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History

Bam
If you decide to visit the popular citadel, read the history

By Hedieh Azad
October 18, 2000
The Iranian

Arg-e-Bam has an area of six square kilometers. Its length is three hundred meters and its width is two hundred meters. The citadel has 38 watchtowers and a rampart surrounding it. There used to be a moat all around the citadel for protection against opposing armies.

The word arg means a place where the king resides. The material used in the construction of the citadel are mud brick, clay, straw, and trunks of palm trees. There is an elevation of sixty-five meters from the main gate to the highest point of the governor's house.

People left the citadel during the 19th century, but the army kept a presence until 1932.

The main (southern) gate is the only remaining gate of at least four gates. The main rampart was built during the pre-Islamic period. Later, probably in the Seljough or the Mongol periods, two other ramparts were constructed inside the city, known as the second fortification wall, separating the town from the military quarters, and the third rampart, secluding the main citadel and the governor's quarters from both the town and the military section.

In the western part of the site there are remains of a broken wall that is thought to be part of the original main rampart, torn down after the northwestern part, known as "Konari Mahalleh". The Konari or lotus tree quarter, also known as the "Gholami Mahalleh" or the slaves quarter, was added to the town, presumably during the Afghan period, right after the fall of the Safavids (8th century A.D.).

After passing through the gate, you enter a passage way which is about 150 meters long and used to be the main bazaar. Presumably built during the Safavid period, it used to be roofed and contained fifty shops.

Bam was a major commercial and trading town on the famous Spice Road, a major tributary of the Silk Road, connecting trade routes from India, through Iran to Central Asia and China. Bam was also a major textile producer, known for its fine fabrics all through the Islamic world.

After passing the bazaar the Hosseinieh is to your right. It used to be a place for mourning. During the pre-Islamic era, it was used as a storage place for food. Next to the Hosseinieh there used to be a public bathhouse which is now totally destroyed.

The Jame Mosque, was originally built during the Saffari period (9th century A.D.). It has a mihrab in its northern gallery with the date 810 A.H. (1408 A. D.) inscribed on it. In the southeastern part of the mosque there is a well which is believed to belong to the 12th Shiite lmam. It is also believed that the mosque was built in place of a Zoroastrian fire temple. There is another mosque called the Mohammad Mosque to the west of the bazaar which consists of five small cupolas and one small mihrab.

Opposite the northern door of the Jame Mosque is the Mirza Naiim complex, consisting of a school, private house, tomb, Hosseinieh and private bathhouse. Mirza Naiim was known as a mystic and astronomer who lived three hundred years ago. His tomb is the only one found in all of the Bam citadel.

The Zoorkhaneh or traditional gymnasium, has four iwans, one cupola and two gowds or gymnasium pits. After the Zoorkhaneh we find the Caravanserai in the vicinity of the Jame Mosque and also the Jewish bazaar from where textile used to be exported.

The Maktabkhaneh, or school was an area with rooms all around, situated in the middle of Konari Mahalleh. The houses of the citadel used to be joined together. In some houses, private bathhouses could be found and next to some there were stables.

Generally, the citadel consists of four sections: residential, stables, army barracks, and the governor's residence.

In the middle of the stable, there is a pond, which used to have a roof over it. In the main stable building or Mir Akhor, there used to be a well that supplied the water. Two hundred horses were kept there. It was built during the Seljough or Timurid periods (13th or 15th centuries A.D.).

The third part of the citadel was called Ghoorkhaneh or Toopkhaneh -- the armory. This part was also built during the Seljough or Timurid periods. It also had a deep well and a windmill.

The fourth part of the citadel which is the most important part, was built during the Safavid period (16th to mid 18th centuries). It consists of a prison, governor's palace, main observation tower, Charfasl building, a well and the governor's private bathhouse.

This main part of the citadel has been better preserved. It was constructed on a higher ground, therefore it was relatively immune from insects, humidity and floods. Also the use of palm tree trunks, which are very resistant to earthquakes, helped protect this section better than the rest.

The prison is very dark. Its corridor has a length of twenty-five meters and its main area is under the food storage house of the governor's palace. The unbaked bricks which can be found in front of the prison are from the Sassanid period.

The governor's quarters consists of two parts for the winter and the summer. It is believed that a secret passageway, one kilometer in length connected it to Ghal-e- Dokhtar, located outside the citadel, which could have been used as a escape route in a losing battle.

The 65-meter-high observation tower is the highest point of the citadel.

The Charfasl (four seasons) building is a two-story building, where the governor issued his decrees. The reason it is called Charfasl is because in each season the wind blew from a different direction.

The main well which supplied the governor's quarters was 41-meters deep. It was the deepest well in the citadel. It is believed that the well was dug during the Achamenid period. Next to it there used to be another well, which is now half full.

Mortar or Sarouj was used in the construction of the governor's private bathhouse. It is a mixture of limestone, sand, ashes, egg white and camel's milk.

Outside the citadel is the remains of a yakhdan, where water was kept cool.

The restoration of the citadel began in 1938, but it was not until 1953 when the process became more serious. Today, the restoration work continues.

Author

Hedieh Azad is an assistant to the senior advisor of the Population Council

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