UNESCO Arg-e Bam : World's Largest Adobe Complex

16 May, 2016 John Flint Iran Destinations Guide 2304 Views 30 Shares
UNESCO Arg-e Bam : World's Largest Adobe Complex

Come join us on our journey to "Arg-e BAM." Did you know it's the world's largest abode complex? Most remarkably it's origins date back to the Achaemenid Period - 6th to 4th centuries BC. Not to mention older pre-historic remains have also been found. Which is why further research into Bam's cultural landscape is ongoing - and UNESCO agrees with us - Bam is a must see site in Iran's history. 



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Old city walls around Arg-e Bam.


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Photograph of Arg-e Bam taken immediately after the devastating 2003 earthquake.


We should note the Citadel (Fortress) City Complex is located 2km north of the modern city of Bam, so to avoid confusion we're focussing on the cultural aspects of the 'Old Bam' as distinguished from the 'New Bam.'

The citadel itself is constructed on the top of an igneous hill to the north of the complex. The Arg is divided into 4 main sections, with 38 Watch TowersPublic HousingBarracksGreat Perimeter WallBazaar, Fire Temple/ Mosque and aMoat surrounding the citadel. It occupies an area of 20 hectares, with a moat which surrounded the Arg to keep it secure against invading armies.



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The above photograph is taken of the Barracks Training Courtyard above the igneous hill, where the soldiers rooms make the perimeter.


The Barracks Training Courtyard also has special acoustic characteristics; the above speakers stand above was used to echo instructions for all soldiers to effectively hear throughout. This courtyard is similar to the scenes from the old Roman movies such as Gladiator. This Barracks Complex dates back to the early Islamic period for the governmental militants between the 7-9th centuries.The Third Enclosure is shown above, along with Two Great Towers located on either side of the barracks on the higher corners of the Arg. A Windmill was located on the Western Tower, and the Commanders House was on the Eastern Tower.  



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Main Entrance corridor to the Bazaar and Public Square.


The main construction material is adobe clay, however occasionally stones were used in addition to sun-dried bricks and other materials. Among the known places within Arg-e Bam, the Main Corridor is shown above, leading towards the important Bazaar and Takiyeh. The Takiyeh was the central square of the Bam Citadel surrounded by chambers. Certain religious and public ceremonies were performed in this area.



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Photo of traditional stables. Creative wall openings were used for feed while securing the horses.


You can be guides through the remains of the Stable Garrison and Prison. These architectural details are good examples of similar buildings scattered across the vast Persian Empire.




Views from the ramp of the citadel/barracks towards the lower public housing and exterior city walls. (c) Sfiran Travel

There are also 'Four-Season' Quarters and Public Houses, which were built close together with common openings for communal navigation. We found this to be similar to the old Medina's of Fez and Marrakesh in Morocco, however with more of a traditional Persian feel. Some houses were also two-stories indicating the increasing trend of population and wealth during certain times. They say the city of Bam was a very influential and prosperous, that is before the economic expansion of Europe after the 16th century. The Middle East lost many of it's competitive advantages with the growth of shipping trade.  




Payambar Mosque.


Prior to Islam there was a Sassanian Fire Temple, which was converted into a Mosque. In addition to Zourkhaneh and a Public Bathhouse. It was constructed after the 15th Century AD, Some scripts have been observed on the mosque's Mehrab dating back to the late Safavid and early Qajar periods. It was used extensively in the old city of Bam. We were guided to witness traces of the nearby public bathhouse and private baths used in the houses. Conveniently the smelly stables were located far away from these sensitive residential quarters.

Until the late 1900's Arg-e Bam had previously housed up to 13,000 people within the old city walls. The population expanded to the extent people started moving outside the city walls. The modern city of Bam expanded towards the south of the citadel as currently seen today. On December 26, 2003, the Citadel was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake, along with much of the rest of modern Bam and its environs. There has since been a clean-up effort with international community support, in addition to UNESCO providing guidance for the technical reconstruction practices.




Ongoing renovation works to the Governors Stable.


The Governors Stable has been erected in the late Teymurid and early Safavid Periods. It comprises a large yard with three roofed halls and a water reservoir. The workers have been employed locally from the Bami community based on their experience in traditional adobe construction. The Governers Stable specifically has been sponsored by Germany.




Arg-e Bam citadel elevated towards Eastern Tower. (c) Sfiran Travel

Most of the scaffolding seen has been supplied by Japanese businesses.




Examples of "New" and "Old" aspects of the citadel as a result of 2003 earthquake.


Currently the Citadel is almost completely rebuilt, however some of the stables and residential areas will be partially rebuilt to embed the earthquake's impact into the future story of Arg-e Bam. The photograph above depicts the new and old construction works. UNESCO has been working closely with some of Iran's most experienced architects to help preserve the historical story of Arg-e Bam. 

The massive adobe city is worth adding to your travel bucket list.

So why not take a Kerman Tour or get the full story from a Local Bami?



About Author


John Flint

Tehran Sfiran Writing Editor

I'm John, I'm based in Tehran doing freelance writing, editing and marketing.

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