Located on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau in south-eastern Iran, Arg-e Bam is one of the largest mudbrick complexes in the world. The city was built on a hilltop at the crossroads of important trade routes. Surrounded by desert, Arg-e Bam was a sort of oasis, acquiring water through underground irrigation canals. The area was first inhabited in the 6th century BC, during the Achaemanid Period, but it did not reach its golden age until the 7th–10th centuries BC, when it became an important centre for trade in the southern side of the Iranian plateau. The city was renowned for the production of silk and cotton clothing. Bam became a place for the exchange of various influences and it represents an exceptional example of the evolution of a commercial settlement in a desert environment.
Bam’s citadel had three concentric walls of mudbrick and palm timbers and the city is the most outstanding surviving fortified medieval town superimposing mud layers (chineh), sun-dried bricks (khesht), and vaulted or domed structures. Inside, there is an area for the ruler in the innermost part of the complex, which is surrounded by the area where his subjects lived. While the ruler’s part had barracks, a water-well 40 metres deep and a stable for 200 horses, the citizen’s area had a bazaar, public buildings, and around 400 houses.
An earthquake almost completely destroyed the citadel on December 26, 2003. The Iranian president Mohammad Khatami announced that Bam was to be rebuilt, a project in which several countries are collaborating. Bam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.