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Photo by: Maryam Mehtar

Photo by: Maryam Mehtar

The Seventh Annual Silk Road Festival was held in  Bamyan  August 24-29, 2015. Bamyan, which this year was designated the first cultural capital of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is well-suited for such an event. Its beautiful mountains and deep blue lakes make it a magnet for tourists, and the tragedy of its 1500-year-old Buddhas, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, is known all over the world.

This Silk Road festival, like its predecessors, was full of song and dance, along with  handicrafts, local food festivals, a SAARC art display, a film festival, and local games and concerts in nearby Band-e-Amir.

But what made it so special this year was the light show, in which a 3-D hologram of the lost Buddhas for a few magical moments filled the hollow caves where they once stood.

The festival was a great success: According to Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, deputy governor of Bamyan, up to 60,000 visitors came to Bamyan for the festival.

Ahmadi added that most of the tourists had come from districts in Bamyan  province, but others were housed in one of Bamyan’s 50 hotels. Even that was not enough — Bamyan’s hotel capacity is only about 35,000 beds, so some had to camp out or stay with local residents.

The festival was a stretch for the cash-strapped Afghan government, which gave nearly$500,000 to the event. The Aga Khan Foundation also contributed about $50,000

The security is good in Bamyan; concertgoers were not subjected to body searches, and, aside from some soldiers patrolling in the area, things were very calm. This is a rarity, given the precarious situation in much of the rest of the country.

As one festival participant put it: “It was almost like not being in Afghanistan at all.”

Marzia Muhajir

Marzia Muhajir

A Photo Essay by Marzia Mahajir, student in 9th grade at Marefat High School

On Friday, August 28, I arrived in Bamyan and rushed to Band-e-Amir, which is about 90 minutes away from the city by road. The Silk Road Festival was in its final day and a concert was about to start.

When I reached Band-e-Amir, the scene was one of celebration and happiness. Thousands of men and women were singing and clapping in the sunlight, they were laughing and having fun.

Among all the male signers, there was only one woman, Sahar Aryan. She sang with Arash Barez, a well-known Afghan pop singer.

They sang of Afghan women’s pain and the difficulties of Afghan men.

“Afghan woman’s pain and a man’s uncomfortable condition of an Afghan man” was the maIn topic of their duet.

Arash and Sahar

Arash and Sahar

 

Security forces were there even at the top of hills to provide security for the people.

Security forces on the top of hill!

Security forces on the top of hill!

This program ended with Arash Barez and a local singer, Sayed Anwar,  who got the audience dancing with the song “Hami mo pag berari” which means all people are brothers.

 

There was not much media coverage, just a few TV stations filming the fun.

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Then one young man decided he wanted to see the beauty of Bamyan from up in the air.  This was something quite new and amazing for the audience, who had never seen hang-gliders before.

A man flying in a hang glider

A man flying in a hang glider

As soon the concert ended, I went to see the beautiful blue lakes of Band-e-Amir. Even though there are not many entertainment facilities for the people, there are small boats where people can enjoy getting out on the lakes.

What was amazing for me was that even soldiers were having fun.

A policeman inside the boat

A policeman inside the boat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 7:00 p.m. we returned to Bamyan to the famous Buddhas. As everyone knows, they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, but a Chinese couple has managed to bring them back for a few magic moments with a 3-D hologram. But when the laser show ended, the caves were once again empty.

Buddha the great!

Buddha the great!

Next morning I went to Gholghola city. History tells us that Ghengis Khan destroyed Gholghola after his grandson was killed here.

When I arrived in Gholghola, I could only see destruction: the remains of burnt walls and destroyed towers.

 

Gholghola City

Gholghola City

 

When I came down from the city, I saw a girl of my own age, hard at work. Her forefathers were people of creativity and pride, but now their children are in this condition.

A Bamyani girl working

A Bamyani girl working

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The Buddhas Come Back to Bamyan

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