BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN AFGHANISTAN
As a touristic destination, Afghanistan has a lot to offer. There are ancient sites in Afghanistan, some of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The archeologic sites come from different historical periods and portray Afghanistan as the land of many cultures and traditions. Today, the traditions of various ethnic groups can be seen and experienced through the culture of rug-making.
Besides history and culture, Islamic religious tradition provides for an interesting touristic experience. Number of architecturally delicate mosques can be visited across the country. Lastly, natural beauty in form of mountains, lakes and plains can be discovered through hiking and trekking.
Undoubtedly one of the most interesting historic sites in Afghanistan is Bamiyan, a city of about sixty thousand inhabitants which is lies on the historical Silk Road – a caravan route which connected China and the West in the Middle Ages. Thanks to its strategic location, Bamyian became a prospering centre of Buddhist art and philosophy. Several Buddhist
monasteries came to life, with monks living in caves of Bamiyan cliffs. It was reported in the 7thcentury, that over ten monasteries were occupied with about thousand monks. This prominent Buddhist religious site survived the advent of Islam, and it was active until the conquest of Muslim Safarid dynasty in the 9th century.
In the 6th century, two large statues of Buddha were built in Bamiyan. The larger one was 53 meters tall and somewhat younger. It portrayed Buddha in its Vairocana position. Smaller of the two statues had 35 meters, and was built first. Buddha was portrayed in the position of Sayamuni mudra here. The statues were, until their destruction in 2001, among the largest standing Buddhas in the world.
The statues were in danger ever since the Muslim conquest. They were spared destruction by Genghis Khan in the 13th century and slightly damaged by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who used heavy artillery to destroy them. They were fired at in the 18thcentury by Persian king Nader Afshar, and finally the face of the larger statue was destroyed by Afghan king Abdur Rahman Khan in 1847.
Before their final destruction in 2001, Taliban commanders vowed blow them up, and they drilled holes in their heads to put in explosives. When the action was prevented by local governor, tyres were burnt on their heads instead. Mullah Oman, the Talibani leader finally ordered their complete
destruction on March 2, 2001. Only the alcoves where the statues were set remained. This act was slammed by international community, including Muslim nations. Commitment to rebuild the statues has been made.
The site of Bamiyan consists also of about fifty caves with wall paintings dating between the 5th and the 9th centuries. They were most likely painted by artists travelling on the Silk Route. Many of them depict Buddha sitting cross-legged in red robes and flanked by mythical features. These are considered the oldest old paintings in the world.