it's said (and it's real) that 80% of male adults are adicts.  NGOs are still working hard for the recovery of this  pearl of the desert.


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May 07, 2005 change by giorgio

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