Our itinerary included the once magnificent Bam Citadel – but it didn’t seem right somehow. Much of Bam, along with its citadel and thousands of its inhabitants was destroyed in an horrendous earthquake at 5.26am on 26th December 2003 . The quake was only 6.6 on the Richter Scale but was shallow at just 10 kms depth – the devastation was immense and the loss of life almost incomprehensible at 26,271 dead and more than 30.000 injured.
General view of Bam (WikiCommons)
Bam citadel and city are constructed of adobe – the largest mud brick fortress on Earth – they have stood against natural disasters for in excess of two thousand years – yet such was the scale of this catastrophe that the authorities even considered moving the capital city from Tehran which is also subject to earthquakes. The Bam disaster marked a turning point in building and earthquake planning in Iran, and a turning point for us – even though the citadel at Bam has had a lot of restoration, to spend time gawking as a tourist just didn’t seem right. So, we decided to visit the Citadel at Rayen instead.
Citadel of Rayen
The Arg-e Rāyen lies in Kerman Province at the base of Mt Hezar which, at 4420 mts, forms an impressive backdrop. The age of the citadel is unknown, it had been inhabited for at least a thousand years until it was abandoned about 150 years ago. Gentle, considerate restoration began in 1996 and the site has since attained UNESCO Heritage status – it is well deserved!
Parts have been restored to full functionality, especially the Governor’s houses, which clearly show the splendour and grandeur that once existed here. Adobe walls at least three metres thick protected the inhabitants from external threats. Great towers provide views over the surrounding countryside and the present day town where many still live in houses of a style that is unchanged over hundreds of years.
Describing the sheer scale of the place is difficult – the intricacy of the adobe brickwork domes and arches is amazing, the durability of straw and mud astonishing and the glow of the place in the sunlight is enchanting. It really is a vision from another world. It may not be quite as grand as Bam but it has been spared the destructive power of the moving earth and it is, in its way, just as impressive.
Picking out a few photos from the masses taken was never going to be easy – here is a feeling for this amazing place:
the alleyway to the main gate
massive timbers above the gate
part of the old bazaar and restored walls
once grand two story homes
J and guide Feraidoon underneath the arches
some of the restored houses
surveying the Governor’s house
old and restored
and more restored
trying to convey the scale of this place
J surrounded (as usual) by excited students
typical Rayen street and houses – durable, eye-pleasing adobe
I have not found it easy to convey the sheer size and majesty of Rayen Citadel, it is an amazing place. The balance between restoration and preservation can be a very fine line indeed – Rayen has succeeded wonderfully in this regard. It is well deserving of its UNESCO Heritage recognition and should be on your itinerary when you get around to visiting the ancient lands of Persia.
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü