CULTURAL TOUR

Following a two days meeting, the participants of 8th FEMBoSA Meeting in Kabul will take part in a short 6-7 hours cultural tour to central highlands of Afghanistan (Bamiyan) to visit famous Buddha, historical Ghulghula City (Shahri Ghulghula) and Bandi Amir National Park. The participants will be taken from Hotel to Kabul Airport, Domestic Terminal early morning and will take a short flight (40 minutes) in a small chartered aircraft. Bamyan Governor, Mayor, Director of Cultural Affairs and IEC local staff will welcome the guests in Bamyan Local Airport. After a short local cultural session in Ghulghula Hotel where the guests will enjoy local live music with tea/refreshments, the guests will take a tour to visit Buddha and Ghulghula City. Then, guests will take a road trip (probably one hour) by buses to Bandi Amir National Park and will stay in the park for two hours including one hour for lunch. Guests will take a road trip back to Bamiyan City followed by departure to Bamiyan Airport for Kabul.

2017-09-26 , Tuesday
CULTURAL TOUR
07:30 – 08:00 DEPARTURE FROM HOTEL TO KABUL AIRPORT, DOMESTIC TERMINAL
08:00 – 08:30 FLIGHT TO BAMYAN,
08:30 – 09:00 WELCOME BY BAMYAN GOVERNOR, MAYOR, DIRECTOR OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND IEC LOCAL STAFF
09:00 - 09:30 CULTURAL SESSION + TEA/REFRESHMENT (LOCAL MUSIC AND VIDEO FOR INTRODUCING HISTORICAL PLACES OF BAMYAN)
09:30- 11:30 VISIT, HISTORICAL GHULGHULA CITY AND BUDA
11:30 - 12:00 INAUGURATION OF LOCAL ELECTION MUSEUM
12:00 - 13:00 LUNCH,
13:00 - 14:00 ROAD TRIP TO BANDI AMIR,
14:00 - 15:30 VISIT, BANDI AMIR NATIONAL PARK
  1530 - 16:30 TRIP TO BAMYAN CITY
  16:30 - 17:00 DEPARTURE FROM HOTEL TO BAMYAN AIRPORT AND FLIGHT TO KABUL AIRPORT
  17:40 - 18:30 KABUL AIRPORT TO HOTEL
BAMIYAN THE FIRST EVER CULTURAL CAPITAL OF SAARC
Bamiyan, the Afghan town which shot into prominence when the Taliban blew up two ancient statues of the Buddha in 2001, has been selected to be the SAARC Cultural Capital for a year beginning April 2015. Dhaka was the next SAARC Cultural Capital in 2016-17.

This was decided at the SAARC Culture Ministers Conference which concluded finalizing the Cultural Capitals for the next two years was part of the Delhi Resolution which was adopted at the conference while preparing a road map on cultural ties till 2017. Should be mentioned that the year 2016-17 was also declared the SAARC Year of Cultural Heritage.

Bamyan Province has several famous historical sites besides the famous Buddha statues with more than 3,000 caves around it, the Band-i-Amir National Park, Dara-i-Ajhdar, Gholghola and Zakhak ancient towns, the Feroz Bahar, Astopa, Klegan, Gaohargin, Kaferan and Cheldukhtaran.

Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley. The kingdom of Bamiyan was a Buddhist state along the trade routes that for centuries linked China and Central Asia and the west (the Silk Route). The Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley is an exceptional representation of the Buddhist art of 1st to 13th centuries. Eight separate sites exist within the Bamiyan Valley:
The two niches of the giant Buddha statues (55m and 38m high) carved into the Bamiyan Cliffs were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. They were probably erected in the 4th or 5th century and were largest examples of standing Buddha carvings in the world.

The Kakrak Valley caves date from the 6th to 13th centuries. These lie some 3km south-east of the Bamiyan cliffs. Qoul-i Akram amd Kalai Ghamai caves are the two main important groups of the Fuladi Valley caves.

Forts of Shahr-i Zuhak and Qallai Kaphari dating from 6th to 8th centuries, under the rule of the Islamic Ghaznavid and Ghorid dynasties. Shahr-i Ghulghulah is a fortified citadel in the centre of the valley and dates from the 6th to 8th centuries.

Today, Bamiyan still embraces the memories of a glorious past in its tranquillity. Giant Buddhas niches carved in the red cliff overlooking the valley indelibly marked Bamiyan as a Buddhist centre of pilgrimage where pilgrims gathered to share and partake in rites of life and eternity. The vivid silhouette of Shahr-i Ghulghulah still suggest the ancient citadel fighting off invasions. You can travel to the waters of Band- e-Amir, where natural dams have created a string of vivid blue lakes set in the starkest of landscapes. To travel here is to discover something of an older world inhabited by merchants, pilgrims and conquerors from half of Asia. . You will encounter the “heart” of Afghanistan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and discover one of the safest, greatest and least known destinations of Asia, now opening up to the world once more.
PLACES TO BE VISITED IN BAMIYAN BY PARTICIPANTS
GIANT BUDDHAS OF BAMIYAN
Believed to be the burial site of important saints, Bamiyan was a Buddhist center under the Kushan Emperors. The famous Giant Buddhas were carved into the cliffs of Bamiyan between the 3rd and the 6th centuries CE. Bamiyan with its archeological remains is the most conspicuous tourist sit of Afghanistan. The village lies about 2500m above sea level, 240 km west of Kabul attracts thousands of visitors annually. The exquisite beauty of this valley is embraced by the snowcapped range of the Kohe Baba Mountains in the south and in the north by the steep cliffs in which massive images of Buddha are carved.

The pastel colors of its surroundings give visitors an impression of the magnificence and serenity of nature. The area of Bamiyan developed under Kanishka the great to become a major commercial and religious center and the smaller statue of Buddha (38 m high) was built during his reign. Two centuries later the colossal Buddha statue (55m high) was carved. Thousands of ornamented caves, from the entire Buddhist world poured into Bamiyan to admire its spectacular and sacred sites. Bamiyan fell to the Islamic conquerors in the 9th century.

Prior to their recent destruction, the 6th-7th century, rock-cut Buddha sculptures in the Bamiyan Valley of central Afghanistan were considered the largest in the world. Known collectively as the Bamiyan Buddhas, the two monumental sculptures have amazed both Buddhist and non-Buddhist visitors for more than a thousand years. Like many of the world’s great ancient monuments, little is known about who commissioned the Bamiyan Buddhas or the sculptors who carved them. However, their very existence points to the importance of the Buddhist faith and the Bamiyan Valley during this period.

Historical documents mention that celebrations were held every year attracting numerous pilgrims eager to pay devotion and make their offerings to the Buddhas -- the Western “Big” Buddha, a 55 metre-high “Salsal Buddha,” and the Eastern “Small” Buddha, a 38 metre-high “Shamama Buddha.” Although the statues were destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, the site is a historical complex with outstanding universal value, and has been classified as such by UNESCO. Stairways that lead to the head of the Buddhas, presumably used by the pilgrims to pray and bring their offerings, and over 500 caves with traces of murals and carved decorations from over a thousand years await visitors.
SHAHRE GHOLGHOLA
Shahre Gholghola
The Islamic city of Bamiyan was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1221 in revenge of the death of his grandson Mutugen. The ruins of the citadel called city of noise, still give evidence of its magnitude before Mongol devastation.

A twenty-minute walk to the southeast of the modern bazaar, punctuating the Centre of the valley basin to the south of the great cliff are the remains of the fortress of Shahr-i Ghulghulah. Dating from the 6th to 10th centuries CE, this marks the original settlement of Bamiyan as stopping place on the branch of the Silk Route, which linked China and India via ancient Bactria.
SHAHRE ZOHAK
Shahre Zohak
Further east, along the Bamiyan Valley, are the remains of fortification walls and settlements, dating from the 6th to 8th centuries, called Shahr-i-Zuhak (the “Red City”). The earlier remains of the site are overlaid by later constructions from the 10th to 13th centuries erected under the rule of the Islamic Ghaznavid and Ghorid dynasties.

Climbing 150 metres up the cliff, the site offers spectacular views up the Hajigak Valley and to the Kuh-e-Baba mountains. Just south of the main road, close to Shahr-i-Zuhak, stands a ruined but substantial caravanserai. Little is known about its history, but it is probably 18th-20th century in origin.
BAND-E-AMIR
Band-e-Amir National Park
Visitors to Afghanistan have marveled at the country's natural beauty. The formidable Hindu Kush the vest Turkistan plains, and the seclusion of the southern deserts have impressed travelers from Alexander the great to Marco Polo. It is the unspoiled natural beauty that forms the visitor's first and most enduring impression lakes of Bande Amir are perhaps the most outstanding situated in the mountainous Hazarajat at an altitude of approximately 3000 m, 75 km from Bamiyan, these majestic blue lakes are of legendary beauty.

The dramatic series of six lakes known as Band-e-Amir is one of Afghanistan’s best known natural sites. Located in a wild plateau about 70 km west of Bamiyan town, the lakes have been proposed as the centre of the country’s first national park. Separated by natural dams, each lake is several metres lower than the one above it. The largest lake, Zulfiqar, measures 490 hectares. The dams separating the lakes are formed of travertine, a form of calcium carbonate. Band-e-Amir is one of the world’s most significant examples of this type of formation.

Waterfalls form where water pours over the lip of the dams, freezing into dramatic ice formations in winter. Shrubs and marshland around the lakes make them an important habitat for migratory birds.

The site plays an important role in local tradition. A lakeside shrine, visited by thousands of faithful in the summer, marks the place where Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, is said to have prayed.