Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bam Citadel


The Bam Citadel, established in the Sassanian period, is situated atop an artificial hill in the northwest quadrant of the old city of Bam and southeast of Kerman. This artificial hill, originally created from debris, elevates the citadel approximately 5 meters above the surrounding urban fabric. It is sandwiched between the mountain range of Kaboodi and Barez and is surrounded by a manmade moat. The Bam citadel is the largest adobe building in the world, located in Bam, a city in the Kerman province of southeastern Iran and is listed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Site.


This enormous citadel on the Silk Road was built before 500 BC and remained in use until 1850 AD. It is not known for certain why it was then abandoned. The entire building was a large fortress in whose heart the citadel itself was located, but because of the impressive look of the citadel, which forms the highest point, the entire fortress is named the Bam Citadel. The actual citadel is situated in the center of the fortress-city, on the point with widest view for security.


The area of the Bam Citadel is approximately 20,000 square meters, and it is surrounded by walls 6-7 meters high. The citadel features two of the "stay-awake towers" for which Bam is famed - there are as many as 38 such towers scattered across the ancient city of Bam. People left the citadel during the 19th century, but the army kept a presence until 1932.


In the architectural form of Bam Citadel there are two different distinguishable parts:

1. The rulers' part in the most internal wall, holding the citadel, barracks, mill, 4-sezonan house, water-well (dug in the rocky earth and about 40 meters deep), and a stall for 200 horses.

2. 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:

a. Smaller houses with 2-3 rooms for the poor families.
b. Bigger houses with 3-4 rooms for the middle social class, some of which have also a veranda.
c. 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 stall for animals nearby. There are few of this type of houses in the fortress.


All buildings are made of non-baked clay bricks. The public dwellings were constructed alongside the elevated areas and on the ground level. Its distinguished areas are the main passage or bazaar, places for public religious rituals and mourning, gymnasium for traditional sports and a public bath. The citadel also contains three wells, located along a single north-south axis. The residential complex contains the governor's residence, public and private baths, a detached watchtower, the “four seasons" palace, the prison, the dungeons, and one of the citadel wells.


The military section consisted of the commander's quarters, barracks, stables for 200 horses, and two wells. When the gate of the city was closed, no human or animal could enter. The inhabitants could continue living for a long period of time in isolation as they had access to a well, gardens, and domestic animals inside. When the fortress-city was besieged the inhabitants could remain in the city while the soldiers could defend it, protected by high walls and towers. Security was a major concern in the Bam Citadel: the citadel complex was surrounded by deep trenches and four encircling and dividing defensive walls.


Besides the watch towers and ornamented tops of the high walls on the skyline of the fortress, the wind-catchers or wind-towers are remarkable. They are structures protruding from the buildings to catch the wind and direct it into the buildings. Sometime the air is passed over a water basin in the building to cool it and remove dust. Different types of wind towers are utilized for different buildings. For example there are 4-directional wind-towers for larger and more important buildings, which are able to catch the wind from different directions, and there are one directional wind towers for smaller buildings.


On December 26, 2003, the Citadel was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake, along with much of the rest of Bam. The 2003 Earthquake in Bam destroyed more than 80 percent of the Citadel. As a World Heritage site several countries such as Japan, Italy and France are cooperating in the reconstruction.

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