Kabul ancient sites at risk
In Kabul province alone there are more than 50 historical sites, according to Abdul Ahad Abasi, the head of Afghanistan historical artifacts at the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Among them are the 16th century gardens and tomb of Babur, the first Moghul emperor who became so enamoured with Kabul that he asked to be buried here; the Bala Hisar fortress, built around the 5th century; Darulaman Palace, the mausoleums of Timur Shah, who died in 1816, and Abdur Rahman, who ruled from 1880 to 1901, and several mosques including Gul Dasta Mosque, Andarabi Mosque, Uzbakha Mosque, Id Gah Mosque and Shah-e Do Shamshera Mosque.
Bala Hisar, one of the oldest buildings in the capital was the main stronghold to defend Kabul city, but has been ruined due to war and weather; only the southern and southwestern walls remain, Abasi said.
He added that based on the survey they have done, it would cost about $750,000 to repair the remaining walls.
"Bala Hisar is a historical area which should be excavated; there might be other houses which might have been buried due to the collapse of the walls," he said.
The great mud wall of Sher Darwaaza Mountain, built to protect the city, and the Buddhist stupas on Shewaki Mountain also need repairing, he added.
The stupas are cylindrical in shape and it is thought that Buddhist monks worshipped around them, he added.
According to Abasi, the stones of the stupas are from the 6th and 7th centuries.
"There are many historical monuments which are at risk and which must be repaired. If they are not taken care of, they will be destroyed with the passing of time."
During the past three decades of war, two historical monuments built during the reign of Amir Habibullah Khan, including Clock Tower in Pul-i-Mahmood Khan and Jabal Saraj Palace in central Parwan province, have been destroyed, he said.
Though the rest of the historical monuments were not damaged, civil war meant they were not cared for during that time.
“We have repaired Madara Awleya, located in old city of Kabul, and the mosques of Mullah Mahmood and Hazrata which were damaged during the civil war,” Abasi added.
He claimed that about 180 historical and cultural monuments have been repaired throughout the country by the Ministry of Information and Culture with the cooperation of Unesco and the Agha Khan Foundation.
There are 2,000 historical monuments in the country, of which only 450 have been registered with the UN’s cultural agency and another 600 which are in the process of registration, he added.
The Minaret of Jam, in the western province of Herat, which was built in the 12th century, and eight areas in Bamyan province which belong to Kushani era, the 2nd to 5th centuries have been registered with Unesco.
The country’s oldest historical monuments include Nu Gumbad Mosque in northern Balkh province which was built in the 9th century during the Samanian era; the Castle of Ekhtyaruddin in Herat which belongs to the 4th century; and Qala-i-Bost Arch in southern Helmand province which was built during the Ghaznawyan era, in the 10th to 11th centuries, he said.
The directorate of historical monuments is based in the capital and has one office in each province which reports on the state of its historical monuments.
The directorate employs 32 workers, of which only 11 of them are professionals, Abasi said.
He said they had suggested to the Ministry of Information and Culture to increase that number to a total of 50 professional staff.
Any building that is over 100 years old and has some historical and artistic value is counted as a historical monument, he said.
"We should try to preserve our historical monuments and places which are our national properties,” Abasi said.
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