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CENTRAL AFGHANISTAN BA MIYAN &

114 BAMIYAN •• History

RISK ASSESSMENT

Bamiyan has consistently remained one of the calmest provinces in Afghanistan, with no major security incidents. Travellers are ad- vised to avoid the southern route to Bamiyan from Kabul via the Hajigak Pass and Maidan Shahr in Wardak Province due to poor secu- rity, where there have been repeated abduc- tion threats made against internationals. The central route is reasonably secure but

very remote. There have been regular reports of robberies against private vehicles in the Chist-e Sharif and Obey areas.

CLIMATE

Dominated by the crags of the Koh-e Baba and Hindu Kush, central Afghanistan has a dry mountainous climate. In summer, days are warm (up to 28°C) while high altitudes mean that nights can be cold even in the mid- dle of August. Warm clothes are essential. Temperatures drop considerably from No- vember, skirting around freezing point. The region sees heavy snow from this point on- wards, which can persist until March or even April, cutting off swathes of the region (al- though Bamiyan remains connected to Kabul year-round).

GETTING THERE & AWAY

Central Afghanistan’s isolation is felt in its poor transport links to the rest of the coun- try. Two punishing roads lead slowly from Bamiyan to Kabul, via either the northern Shibar Pass, or the Hajigak Pass to the south. Roads are similarly poor leaving the Hazarajat across the central route to Herat – a trip of several days in the summer, fre- quently impassable during the winter snows and merely treacherous during the spring melt. There are no commercial flights to Kabul, although both the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) and Pactec operate services between Bamiyan and Chaghcheran and the capital.

BAMIYAN

نﺎﻴﻣﺎﺑ

Bamiyan sits at the heart of the Hazarajat in a wide valley braided with mountain rivers and is one of the poorest yet most beautiful parts of Afghanistan. Once a major centre

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for Buddhist pilgrimage, modern Bamiyan is now more closely associated with the de- struction visited on Afghanistan’s culture by war. The two giant statues of Buddha that once dominated the valley now lie in rub- ble, victims of the Taliban’s iconoclastic rage. Despite this, the Bamiyan valley still holds a powerful draw over the imagination. It was made a World Heritage site in 2003 for its cultural landscape and is a must-see for any visitor to Afghanistan. While isolated today, it wasn’t always so.

Bamiyan was once an important way sta- tion on the Silk Road. Trade and pilgrims flocked to its temples and in return Bami- yan exported its art – a synthesis of Greek, Persian and Indian art that had a major influence on Buddhist iconography as far afield as China. Centuries later, Bamiyan became the focus of Afghanistan’s nascent tourist industry, as visitors came to redis- cover its past glories and gaze in awe at the monumental Buddha statues carved from its cliffs.

War brought an end to that. Initially iso-

lated from the fighting, Bamiyan suffered terribly under the ideological fervour of the Taliban, whose anti-Shiite doctrines drove ethnic massacres as well as the smashing of idols.

Since the Taliban’s defeat, Bamiyan has

returned to the peace of earlier years and is currently home to a New Zealand–led Pro- vincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). It has consistently been one of Afghanistan’s real oases of calm, although locals grumble about the slow pace of reconstruction. For many, Bamiyan can best be experi- enced at sunset from the hills overlooking the valley. The niches of the Buddhas evoke a particular power at this hour and as the light of the day changes so does the colour of the cliffs, from honey to pink, ochre to magenta.

HISTORY

Bamiyan’s place in Afghan history begins with the emergence of the Kushan empire in the 1st century AD. As a halfway point between Balkh and the Kushan capital at Kapisa (near modern Bagram, see p109 ), it grew rich from the trade along the Silk Road between Rome and the Han Chinese. The nomadic Kushans quickly took to Buddhism and were instrumental in fusing

Bamiyan

6

To Shahr-e Zohak (15km); Kabul (180km)

To Darya Ajdahar (5km) Mosque

3 15 16 19

18 2

12

Shahr-e Nau

5 4

13

To Band-e Amir (76km); Yawkawlang (111km)

10 17 21 11 20 14 1

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Eastern art with the Hellenistic tradition left by the Greeks. This Graeco-Buddhic art flowered in Bamiyan, which quickly be- came a major centre of culture and religion where monasteries flourished. Kushan power waned, but Bamiyan re- mained a cultural centre. Another wave of invaders, the White Huns, were assimilated in the 4th century and went on to create two giant statues of Buddha, carved out of the sandstone cliffs of the valley walls, bedecked with jewels and gilt. Bamiyan be- came one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world. Events in the east threatened Bamiyan’s

pre-eminence and in the 7th century, Af- ghanistan felt the eastward thrust of Islam.

BAMIYAN

8

BAMIYAN •• History 115

High in the mountains, Bamiyan clung on to its Buddhist traditions for another 400 years, until the ascendant Ghaznavids fi- nally brought Islam to the valley for good. A series of smaller dynasties held sway

over Bamiyan until the beginning of the 13th century. The Shansabani kings briefly made the valley the capital of a realm stretching as far north as Balkh and Bada- khshan, until they were swept away in the Mongol tidal wave in 1222. Genghis Khan initially sent his favourite grandson to deal with the Shansabani kings and they responded by slaying the young general. As revenge, Genghis sent his warri- ors to storm the citadels. Every living thing in the valley was slaughtered.

0 0

1 km 0.5 miles

Teppe Baba Shah

BAMIYAN

7

To Kakrak Valley (3km)

INFORMATION

Sir Asyab

9

Culture............................(see 6) Director of Information & Bamiyan Business Centre....... D2 Organisation..................(see 10) Afghan Tourist

1

Post Office...........................(see 3) Police..................................... B2 Moneychangers..................... C2 Union................................ C2 Kabul Exchange/Western

4 3 2

Bamiyan Air Strip

SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES

Small Buddha Niche................ B1 Shahr-e Gholghola................ D3 Large Buddha Niche............... A1 Billboard of Ali Mazari............ B2

8 7 6 5

SLEEPING

Zohak Hotel......................... C2 Roof of Bamiyan Hotel......... B2 Marco Polo Hotel................ C2 Mama Najaf........................ C2 Bamiyan Hotel...................... B2 Bamika Hotel......................... A4

14 13 12 11 10 9

EATING

Sakhi Restaurant.................. C2 Kabul Restauarant................ C2 Ghulghula Hotel.................. C2 Fruit & Vegetable Market.... C2 Chaikhana........................... C2 Bakery................................. C2

20 19 18 17 16 15

TRANSPORT

Minibus stand......................21 C2

CENTRAL AFGHANISTAN BA MIYAN &

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