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What is missing in BAM: General impressions of a short trip to Bam

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Last month I revisited Bam after almost two years. Lots had happened and yet there was so much that was still the same. As we drove through the streets of Bam and villages nearby, I was taken aback that despite the fact that so many people have put so much effort and so much money has been spent, there was not enough to show for it, and besides that it seemed to me that something was missing. My consultant mind was running a cost benefit analysis assessment at very high speed of works done against efforts put into Bam and the results made me dizzy and sad at the same time.

What is most visible to newcomers are the many finished and semi-finished buildings scattered across Bam. Some of these buildings that from outside looked completely finished were locked up and my guess is that will be officially opened on a special occasion, or they were waiting to be furnished or for other equipment to make the place useable or operational.

All along I noticed a significant number of shops and stores that offered building materials. I would not be surprised if they outnumbered all the other shops put together.

Despite a lot of activity, I did not see many meaningful signs of normal living rather than simple existence. This may be due to the fact that there is no main core/center for people to come to at some point during the day or week, to buy, sell, look, see and be seen; a place which gives a true center to the city. People buy their daily needs from shops that are scattered around the city in small connexes.

There are no common entertainment places, (except for one funfair place which was not yet finished), where people could come with their families and happily and easily enjoy a film, a show, readings etc. The bare minimum needs may be satisfied but there is no art or cultural center yet. On special occasions, I was told, people are invited by the authorities for some celebration or show to Ark-Bam, which I was so glad to see is under reconstruction.

Many small matchbox type houses had been built for the local people with the help of different local and international groups. Those who could afford it had built walls around their small houses in order to give them more privacy as well as character. A few still lived in tents; but I learnt that they are not local inhabitants. I met many workers who had come from outside Bam in search of work from as far away as Sabzeh-var near Mashhad in the northeast of Iran.

Building schools had been very common amongst both Iranian and international groups/organizations. Most had been finished and were operational since last year. Some were still under way and some had a long way to go. I doubt if there will be any shortage of schools in Bam soon, if not already. I can only pray that at least there will be good qualified teachers for all these schools, otherwise this would be just another big waste of resources. In Bam, like many other places, what is missing most are trained local workers. Maybe someday a few of these schools will be turned into vocational institutes so that young men and women can learn a trade which will run the economical wheel of the place. Bam may even attract some migration from Kerman and other nearby cities of those who wish to study in such vocational schools.

I found the half finished terminal at the airport rather amusing given that there are so few flights to and from Bam. There was and still is a lack of good, affordable and interesting places to eat, meet and relax. Bam also definitely needs more and cheaper hotels and cafes where people on smaller budgets can stay.

What Bam needs most, besides something that gives it a big sense of liveliness and togetherness, is more professional people in many different fields who care about the place and who want to remain there, not just commute as it is the case now for many different reasons. Bam needs these people to run, operate, maintain and improve the efficiency of these buildings and organizations as well as improving the standard of the lives of its citizens.

I plan to go there again next year and I can only hope that I see more and better signs of life and true living there.

... Payvand News - 10/24/06 ... --

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