Bam, a city in south-eastern Iran was hit by a disastrous earthquake in December 2003. The symbol of the city, Arg-e-Bam was left with a heavy scar from the deadly quake. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee was held in China six months later in July 2004. Here, Bam was registered as a World Heritage site and also inscribed on the World Heritage in Danger List. The oasis city is said to have been founded between the 4th and 6th centuries. It flourished as a commercial centre on the silk road and was a mighty fortified town. In its heyday, it had a population of 5 thousand people. The city radiated from a citadel on a small hill.
The buildings were made of mud bricks. Continued maintenance has miraculously preserved its original state. Sadly, the earthquake flattened the structure. The damage took away the livelihoods of the people living there.
In April 2004, Iran and UNESCO called on experts in earthquakes and architects around the world to convene at Bam. How should they rebuild the site? Many issues were addressed. One image source caught people's attention. They were air shots of the citadel of Bam filmed for the NHK Silk Road series in 1981. The Iranian government launched a project to make a visual reproduction of Arg-e-Bam as it was before the earthquake. Simultaneous efforts to make reconstructions using digital technologies were launched. NHK's footage was used in the process. Elsewhere, those engaged in the reconstruction began work. Reconstruction techniques must not die out. Without them, a mud-brick complex that is erosion-resistant cannot be passed down to future generations.
"I will work for Arg-e-Bam as long as I live" this man says. "The onus is on us to pass on the history of Bam to the next generation."
This graffiti written shortly after the earthquake tells us of the heartfelt wishes of the people of Bam. (World Heritage website)
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