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January 13, 2003

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After shivering in northern Iran we're happy to stroll through a date palm oasis in Bam. Too bad Jill can't let her hair down or wear a short sleeve T-shirt without breaking the law (yet even if it wasn't law we would stay in local clothes and minimize our impact on the culture). Bam's old city, enclosed within fortress walls, lies deserted on the town's outskirts. The size and condition of these ruins rivals any site in the world. Crumble down houses, fortified inns, and a restored castle recall 1500 years of history, from its founding in the 2nd century AD to its fall in 1722 after an Afghan invasion. The city reached its height as a staging post for trade caravans between Persia and India during the 1500's. Much of the old glory remains in the extensive ruins which are open for any visitor to poke around. This turns out to be one of the best sites in Iran for a glimpse of medieval Persia. We're left wondering how a rainstorm doesn't wash the mud brick into the oasis.
Bam's old city once held over 11,000 people within its walls which are 1500 years old.
In the evening we backtrack to a pleasant city called Kerman on the fringes of the Dasht-e-Lut desert. Each major Iranian city seems to be known for a particular trade, product, or food. In Kerman we find a soft type of carpet called patay, made from cotton, using more green than usual (a sacred color in Islam), and featuring designs of trees or intricate floral patterns.