SALALAH Under the auspices of H.E. Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed Al-Rowas, Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs and President of ICOMOS OMAN, 30 international experts, high Afghan Government officials and international donors from Italy and Japan gathered for a three-day technical meeting in Salalah recently, to discuss the future of the Bamiyan UNESCO World Heritage property and to enhance international cooperation between all relevant stakeholders.
The Bamiyan World Heritage site in Afghanistan has been under UNESCO world heritage protection (since 2003). During the meeting, the participants discussed the recent decisions of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, to improve awareness on international debates regarding the ethics of recovery and reconstruction of cultural heritage, aiming at removing the property from the list of World Heritage in Danger. The international meeting was sponsored by the government of Japan and organized jointly by the Government of Afghanistan, the UNESCO JFIT programme, the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) and Research Centre Indian Ocean (RIO) at GUtech.
According to UNESCO, the cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley represent the artistic and religious developments which characterized ancient Bakhtria between the 1st to the 13th centuries, integrating various cultural influences into the Gandhara school of Buddhist art. The area contains numerous Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries, as well as fortified edifices from the later Islamic period. The area is also testimony of the tragic destruction by the Taliban of the two standing gigantic Buddha statues, which shook the world in March 2001.
To reflect on a possible application of the Omani archaeological park model to the Bamiyan World Heritage property, in Afghanistan, the participants of the international meeting undertook visits to the Land of Frankincense World Heritage property, including the Al Baleed and Khor Rohri museums and its interpretation centres. Inspired by the field visit to the archaeological park in Oman and the ICOMOS ‘Salalah Guidelines for the Management of Public Archaeological Sites’, participants actively discussed opportunities and challenges and how to further protect and promote the Bamiyan World Heritage property.
The meeting included six sessions. The first two sessions presented the current status of the Bamiyan World Heritage Site and current issues of the development in the Bamiyan Valley respectively. The third session focused on the potential rehabilitation of the Eastern Buddha Statue and the fourth session brought up the issue of creating an Archaeological Park in Bamiyan. The following sessions were roundtable discussions regarding donor initiatives in Bamiyan and the final session presented the results of the meeting and opened the discussion for further recommendations. Activities carried out by the Government of Afghanistan, UNESCO and national and international experts, through generous financial assistance from the international community were presented to assess the progress of work in Bamiyan. During the meeting, development initiatives to increase the quality of livelihood of the local community were also introduced by the Afghan government, including a by-pass road and a stone-pavement road in front of the main Buddha cliff, as well as the Bamiyan Strategic Master Plan recently approved by the President of Afghanistan. Prof. Jansen from RIO/GUtech is actively involved in the ‘Bamiyan Cultural Master-Plan’ since 2002.
Group photo of the participants of the International Technical Meeting on the Future of the Bamiyan Heritage Site in Khor Rohri, Sultanate of Oman.