Bamyan: The Beautiful Valley of Ruins


One of the most picturesque regions with spectacular natural beauty, Bamyan attracts most number of tourists today because of the Buddha ruins, mountains and lakes
Mark Henry, a boisterous English traveler, came to Kabul in the summer of 1976 on a short trip. After taking pleasure in the modest comforts of city for a few days, he headed north to Bamyan, which was a forlorn and isolated place tucked in the Hindu Kush Mountains. He was fascinated by the ancient caves of Buddhist monks, the imposing statues of Buddha. He roamed around, clicked pictures, took notes and promised to return one day for a longer stint. But, some years later, the country descended into chaos and Henry had to shelve his plan of returning.
Henry did not get any travel advisory from his government. But when the war broke out and fierce clashes erupted, mostly in the frontier border provinces, many foreign ministries began to issue travel advisories to their citizens, singling out Afghanistan as the most dangerous destination. In the last one decade, however, things have graduall limped back to normalcy. But Henry, now 68, is wary of returning. His son Andrew, though, has plans to spend next summer holidays in Afghanistan.
After groping in the dark for years, Afghanistan has made tremendous comeback in last one decade, with the help of international community. Tourism sector has been developed and many foreign tourists are flocking to the country. One of the most picturesque regions with spectacular natural beauty, Bamyan is more famous for its ruins of Buddha today. Constructed sometime in the 6th century, they were a target of cultural vandalism over the centuries, and finally in 2001, Taliban rolled in the tanks and destroyed them. After the Taliban's ouster, the valley was declared the world heritage site by UNESCO.
There was a talk of UNESCO rebuilding the statues but the world body last year laid all speculations to rest, announcing that it was not considering their restoration. Now, visitors mostly go there for ruins.
However, there are other attractions like the historic caves inside with painted frescos that attract lot of foreign tourists. Then there is Shehr e Gholghola, a fort overlooking the town that gives breathtaking view of the city.

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