Bam is a city in Kerman Province of Iran. The city is the center of Bam County. The modern Iranian city of Bam surrounds the Bam citadel. Before the 2003 earthquake the official population count of the city was of around 90,000. There are various opinions about the date and reasons for the foundation of the citadel. Some people believe that Bam city was founded during the Parthian empire, a very powerful Persian empire, that ruled from 250 BCE to 226 CE. Economically and commercially, Bam occupied a very important place in the region and was famed for its textiles and clothes. Ibn Hawqal (943–977), the Arab traveller and geographer, wrote of Bam in his book Surat-ul-`ard (The Earth-figure):
The ancient citadel of Arg-é Bam probably has a history dating back around 2000 years ago, to the Parthian dynasty (248 BC–224 AD), but most buildings were built during the Safavid dynasty. The city was largely abandoned due to an Afghan invasion in 1722. Subsequently, after the city had gradually been re-settled, it was abandoned a second time due to an attack by invaders from Shiraz. It was also used for a time as an army barracks.
The modern city of Bam was established later than the old citadel. It has gradually developed as an agricultural and industrial centre, and until the 2003 earthquake was experiencing rapid growth. In particular, the city is known for its dates and citrus fruit. The city also benefited from tourism, with an increasing number of people visiting the ancient citadel in recent years.
About the origin of the word Bam, there are some links even to the mythical history of Iran, namely according to some sources “Bam” is metamorphosis of the word “Bahman”, which is the name of a prince, about whom Ferdowsi (940?–1020?), narrated in his most famous work Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). In the poem, Bahman was the son of Esfendayde who had fought against Rostam, one of the chief heroes in the Shahnameh. As Ferdowsi epically narrates, Bahman fights against one of the sons of Rostam, who was called Faramarz. A sandstorm hindered Faramarz and Bahman defeated him; as a triumph he built a statue on the rock hill there, where the Bam Citadel is now situated. It is customary to throw a flower into a "Butch" well whenever hearing the name of the prince.
On December 26, 2003 at 5:26 AM local time(1:56 AM UTC) Bam Citadel — "the biggest adobe structure of the world" — and most of the city of Bam proper were devastated by an earthquake. The United States Geological Survey estimated its magnitude as 6.6 on the Richter scale. The BBC reported that "70% of the modern city of Bam" was destroyed. Death toll numbers as high as 80,000 were rumoured on the street and 70,000 reported in the media. However, the total death toll was given as 56,230 on January 17 and the latest estimate from Tehran has halved previous estimates to 26,271 deaths. An additional 10,000 – 50,000 were reported injured, however this number is very uncertain; the most reported number is 30,000, which may have originated from an early Reuters account. According to the Iranian news agency IRNA, the old Bam Citadel was "levelled to the ground".
A documentary about this earthquake has been produced titled Bam 6.6.