Town in south-east Iran, in the province of Kerman, about 200 km from the city of Kerman, on a hill rising in the Dasht'e Kavir desert.

A major stop-over and market on the Silk Road to Asia, founded in the Sassanian era, the most important building was accomplished during the Safavid period (1502-1722). The town, walled on a hilltop, covered 6 km! The town received many visitors and traders, including many Zoroastrian pilgrims coming to the Temple of Fire. In decline following the Afgan invasion of 1722, and beset by other hardships thereafter, Bam was deserted by 1932. Restoration began in 1953.

On the UNESCO list of cultural treasures, the citadel Arg-e-Bam was an exceptional edifice of adobe or mudbricks and palm trunks, surrounded by a triple rampart, like a beautiful rose sand-castle on a desert hilltop. Bam appeared in several films, and received 100,000 tourist visits each year in recent (post-revolution) times.

Destroyed, Friday, December 26, 2003 at 5:26:52 AM (local time at epicenter)

An earthquake of 6.6 on the Richter scale (according to the USGS, but 6.8, 6.5 and 6.3 have been reported elsewhere) located at 29.004°N, 58.337°E (i.e. directly beneath the town of Bam) and at a depth of 10-15 km, destroyed or damaged 85 % of the buildings, killing 30,000 people and injuring at least 30,000 more, with a estimate of 50,000 injured given by authorities two weeks later. It was not immediately possible to reach the 110,000 people living in villages nearby which also could have casualties. Thanks to massive humanitarian efforts from other countries, which contended with logistic difficulties to reach Bam as well as diplomatic difficulties 1., epidemics and starvation were avoided in this area subject to sub-freezing temperatures, after what is one of the worst earthquakes in Iranian history 2..

1. Israeli aide was refused by Iran, and U.S. aide was made contingent on handing over al Qaeda prisoners held in Iran.
2. An earthquake of magnitude 7.7 on 21 June 1990 in the NW provinces of Ghilan and Zandjan killed 37.000 and injured more than 100.000, practically leveling an area of 2.100 km2 comprising 27 towns and 1,871 villages in just a few seconds. Although Bam was known to lie in a fault zone, and four earthquakes of magnitude 5.6 or greater struck the region between 1981 and 1998, they had occurred in the Golbaf vicinity, 100 km north of Bam.

Sources :
  • Une étape majeure sur l'ancienne Route de la soie LE MONDE | 29.12.03 | 11h39
  • Preliminary report on the earthquake published by Dr Sassan Eshghi and Dr Mehdi Zaré of the International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, Teheran, Iran --
  • U.S.G.S. Earthquake Hazards Program --