UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2004)
Kerman > Bam
Hours Open : 08:00-20:00 (Summers) / 08:00-17:30 (Winters)
Entrance Fee : 20T
Historical Period : 5th Century BC
Bam Citadel, oe Arg-e Bam is the largest adobe building in the world, located in Bam, a city in Kerman Province. It is listed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Site "Bam and its Cultural Landscape". The origin of this enormous citadel on the Silk Road can be traced back to the Achaemenid Empire (sixth to fourth centuries BC) and even beyond. The heyday of the citadel was from the seventh to eleventh centuries, being at the crossroads of important trade routes and known for the production of silk and cotton garments.
The entire building was a large fortress containing the citadel, but because of the impressive look of the citadel, which forms the highest point, the entire fortress is named the Bam Citadel.
On December 26, 2003, the Citadel was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake, along with much of the rest of Bam and its environs. A few days after the earthquake.
There is no precise archaeological dating of the buildings of the Citadel of Bam. But through historic sources and ancient texts, the first human settlement in the area can be traced back to the fort built by the Achaemenians around 579–323 BC. Some of the citadel’s features such as its establishment on a platform combining a natural hilltop and a manmade terrace have been compared by archaeologists to the Achaemenian model of Persepolis. During the Parthian rule, the fort was expanded and became Arg-e-Bam, the Citadel of Bam. A comparative study titled “Bam and a Brief History of Urban Settlement and Planning in Iran” concluded that the essential core of the city of Bam and the Governor’s section were built during the Parthian era. Under the Sassanids, the castle was seized by Ardeshir Babakan. New fortifications and walls were constructed between 224 and 637 AD
A few years later, in 645 AD, the Kerman region was conquered by the Arabs and Arg-e-Bam probably suffered damages during the war. One of the Arab commanders established the Al Rasoul mosque, one of the first mosque built in Iran in the early Islamic era. In 656 AD, the Khawarij, a group of fanatic Moslems defeated by Imam Ali, escaped to Kerman and Bam where they settled in the Arg-e-Bam. In 869 AD, Yaqoob Laith Saffari who was fighting the Abbasids, defeated the Khawarij and took over the Arg-e-Bam. It then became his permanent base camp. The name of Bam is mentioned for the first time by Islamic writers in the 10th century. According to these authors, Bam was then a well established market place surrounded by a wide agricultural area. The city was famous for its elegant/tasteful cotton fabrics, its supposedly impregnable fortress, its busy bazaars and its palm trees.
After the Mongol invasion of Iran, Bam and the Kerman region were turned over to the Qarakhataian dynasty who ruled the region from 1240 to 1363 AD. Bam benefited from a strategic location on the spice route connecting the region to the Silk Road. The city was renowned for silkworm breeding and a flourishing silk industry.
During the Safavid rule (from 1502 to 1722), Iran went through a period of relative calm and stability. Arg-e-Bam was considerably developed, as well as the rest of the country. The Four Seasons Palace was built during this period. Towards the end of the Safavid period, Arg-e-Bam was conquered by the founder of the Qajar Dynasty, Agha Mohammad Khan, who used the citadel as a strategic point to fend off Afghan and Baluchi incursions and thus turned it into a military complex. In 1839, Agha Khan Mahallati, founder of the Esmaili sect, rose up against Mohammad Shah Qajar and took refuge in Arg-e-Bam, until prince Firooz Mirza who was later to be known as Farman Farma (the Ruler of Rulers) arrested him. The increasing military presence within the walls of Arg-e-Bam gradually led people to settle outside the limits of the ramparts: in 1880 Firooz Mirza wrote that only military personnel were residing within the citadel area and he suggested that the old and abandoned city sitting at the foot of the citadel be demolished and the area turned into a garden. In 1900, the construction of the new city of Bam began and people progressively left the old Bam.
Arg-e-Bam, the citadel, was used a garrison until 1932 but it seems that no one was living in the old city at the foot of the citadel anymore. Arg-e-Bam and the old city have therefore been totally abandoned since 1932. In 1953, the site became recognized as a nationally significant historic site and a gradual process of conservation and restoration began but most of the work was carried out from 1973 onwards.
After the Islamic Revolution, Arg-e-Bam was placed under the responsibility of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHO). In 1993 the citadel was designated as one of the most significant project of the National Cultural Heritage Organization.
The planning and architecture of the citadel are thought out from different points of view. From the present form of the citadel one can see that the planner(s) had foreseen the entire final form of the building and city from the first steps in the planning process. During each phase of building development the already-built part enjoyed a complete figure, and each additional part could be "sewn" into the existing section seamlessly.
The citadel is situated in the center of the fortress-city, on the point with widest view for security.
In the architectural form of Bam Citadel there are two different distinguishable parts:
• The rulers' part in the most internal wall, holding the citadel, barracks, mill, 4-season house, water-well (dug in the rocky earth and about 40 metres [130 ft] deep), and a stable for 200 horses.
• The ruled-over part surrounding the rulers' place, consisting of the main entrance of the entire fortress-city and the bazaar alongside of the North-to-South spinal axis (which connects the main entrance to the citadel), and around 400 houses with their associated public buildings (such as a school and sport place).
Among the houses, three different types are recognizable:
• Smaller houses with 2–3 rooms for the poor families.
• Bigger houses with 3–4 rooms for the middle social class, some of which have also a veranda.
• The most luxurious houses with more rooms oriented in different directions suitable for different seasons of the year, together with a big court and a stable for animals nearby. There are few of this type of houses in the fortress.
All buildings are made of non-baked clay bricks, i.e. adobes. Bam Citadel was probably, prior to the 2003 earthquake, the biggest adobe structure in the world.
The Citadel was used as the major location site for Valerio Zurlini's film, The Desert of the Tartars.