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Bam is a city in southern Iran, in Kerman province, south of Kerman city and north of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It is around 1100 metres above sea level. Bam is built around the ancient fortress of Arg- Bam, an extensive adobe structure which has guarded the Silk Road for over 2000 years.

The modern city of Bam, which surrounds the citadel, has a population of around 100,000.

The climate of this region has mild winters and very warm summers. The trees start to blossom in the last days of February. Like most desert areas, the nights are cool even during the warmest days of the summer.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Etymology of the word Bam
3 2003 Earthquake
4 External links


There are various opinions about the date and reasons for the foundation of the citadel. Some people believe that Bam city was founded during the empire of Parts, a very powerful Persian empire, and flourished in the 10th century. Economically and commercially, Bam occupied a very important place in the region and the majority of its textiles and clothes enjoyed great fame. Ibne-Haugal (943-977), the Arab traveller and geographer, wrote of Bam in his book Surat-ol-arz (The Earth-figure):

"Over there they weave excellent, beautiful and long-lasting cotton cloths which are sent to distant countries and cities. There they also make excellent clothes, each of which costs around 30 dinars; these are sold in Khorasan, Iraq and Egypt."

The ancient citadel of Arg- Bam probably has a history dating back around 2,500 years to the Parthian period, but most buildings were built during Iran's Safavid dynasty. The city was largely abandoned due to an Afghan invasion in 1722, which overcame a weak Iranian government and ended Safavid rule. Subsequently, after the city had gradually been re-settled, it was abandoned a second time due to an attack by invaders from Shiraz. It was also used for a time as an army barracks.

The modern city of Bam was established considerably later than the old citadel. It has gradually developed as an agricultural and industrial centre, and until the 2003 earthquake was experiencing rapid growth. In particular, the city is known for its dates and citrus fruit. The city also benefited from tourism, with an increasing number of people visiting the ancient citadel in recent years. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former President of Iran, was born in Bam. His influence is sometimes credited for Bam's rapid development.

Etymology of the word Bam

About the origin of the word Bam, there are some links even to the mythical history of Iran, namely according to some sources “Bam” is metamorphosis of the word “Bahman”, which is the name of a king, about whom Ferdowsi (940? -1020?), the most renowned epic poet of Iran, narrates in his most famous work Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), written during 30 years (980-1010). This epic, consisting of 60,000 verses, is the most ancient book written in modern Persian, in which Ferdowsi both crystalised the Persian language (long after when Arabic was spread in Iran consequently of the arrival of Islam), and gives an account for the 1. 5-millennium history of ancient Persia starting before Achemenids (the first Persian royal dynasty in the 7th century B.C.), i.e. from Pishdadids period, until the arrival of Islam in Iran, i.e. 641 A.D.. Bahman was the son of Esfandiyar who had fought against Rostam, one of the chief heroes in the Shahnameh. As Ferdowsi epically narrates, Bahman fights against the son of Rostam, who was called Faramarz. A sandstorm hindered Faramarz and Bahman defeated him; as a triumph he built a fortress on the rock hill there, where the Bam Citadel is now situated.

2003 Earthquake

In December 26, 2003 at 1:56 AM UTC (5:26 AM local time) Bam Citadel -- "the biggest adobe structure of the world" -- and most of the city of Bam proper were devastated by an earthquake. The USGS estimated its magnitude as 6.6 on the Richter scale. The BBC reported that "70% of the modern city of Bam" was destroyed. The total death toll was given as 41,000 on January 17 and is expected to rise to approximately 45,000. An additional 15,0000 were reported injured. According to the Iranian news agency IRNA, the old Bam Citadel was "levelled to the ground".

An international relief effort to help the survivors got underway as soon as news of the scale of the disaster reached the outside world. Rescue efforts quickly became a body recovery exercise, with many of the dead being buried in mass graves with the mullahs sanctioning abbreviated islamic burial rites due to the huge numbers and fear of disease. The high death toll occurred because very few people who were trapped when their mud-brick homes collapsed managed to survive. Rescue workers reported that the collapsing mud-brick structures had completely disintegrated and buried people in piles of earth, rather than trapping them in voids or air pockets between building slabs, as would happen in a concrete building collapse. Those few who did survive being trapped were generally rescued within the first few hours, after being dug out by local survivors, or were trapped in ventilated air pockets. Among the survivors of the earthquake was ninety seven year old Sharbanou Mazandarani (شهربانو مازندرانی in Persian), who was trapped in her home for eight days. Rescue workers took three hours to dig her out after sniffer dogs found her. Her condition was listed as good. She survived by being under a table near a ventilation pipe.

External links