The modern Iranian city of Bam surrounds the Bam citadel. Economically and commercially, Bam occupied a very important place in the region and was famed for its textiles and clothes.

Bam and its citadel


Bam is one of the prefectures of the province of Kerman, in the south-east of Iran. This subdivision is a rather desert region. According to the census of 2006, its population is 277,835 people. Bam adjoins the town of Kerman in the north; to the east, the prefectures of Zahedan and Iranshahr, of the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, to the south, Kahnouj and to the west, the town of Jiroft. The city of Bam, at an altitude of 1060 meters above sea level, lies 200 kilometers southwest of Kerman, halfway between Kerman and Zahedan. Bam is the only city in the region registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004.

The economy of Bam

Gardening, farming, animal husbandry and carpet weaving are the basis and the essence of Bam's economy. Water, mainly used for agriculture, is conveyed in the city by the ancient káriz (qanat), as well as in a small part, by the river. The main agricultural products of this province are wheat, barley, cotton, vegetables, citrus, and especially the mazafati date, the most important agricultural product of the region and the most popular date in Iran.

Breeding is not intensive in Bam and breeding centers are located in Rayen, a neighboring region of Bam. In general, livestock in the area includes animals such as sheep, cattle, poultry and camels. At the end of the reign of Lotf Ali Khan Zand, Bam was also the capital of Iran for a short time. Bartold writes: "Bam was the industrial center of Iran, and the cotton fabric made in that city was sent everywhere else, even to Egypt. "

The geographers of the seventeenth century attest to the importance of this city, whose inhabitants were known for their skill in various crafts. At the time, Bam is a trading center and its textile industry is famous. Most of the inhabitants of the city are then weavers.

The first inhabitants of Bam

There is little information on the origins of the city, but based on studies of places of residence, including towers and ramparts, and based on the fact that the inhabitants of Bam have resided in the city walls. Bam citadel for two millennia until the mid-nineteenth century, it is believed that the inhabitants are culturally Aryan. A genetic research carried out on the inhabitants of the Dehbekri department showed a great similarity between their DNA and that of the corpses buried in the citadel of Bam. It has been deduced that the Dehbekri are the ancient people of the citadel of Bam who migrated partly from Bam for a climatically more lenient region, while others have decided to stay. In the Iranian mythology, Bam was built by Bahman, son of the sacred prince Esfandiar or son of Goshtasb (legendary hero).

This city is an extremely old urban center. The historic hills of Bidroun, located 10 kilometers north of the city and the temple of fire at Darestán, 30 kilometers from Bam, date from the fourth millennium BC. As for Bam, it would have taken shape around its citadel, about 6000 years ago.

During the last millennium, Bam was also a stage of the Route des Epices, one of the main roads of the Silk Road, from where a significant strategic and economic place.

The climate of Bam

The climate of Bam is hot and dry, but its proximity to the desert of Lout gives it an extreme climate, so that in summer, it is sometimes the hottest point, and in winter, the coldest point of the country. The average annual rate of rainfall is 68 millimeters in the region. One of the attractions of Bam is the region of Dehbekri, with a cool and temperate climate.

The Morghak region, dependent on Dehbekri, is also noteworthy for its freshness and forests of wild pistachio and almond trees. In the past, Morghak was an important center of traditional Iranian music. At that time, scholars and poets speak of Dehbekri as "a paradise between two hells".

The citadel of Bam

The Citadel of Bam is the largest raw brick monument in the world, sometimes compared to the Great Wall of China in its splendor and beauty. The citadel is located in the north-east of the city, against the ramparts, and overlooks the Silk Road. According to the studies, it was first built in the Achaemenid era, then renovated in the Arsacid period. Until the end of the Qadjar period (early 20th century), the citadel was inhabited. According to studies done in recent years, the original building of this historic citadel would be 6000 years old. The citadel of Bam was registered on March 23, 1966 on the list of national works, and the city of Bam, in 2004, on the list of works of the World Heritage of Humanity.
The citadel of Bam was the place of residence of the inhabitants of Bam, 180 years ago. The entire citadel included the old town and the fortress, and covered nearly 20 hectares. Around the fortress, deep moats protected the city against assaults. 38 watchtowers on the ramparts of the fortress, fortifying the defense.

In the center of the citadel stood the main building, erected on a rock. This building had five floors and was adobe. In the citadel, there were also bakeries, oil-making shops and many other shops. Of all these parts, only a few columns and arches remain today. In the Islamic era, two mosques were built under the names of Jameh Mosque and Mosque of the Prophet Mohammad, with a terrace and some rooms in the citadel, but they were destroyed during the earthquake of 2003. Another building built at the time inside the citadel which did not survive: the zurkhaneh (house of strength), comprising four balconies, a dome and a low interior. The citadel had only one entrance gate whose arch was similar to those of the Sasanian period.

Historical anecdote: Lotf'ali Khan Zand, Crown Prince Zand, was arrested in the same citadel by Mohammad Ali Kan Zaboli, the governor of Bam. The citadel was the residence of the governor until 1875 and the end of the governorate of Agha Khan Mahallati.

The 2003 earthquake

The 2003 Bam earthquake also destroyed the ancient citadel for the most part. The earthquake, with a power of 6.6 on the Richter scale, took place at 5:26 am in the morning of December 26, 2003. The number of victims of this earthquake oscillates between 32,000 and 52,000 people, according to statistics. There were also more than 30,000 wounded and thousands homeless. After the earthquake, many national and international organizations came together to try to respond to the disastrous consequences of this disaster.

As for the restoration project of the citadel of Bam, it brings together specialists who study the documents, the plans and the photos left of this historical monument to perhaps be able to restore once again its magnificence and its splendor. A raw brick manufacturing workshop was quickly set up, one of the largest and best-equipped workshops in the Middle East. The raw brick needed to rebuild the destroyed parts of the citadel is produced by local mines, with the help of national and international experts.

Given the high number of casualties and the migration of many survivors to neighboring cities, profound demographic and possibly cultural changes have affected the city. The slowness of reconstructions sometimes pushes these survivors to choose to stay in their adopted area, which tends to transform the traditional and historical structure of the city, and causes the disappearance of a specific culture in Bam.