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For nearly a century, the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA) has been drawing up an inventory of the archaeological heritage of one of the world’s most unstable countries. Some 5000 sites have already been discovered, both on the ground and from the air. They reveal Afghanistan’s remarkable archaeological wealth, including protohistoric, Greek, Buddhist and Islamic remains, as archaeologist Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento explains.
For the last thirty years, Afghanistan has been associated with images of war, of the Soviet occupation, civil strife, and the Taliban—to the point of concealing the extent to which the country once fired the imagination of archaeologists and adventurers of every sort. It was there that Alexander the Great, who had set out to conquer Asia, is said to have met and married the beautiful Roxana around 330 BC. Buddhism found fertile ground there too, yielding some of its most beautiful works of art, such as the tragically renowned Buddhas carved into the cliffs of the Bamiyan valley, and destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
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UNESCO on Sunday revealed a short video summarizing its thorough documentation works on the ‘ of Jam’ in western province.
The Minaret of Jam, one of ‘s most prominent, was included in the UNESCO list of ‘ Heritage Properties in Danger’ in 2002.
A statement from UNESCO said the video is now available on social media website Youtube.
In September 2017, a mission took place for a thorough documentation of the Minaret of Jam with international assistance from World Heritage Fund and UNESCO’s Heritage Emergency Fund and with the strong endorsement of the Presidential Palace.
The Presidential Palace provided all of the security and logistic arrangements and the mission was critical to assess the current state of the minaret and surrounding archaeological area.
The Minaret of Jam is located in Ghor province around 200km east of western Herat City at the confluence of Hari Rud and Jam Rud rivers.
Its isolated location may have prevented the monument from intentional destruction in the past, but in return, this isolation poses serious challenges today in terms of accessibility, feasibility of conservation and stabilization works and long-term maintenance.
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — The Afghan official in charge of looking after the archeological remains in Bamiyan Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, says they are threatened with complete annihilation.
Ahmad Hossein Ahmadpur, the head of the government’s cultural department in the central province of Bamiyan, says the sites, which range in age from 1,500 to 2000 years old, now face extinction.
“What is really worrying is that the erosion and destruction of various archeological sites around Bamiyan Valley are increasing every day,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan on January 24. “Most of them require urgent repairs and preservation to prevent further damage.”
According to UNESCO, eight separate sites in Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush Mountains constitute the region’s unique heritage. Collectively, they are recognized as a World Heritage site.
The most famous monuments in Bamiyan were two large Buddha statues carved into niches in the valley’s cliffs 15 centuries ago. They are still significant global sites even after the Taliban blew up the statues in 2001.
Other sites such as caves housing Buddhist monasteries, chapels, and sanctuaries where wall paintings from the Gandharan period are now disappearing.
Home to the country’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province is also progressive on women’s representation.
Decades of conflict and political instability have all but destroyed Afghanistan’s once-thriving heritage and tourism industry, but new efforts are being made to promote the country’s spectacular riches.
A trickle of overseas visitors was recorded last year although many Western governments, including the U.S., advise against travel to the country.
Among Afghanistan’s top attractions is Band-e-Amir, the country’s first national park, created in 2009. Home to six stunning turquoise lakes nestled within the dramatic barren landscape of the Hindu Kush mountain range, it is also leading the way on conservation and women’s rights issues.
“Band-e-Amir is one of the most extraordinary sites of natural beauty anywhere in the world,” said Jonny Bealby
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Sayed Mirza Hussain faced a wrenching dilemma: commit a shocking act of cultural destruction or be shot by the Taliban.
It was just months before the 9/11 attacks, and Hussain was being held prisoner by the fundamentalist group which controlled most of Afghanistan. The Taliban was at the height of its power and on a mission to destroy all pre-Islamic icons.
At up to 190 feet high, the Bamiyan Buddhas towered over the valley below. The statues dated to the sixth century when the area was a holy site for Buddhists on the Silk Road, the ancient trading route between China and Europe.
Their destruction took place over 25 days in early 2001. Huge cavities in the spectacular sandstone cliffs now mark the spot where the giant Buddhas once stood.
Officials in the historic Afghan province of Bamiyan say that domestic tourism to its famed archeological treasures and nature parks is soaring.
More than 250,000 tourists have visited Bamiyan so far this year, more than double the 100,000 who came last year. Several hundred foreign citizens were also among the visitors.
Bamiyan, a UNESCO world heritage site since 2003, was perhaps best known for the two giant statues of Buddhist deities carved during the third and fourth centuries AD, when Afghanistan was an important junction on the Silk Road.
Standing amid a complex of caves, shrines and grottoes, they survived numerous wars and invasions, including that of Genghis Khan, but were destroyed in 2001 after the Taleban deemed them to be symbols of idolatry.
On 27-29 September 2017, UNESCO will convene a three-day technical symposium in Tokyo, Japan, entitled “The Future of the Bamiyan Buddha Statues: Technical Considerations and Potential Effects on Authentic and Outstanding Universal Value”. This meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss the potential reconstruction of the Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley (Afghanistan), which were destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban Regime.
Following the intentional destruction of the Buddha statues, UNESCO led an international discussion aiming to prevent such crimes in the future, which resulted in the landmark ‘UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage’ in 2003 and, the same year, to the inscription of the “Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley” simultaneously on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.