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The ancient city of Bam (Arg-e Bam), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates back at least to the Achaemenid period, the sixth to fourth centuries AD. The heyday of Bam dates back to the seventh to eleventh centuries AD when it was located at the intersection of ancient trade roads. The city was inhabited from the Achaemenid period until 200 years ago. After that, and until about 80 years ago, it was used as a military base for soldiers.

The ancient city of Bam’s origin owes its construction to the creation of the Iranian groundwater supply system, the Kariz, and this system is supplying water to the city up to now. Bam has two different conditions in terms of heights, one is the mountainous area which is a continuation of the central mountain range of Iran and the other is the low desert area which includes sand and salt marshes of Lut and its surroundings. In the north of the current city of Bam, the historical citadel is located and is known as one of the largest brick building in the world.

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Location of the Arg-e Bam

The city is located between the southern part of the Lut Desert, the southern desert pit of Iran, and the northern part of the Barez Mountains, in southeastern Iran. The importance of the city of Bam has been due to its geographical location on a larger scale and its connection with the commercial centers of West Asia in ancient times.

Initially, the city, like other communities in the desert, was surrounded by protective walls. The governor lived in another part, in a castle inside the city. The whole enclosed city of Bam had an area of 200,000 square meters. Desert cities thus felt more secure and could grow better. Apart from this walled city and its castle, which is the central focus of the valley, Bam’s cultural landscape is linked to a group of forts that have now been destroyed.

Iran, Kerman, Arg-e Bam
Iran, Kerman, Arg-e Bam

Today in this city, you see a castle belonging to the seventh century AD, which is located in the north of Bam and is called Dokhtar Castle (Girl Castle). There are also shrines that date back to the 11th and 12th centuries AD – the tombs of Imamzadeh Asiri and Imamzadeh Zayd.

Different Parts of the Ancient City of Bam

What makes the city of Bam special and unique in terms of its structure is the local technique used in its construction. Architects have traditionally used layers of mud (stratification), clay, and arched and domed structures. This is the best example of desert architecture that you can find in different parts of Iran around deserts. No matter which part of the city we visit, we see the same style and technique in all structures.

The enclosed and ancient city of Bam consists of 2 different parts for the ruler (castle) and ordinary people. The special ruling area is built on top of a cliff that is higher than other parts of the city and includes the royal stables, the barracks, and the ruling house. The ordinary area for the common people extends from the bottom of the ruling area to the city walls in a relatively flat area and includes everything a city needs. 528 residential houses, the main bazaar, square (reliance), Grand Mosque, Mirza Naeem School, Zurkhaneh, King Al-Tajjar House, caravanserai, public bath, Jewish Sabbath, and the house of a gentleman.

Some of the most important buildings of the ancient city of Bam that form the cultural landscape of Bam are:

Bazaar

bazaars are very important in terms of economic activities in all periods so that we see the construction of bazaars in all cities of Iran and their remnants. Simultaneously with the beginning of urbanization in Iran, which dates back to 10 thousand years ago, and according to the need of people to buy necessities of life, bazaars were formed primarily in the form of exchange of goods for goods.

The traditional indoor bazaar of Bam is an economic gateway within the historic city of Bam. This bazaar is one of the historical bazaars of Kerman, which was completely destroyed due to the terrible earthquake in Bam, and now the repair and reconstruction of its shops is still going on. The market was used to sell silk and cotton to traders who traveled to the area via the Spice Road, a branch of the Silk Road.

The alley of the bazaar in Arg-e Bam
The alley of the bazaar in Arg-e Bam – by Diego Delso

Arg-e Bam (Bam Citadel)

Bam Citadel, which was actually the same castle in the ancient times of Bam, is built in the northeast of Bam, on a high rocky slope with clay and mud. The history of Bam Citadel, according to historical writings, including Hudood al-Alam and the history of Vaziri, dates back to two thousand years ago.

Bam Citadel was still inhabited by some Bam residents about 180 years ago. Bam citadel complex, including the old city and the castle, was about 20 hectares (the length of the western side of the citadel is 520 meters and its width is 430 meters) and the distance between the citadel and the castle was about 6 hectares.

There were deep ditches around the castle that protected it from attacks. There were 38 watchtowers at regular intervals on the fortifications. In the middle of the castle, the ruling palace was built on a natural rock that had five floors, all made of clay and mud. The remaining columns and arches in Bam Castle, bakery shops, and brick shelves in the castle market show its past prosperity.

Arg-e Bam (Bam Citadel)
Arg-e Bam (Bam Citadel) – by Nando Pizzini

In the Islamic period, two mosques named the Jameh Mosque and the Mosque of Hazrat Mohammad and Hosseinieh, including a courtyard, a symmetrical two-story porch, and several rooms were built in the historic citadel of Bam, all of which were destroyed by the earthquake. In Bam Citadel, there was a Zurkhaneh in the style of other traditional stadiums with four porches, a dome, and a pit, which was also destroyed.

Bam citadel had only one entrance, the entrance arch of which was comparable to the arches of the Sassanid period. Lotfali Khan Zand was arrested in the same fort by Mohammad Ali Khan Zaboli, the ruler of Bam fort. Bam citadel was inhabited until 1254 AH.

Arg-e Bam Entrance
Arg-e Bam Entrance – by Hermidas Sab.

Jameh Mosque (grand mosque) of Bam

Jameh mosque of Bam belongs to the beginning of Islam up to the Qajar period and this work was registered as one of the national monuments of Iran on August 17, 2003, with the registration number 9571. This mosque was built on the site of the former Zoroastrian fire temple with four porches and was later changed to three porches.

Zurkhaneh

The history of this sport in Bam dates back to 4000 years ago in the old Zurkhaneh of Bam. One of the sports etiquettes of Zurkhaneh is to enter the sports place with purity. In Bam Zurkhaneh, observing the raceway that was located before entering the Zurkhaneh and the athletes used it to purify themselves before entering the Zurkhaneh, it can be guessed that this Zurkhaneh belongs to pre-Islamic times.

Mirza Naeem School

Mirza Naeem School belongs to the Qajar period. This beautiful building is made of two parts, an internal part for teacher life and an external part for students to study. And this historical monument was registered on August 17, 2003, as one of the national monuments of Iran.

Darestan hill

Darestan is an ancient hill 30 km east of the old citadel of Bam, which is 7 to 9 thousand years old. Darestan hill is one of the earliest pre-pottery or non-pottery villages in southeastern Iran, which at its peak was abandoned for reasons unknown to archaeologists.

Arg-e Bam
Arg-e Bam – by Nadja MH

Among the artifacts discovered in this ancient hill, we can mention brick houses, metal tools, pottery, stone tools, and clay statues. One of the most interesting discoveries is the palm kernel, which shows the growth of this type of tree in 3500 BC in the city of Bam. This civilization represents the Halil River cultural area, and archaeologists have discovered artifacts from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age on the hill.

The city of Bam, despite the damage and destruction imposed on it, is still one of the most important cities in Kerman province in terms of attracting tourists. all these attractions have made this city have many sights. Above all, visitors travel to Bam to see historical attractions. Even in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh and Ardeshir Babakan’s book, traces of Bam can be seen.

The old city of Bam was one of the five cities of the Persian state in the past and is known as the gateway to the east of Iran, and at a critical point in history (the end of the reign of Lotfali Khan Zand at the time of his escape to Bam) was declared the capital of Iran by Lotfali Khan. This shows the antiquity of this city. You can travel to the ancient city of Bam and visit Bam with our experienced guides while choosing one of our Iran Classic Tours and share your travel memories with others on our website.


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