Newly restored Islamic Shrines in the Foladi Valley in Bamiyan
The name of Ancient Bamiyan reminds many people around the world of the period of Buddhism in Central Asia and the two gigantic Buddha Statues destroyed in 2001, but now the Bamiyan people in the central highlands of Afghanistan with the help of UNESCO have a newly restored Islamic shrine. Not far from Bamiyan center and within the Foladi Valley, this Islamic historical complex is showing off to remind visitors of the roots of Islamic civilization in Bamiyan. The local community and many other people from Bamiyan deeply respect the site which is called Khawja Sabzpush or Sayed Sultan.
The UNESCO Kabul Office with support of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) hascarried outan emergency stabilization activities aiming to preserve the historical monuments in Bamiyan province, much focusing on the Islamic archaeological remains. In this framework a committee consisting of UNESCO cultural specialists and the experts from the Ministry of Information and Culture took an advisory mission to Bamiyan in autumn 2011 for identifying the significant monuments. Many discussions with different stakeholders led the team to the Shrine of Khawja Sabzpush which has been a living historical building in Bamiyan for centuries.
Khawja Sabzpush, a large complex of three buildings with a single mausoleum and one of the outstanding Islamic living buildings in the province, has been an integral part of the community life in this rural settlement. It is a place of worship and symbolizes an important connection with religious heritage and community identity. The preservation of such monuments has a significant communal benefit which promotes a positive inter-cultural link between the communities living in Bamiyan.
The conservation work started in Spring2012, Mr. Praxethalera UNESCO Expert who was leading the restoration team at this historical building says, “due to the precarious state of almost all foundations, the first approach was to provide stable bases for foundation walls which some part of this foundation partly had fallen down, and the building was there without stable base”. The overall objective of the project was not only to document and potentially undertake stabilization work on a historical site but also to raise public awareness throughout Bamiyan of the value of its cultural heritage and the responsibilities of its protection and preservation for future generations.
Dr. Habiba Sarabi, the Governor of Bamiyan in a site visit after the Bamiyan Coordination Meeting in June 2012 said “the restoration and conservation work at the Khwaja Sabzposh is adding value to the live heritage of Bamiyan which is functioning and gives a good message to the people that the archaeological buildings are theirs”.
UNESCO continues to work with the Government of Afghanistan not only for preserving the World Heritage Property of Bamiyan but other historical elements in across Afghanistan.
By: Reza Sharifi, UNESCO Kabul; r.sharifi(at)unesco.org