The historical Bam, in an altitude of 1000 m, is a half-dead, half-living town 195 km to the southeast of Kerman. Once a famous citadel and a strategic stronghold, the old Bam has been built on a huge rock mass at the northeast of the living town, and is a city molded in the red clay of the Great Iranian Desert, Dasht-e Kavir. Locally, it is called “Arge Bam” meaning Bam citadel, 300 m long and 200 m wide, consisting of two parts. It is similar to a large medieval European castle, except that the material is not stone but brick. It is surrounded by a more than three-kilometer long crenellated wall supported by dozens of towers for the defense of the town.
Outside, a ditch was excavated at the foot of the high walls to keep away the invaders. The walls around the citadel are still intact and even today there is no way of entering it except through the small gate house at the south.
Rayen Citadel is a historical site situated in the south-west of Rayen city and is considered the biggest earthen structure of Kerman province after Bam Citadel which was destroyed in an earthquake a few years ago. The monument dates back to the Sassanid era and covers a 20,000-square-meter area, remaining a symbol of the residential fortresses during the ancient times. Just like other fortresses, it consists of the public quarter and the aristocratic zone. The essential sectors such as Zoor khaneh (gymnasium for a traditional Persian sport), mosque, and stable can be seen in the citadel. Adobe is the main material used in its construction.
Last year the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Iran (ICHTO) announced the introduction of the citadel as part of its main programs. Since then, the citadel is gradually changing to a tourism destination.
Introducing Rayen Citadel in the international exhibitions of ITB in Germany and FITUR in Spain was the first step which was took by the ICHTO of Kemran province, and according to Mohammad Jahanshahi, director of the public relations department of the organization, that has been the main reason for the citadel’s success in attracting 400 foreign tourists since the beginning of the fall.
Right now a model of Bam Citadel with a size of 10×10 square meters is being created by one of the famous Kerman sculptors in one of the storehouses of Rayen Citadel. The aristocratic area of the citadel is under restoration and is not yet open to public visits. Two ancient industries practiced in Rayen city, weaponry and knife-making, are due to be revived there by establishing workshops in the area of Rayen Citadel. Setting up a traditional tea house near the citadel is one of the other programs for its tourism development. The hotel and restaurant which were built last year have started working and are ready to host tourists.
Natural and historical attractions of Rayen area are not just limited to the ancient citadel. Rayen, located on the foothills of Hezar Mountains and a beautiful waterfall, enjoys a favorable climate in Kerman province. The mountain with a height of 4465 meters is the highest mountain in Kerman province and the forth of Iran. Caraway, which is a famous seed of Kerman province, grows wild in these mountains.
Local residents believe that Rayen forces won in wars due to the quality of their handmade weaponry produced by locals.
It is believed that Rayen Citadel dates back to the Sassanid era, although what is remained today belongs to the Islamic period constructions, mainly Safavid era and afterwards.
Inside, the citadel was protected by a triple ring of fortifications. The place has undergone frequent repairs (according to two inscriptions found inside the citadel), and the inner citadel dominating the town contains a rampart, some Safavid structures, a mosque, a fortified residence known as Chahar Fasl or Palace of the Four Seasons, an artillery yard, and another yard with stables. As you enter you walk up a steep pathway through the old bazaar, from where lanes lead past the remains of mosques, mansions, squares, military barracks and a caravansary, all in sand colored mud-brick. You can climb up steep and narrow stairways to the pinnacles of the outer walls for the definitive outlook over the old and new towns.
The citadel itself, comprising of four sections and 28 watchtowers, occupies an area of 200,000 sq m. One of the inscriptions in Bam reads as follows:
“The Citadel of Bam, which was habitable and in a fairly good condition until a hundred and fifty years ago, has, according to Hudud ol-Alam and other reliable sources that have come down to us from the 10th century AD, been founded some 2,000 years back, and has been repeatedly repaired thereafter. This commemorative tablet relates to the completion of the repairs of the watchtower and of a part of the Governor’s residence, Azar 1337 (September 1958) Department of Archaeology.”
The ancient Bam, which was inhabited until mid-19th century, is overlooking that route of trade and invasion, which the Sassanian Kings had already wished to control. Subsequently the Arabs extended their sway over it, only to be superseded by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century. Finally the citadel was captured by devastating Ghalzai Afghan invaders in 1722, but they were driven out in 1729, after their power had been shattered by Nader Shah Afshar. In 1795, the town was the scene of the final stands of the gallant Lutf Ali Khan, the last of the enlightened Zand dynasty, against Agha Mohammad Khan, the first of the Qajar rulers of Iran. Some forty-five years later, the Agha Khan Mahallati, the head of the Ismaili Sect and a lineal descendant of the last Grand Master of the order of the Assassins, revolted against Fath Ali Shah. On being defeated at Kerman, he and his followers took refuge in Bam, whence they subsequently fled to India; the present Agha Khan is a direct descent of him. Total abandonment of the city seems to be, however, of a recent date. Otherwise its ruins should have been in a much more dilapidating condition.
The Citadel is open daily from 8 am to noon and from 2 to 5 p.m. but you won’t be admitted later than 30 minutes before either closing time. The gate house has some information about the site in Persian, but nothing in English. An excellent English-speaking guide can be arranged through the tourist office in Kerman.
Export and sale of palm-grove products (Bams dates are known to be the finest in the Middle East), the fruit of orchards and the produce of vegetable gardens is the main source of income for the inhabitants of Bam.