It’s sort of bizare to visit Afghanistan and not head down to Bamyan. I mean seriously, we’re talking about Bamyan here. A city of unforgettable history and mystery of the many kingdoms that rose and fell within time.
Bamyan comes from a literal phrase meaning, ‘the place of shining light’, so you can imagine why it was named such back in the days. What is now an ancient city of Afghanistan, once used to be part of the famous Silk Road, otherwise known as the Silk Route between the east and the west. A famous trade link where goods, gossips of empires, and ideas were exchanged amongst different civilisations of the time.
The city has been ruled by many empires including the Khushan Empire, Sassanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Qarlughids. My god, you get the pattern, all the ‘id’s’, plus an addition of the Hephtalites, Kushano-Hephthalite and Genghis Khan of the Mongols that we all know. It’s no surprise that the city details a mixture of Indian, Chinese, Persian, Greek, and Turkish culture.
We’ve talked about the history, so let’s get straight into the mystery of the city. If there’s one thing Bamyan is well known for, it is the Buddha’s encarved within the cliff of the mountain that overshadows Bamyan’s central village. A fascinating monument that not only beautifies the city but also adds some major sense of culture and pride to it.
The Giant Buddha’s
Not sure if this was only me, but I always thought that the three Buddha’s were next to each other, but they actually aren’t. All the Buddha’s are distant from one another, however carved within the same GIGANTIC cliff. It looks as though they’re a family, like daddy Buddha, mother Buddha and child Bhudda. Pardon me for sounding so childish, but it really appeared as so. Also, when you visit Bamyan, don’t forget to climb the staircases that circulates around the Buddha statue, a very impressive experience must say. Do watch out for them caves that come in different sizes and patterns, although its colours have been damaged since its creation. Spot the camel!
My Uncle returns to Bamyan after twenty-eight years
My visit to Bamyan in September 2017 also marked my uncle’s visit to this beautiful place after twenty-eight years. He described the place as different, “everything has changed”, he said. He’d go on about how he and his fellow colleagues climbed the giant buddha’s ears, and how unfortunate that we can no longer see the beauty he saw back in the days. Twenty-eight years ago, long before the invasion of the Taliban regime, Bamyan used to be one of Afghanistan’s favourite tourist destination. What is left now off is the destroyed Buddha’s and a cemetery in front of it that once used to be a market place. How unfortunate that such a unique and invaluebale piece of history was destroyed by the hands of such perpetrators. People who are responsible for the stigma that has been placed upon my fellow Afghans and my country. Already heated up but I’ll refrain from this topic, because I hate it as much.
The tale of Shahr-e-Gholghola
Otherwise known as the ‘city of screams/sighs’, Shahr-e-Gholghola is a famous site in the centre of Bamyan city displaying the ruins of Genghis Khan from the 12th century. A time where thousands of Bamyani inhabitants were masssacred by the powerful Mongol army to avenge the death of Genghis’ nephew and grandson whom were murdered in Bamyan. A walk up the hill, you’ll notice little houses build on top of each other, some ruined and some still intact. There’s also a citadel that is almost half broken which stands at the very top of the hill-like village. A small house is also built right next to the village on the ground level for government workers who keep an eye on the place 24/7. While I was there, there were two Afghan soldiers from Parvan Province, whom were allocated to Bamyan to safegaurd the place.
According to the villagers, there is an underground tunnel from Shahr-e-Gholghola that leads to the famous Shahr-e-Zohak, also known as ‘the red city’ (about 9km away from Bamyan city). A village famously known for its ruined fortresses that are built on stone foundations dating back to the 6th century. This tunnel is now believed to be closed down for safety reasons. When I say safety, I’m refering to ghosts, assumingly the people who were massacred back in the days by Genghis Khan. Apparently, their screams can be heard inside this tunnel and village at night, hence no one dares to step inside the place when dark. Not sure if this tale is just a myth but I’m getting goosebumps already!
Another legend & dreamy landscape | Kohi Azhdar
The valley of dragon, otherwise refered to as Kohi Azhdar by Bamyani locals is another famous folktale of Bamyan. About ten minutes drive from Bamyan bazar (market), past the canyon-like village lays the famous Azhdar (dragon). Looks nothing like one, until you climb the rocky mountain. As you reach the top, you’ll notice a small Mazhar (shrine), a place where Hazrat Ali killed this enormous dragon. Below are pictures of the dragon’s back that was cut in half and the dragon’s eyes, still in crying mode and very salty. What a legendary tale! Should perhaps get a drone next time to view this dragon from above.
Bamyan villages & its people
Although I didn’t spend much time roaming around Bamyan’s little villages, I sort of got a glimpse of the different kinds of villages and people that reside in the area. There’s a central market in the middle of the city, very crowded. OMG! talking about crowd, we arrived in Bamyan the day before Eid-e-Qurban (Second Eid Festival after Ramadan in September). As we were roaming the shops, somehow I bumped into this old man, and my scarf got tangled with the button on his shirt. Yeh, Bollywood scene right there! was only missing a Shahruk Khan track to be honest. Typical clumsy me!
See I’m getting out of topic. Back to Bamyani people, gosh they’re such sweethearts. Very down to earth! People work and harvest just enough to feed their family. Can you imagine a life like that?
Oh, and yes Potatoes are a thing there. And also them cave houses which I didn’t get to see a close up off. Not a problem, next time hopefully.
And before I go blabbing on about this and that, I’ll leave you with my favourite picture from Bamyan | A place I truly fell in love with…