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Frequently Asked Questions



FAQ Arts and Culture

What are the Buddhas of Bamiyan?

Etched into the dappled sandstone of the Bamiyan mountains are the faint remains of the once colossal Buddha statues that silently watched over the Bamiyan Valley for 1500 years. The Taliban’s destruction of the 174-feet and 115-feet tall monuments caused an uproar in March 2001. Recent efforts in the region hope to restore their magnitude and reintroduce their cultural significance.

The statues, which took Buddhist monks several decades to construct, date back to the 3rd and 4th century. Composed of mud-and-straw plaster and stucco, the Buddhas also harbored a variety of frescoes that decorated the walls in their vicinity. Until the 9th century, Bamiyan was a thriving Buddhist metropolis. Lying along the Silk Road, the area was frequented by many travelers who traversed the famous trade route linking China, Central Asia and Europe. Bamiyan’s beauty and the majestic presence of the buddhas have recounted in several ancient texts.

The structures, though over 1,500 years old, were remarkably resilient to demolition. The Taliban required several weeks of bombings to finally crumble the monuments, which they deemed idolatrous and un-Islamic. In 2003, in the wake of the Taliban destruction, UNESCO declared Bamiyan a World Heritage Site.

Beneath the shards of detonated bombs and rubble, archaeologists and other experts are attempting to gather and reassemble parts of the statues. Some hope that recovery of the fragments will lead to preservation and more importantly, reconstruction of the buddhas. Due to a lack of detailed photography, it is increasingly difficult to match fragments to their corresponding statue, but modern technology allows geologists to “fingerprint” pieces of the statues, which will later be scanned into computers and used to assemble the fragments. However, many Afghans and cultural experts believe that the statues should not be rebuilt, and that their absence is a stark reminder of the cultural destruction of the Taliban era.

 

Recently, archaeologists, engineers and architects have flocked to the Bamiyan Valley to search for buried Buddhist monasteries as well as a legendary 1,000-foot long reclining buddha statue. Zemaryalai Tarzi, an Afghan archaeologist, believes another giant Buddha may be hidden deep beneath the earth in the Bamiyan valley. A Chinese visitor in 632 described a reclining figure 1,000 feet long – if the account is accurate, the reclining Buddha is as wide as the Eiffel Tower is long.

Tarzi's recent excavations have unearthed one of the 10 monasteries that he says existed in Bamiyan. While the monastery did not yield any signs of the sought-after statue, the discovery was nonetheless an important step in reclaiming the cultural heritage and history that diminished with the demise of the two Giant Buddhas.


What happened to Afghanistan’s art and culture under the Taliban?

The Taliban infamously destroyed the famed giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan. During the civil war, as well as the Taliban reign, the Kabul Museum, which once had one of the best collections of Central Asian art, was continuously looted. Today, many of these items are being recovered and restored to former beauty.

What is being done to preserve Afghanistan’s rich cultural and archaeological heritage?

Today, numerous efforts are being made by both the international community and the Government of Afghanistan to preserve and protects Afghanistan’s cherished cultural and historical sites. One organization, the Association for the Protection of Afghan Archeology (APAA), has been especially active in ensuring the promotion of Afghan archaeological and cultural Heritage. Through educational campaigns, APAA promotes the inherent value of archaeological treasures to cultural identity, and focuses on the plight of the Afghan people currently in the process of reclaiming their cultural heritage.

What kind of food is eaten in Afghanistan?

 

Afghan cuisine is an appetizing cross between the flavors of the Mediterranean, Middle East, Iran and India. It contains several rice dishes that are often served with a assortment of thick, curried sauces cooked with lamb, beef and chicken. Spinach and eggplants constitute two commonly eaten vegetables. Traditional Afghan fare is rich in spices like as cardamom, which lends a sweet, aromatic quality to drinks and dishes.

 

A quintessential Afghan dish, Qabili Palao consists of raisins, carrots, and lamb with browned rice. Variations in the dish include the addition of sliced almonds or pistachios. Another important savory dish is Aushak – a leek-stuffed dumpling that is served over a garlic yogurt sauce and layered with a thick ground-beef tomato sauce with dried mint and crushed red pepper sprinkled on top. Appealing to their meat-centric gastronomy, Afghans also enjoy kabobs, which are skewers of meat heavily marinated in a delectable concoction of herbs and spices.

 

Afghan desserts are robust in flavor, often drawing upon fragrant ingredients, such as rosewater and cardamom. A popular treat is a creamy, custard-like dessert similar to the Italian Pannecotta with a crushed pistachio topping.

 

With its mélange of flavors, Afghan cuisine offers food to appease even the most demanding palate.

 

What are the holidays celebrated in Afghanistan?

• March 21: Newrooz - Afghanistan’s New Year’s Day and the first day of Spring
• September 9: Anniversary of Martyrdom of Afghan National Hero Ahmad Shah Massoud
• March 3: Ashurah - The tenth day of the month Muharram is a day of mourning commemorating the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussain at the battle of Kerbala.
• Eid al-fitr: After a month of Fasting (Ramadan), Afghans visit or entertain their friends and give gifts.
• Eid al-adha: The tenth day of the twelfth month of the Higra calendar commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s devotion to God. This day is celebrated in the same fashion as Eid al-Fitr
• April 11: Mawleed al-Nabi: The 12th day of Rabi al-Awal celebrates the Prophet’s birthday


 

 

 

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