“Akbar English”… are the first words they hear when we are abruptly dumped from the bus in a roundabout somewhere outside Bam. So without knowing where we are, we feel the ironic comfort of knowing that others know where we want to go.
At the insistence of the taxi drivers to take me to “Akbar”, which in fact was the place elected to stay in Bam, I followed my intuition and decided to do the way, without have any orientation, nor a map, and with little chance to communicate in English with the population. After walking from one the roundabout to another roundabout, this option proved to be a mistake, because the distance was too long to be made with a 14 kilos backpack, being advised by a local to get a taxi.
Bam, formerly popular stop for anyone traveling to Zahedan, close to the Pakistan border, is famous for dates and the Arg-e Bam, one of the main tourist attractions of Iran along with Persepolis; but the earthquake of 2003 destroyed nearly all the city, killing more than 25,000 people, seriously affecting the Arg-e Bam, castle and fortress built in adobe.
Despite the Bam city have been rebuilt, being organized and modern but with a lack of identity, Arg-e Bam with over 2000 years, and classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, was irreversibly destroyed and despite efforts for reconstruction which is still ongoing, it is far from evokes admiration and the impact of old times. However worth the trip and the visit for the view over the city with their fields of palm trees, whose green contrasts with the aridity of the desert around Bam, making us remember that we are in an oasis.
From these vast plantations of palm trees result the delicious dates that give fame to Bam and Kerman region, at national and international levels, with much of the production to be exported. I can say that were the best dates ever, fresh, sweet and soft, having to be kept refrigerated.
But if Arg-e Bam is impressive despite the destruction, what left the strongest memory were no the heritage, buildings or castle … it was a person: Akbar … “Akbar English” whose nickname comes from the fact that he was for many years a english teacher, expressing himself fluently with a curious American accent. Despite the simple conditions of the guest house, still being rebuilt after the earthquake, the stay in Bam was marked by the hospitality of Akbar, by his history, his stories and by the long and interesting conversations we can had the privilege of listening, sitting on the steps of the front door in the afternoon.
It is moment like these that remind us why we keep on traveling…
Akbar Tourist Guest House
Address: Sayyeh Jamal od-Din Street
Contact: 0913 246 0731
… But just ask for “Akbar Inglês” and everybody knows the location and the charismatic owner who by itself is a good reason to stay a couple of days in Bam.
The price of the room is agreed with the owner, according to the room type: single, double, or triple, with en-suite or shared bathroom. But whatever the choice it’s an economic option.
Where to eat:
Like any small town, where the distances between home and work are shirt, making most of the inhabitants have meals at home, does not offer many options in termos of restaurants.
Yet very close to Akbar Guest House there is a fast food restaurant, which serves a very competent falafel (30,000 rials) as also kebabs; as the place lacks atmosphere is preferable to take-away.
For a “improved” meal there is a restaurant about 15 minutes walking, which at first glance seems an ordinary pizzeria that look a urban modern fast-food, but that proved a surprise, with garden on the backyard, full of trees, shrubs and a sweet aroma of jasmine; the tables are scattered through the garden or along a hallway, and the meal is served to the traditional Iranian way, in carpets based on where we sit and we can recline on cushions.
They serve very good pizzas, as also traditional Iranian food, and despite the presentation of the place and the nice service, a meal doesn’t cost more than 60,000 / 70,000 rials. The name and the location were lost in time, but just ask Akbar.
Buses run between Kerman and Zahedan, stopping in Bam. There are several buses during the day , most od them during the morning, but it is difficult to obtain information on schedules. However from the Kerman terminal, one bus leaves at 14h, and it takes 3.5 hours to Bam.
- Taxi from Arg Square (a roundabout) where the buses stop, and where taxis and shavaris (shared taxis) waiting for passengers, costs 30,000 rials, and takes no more than 5 minutes, it is possible to reach on foot as they are not about two kilometers.
- Taxi from the center or from the guesthouse to Arg-e Bam cost 30,000 rials. Although you can do this by walk, because the city is flat, the heat makes this unappetizing journey, through avenues that have little appeal beyond a string of shops and workshops.
In Bam there aren’t exchange shops, so the only chance is the banks, which charge commission, or the guesthouse.
Ticket: 150,000 rials (not free as mentioned in tourist guide), plus 75,000 rials to enter “illegally” in the castle, which is closed for reconstruction works.
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm (check with the Akbar)
The best time to visit Arg-e Bam and is around 4:30 pm, at which the sun is less strong and the air more fresh. The light from the end of day reflects on the clay plaster of buildings, walls and castle, provides fantastic color and a magical atmosphere, with the sun disappearing behind the mountains, as usually in Iran, were the monotonous flat landscape of extensive deserts is always interrupted by hills and mountains.
The castle is under reconstruction, so it is not possible to be visited… but there’s a way to climb to the top of Arg-e Bam and enjoy the view of the citadel and the city of Bam with its palm groves. Approaching the castle entrance, blocked by metal pipes, try to draw the attention of guard, and ask to enter the castle. Communication is based more on gestures than in english words, and the answer is no. However insisting you maybe hear the word “money”. Agreeing with this “business” we are lead to the top of the castle by the guard, military uniform dress. Nice and easy… but the descent was a bit adventure with the guard to spot someone downstairs and motioning for us to hide behind a wall, where we waited, squatting, until have order to go down, in quick step to the exit . Under the sun and under the tension caused by the illegality of the whole situation, I could not help feeling joke by this adventure in military style, which cost 75,000 rials, an amount that can be negotiated.