This is a 2004 National Geographic Special filmed in what seemed at the time an optimistic situation in Afghanistan. After nearly 25 years of continual war the country’s heritage collections were seemingly either in shreds or were lost.
Museums had been shelled and looted, outside momuments like the world-famous Bamiyan statues, had been blown up, treasures had disappeared for years on end and archives had been destroyed.
But in many different spheres Afghanis themselves had been working to save their rich cultural heritage, and when the Taliban were removed from power, their work began to emerge.
In the Presidential Palace a fantastic hoard had been hidden away in safes, and was reopened: it contained one of the richest treasures in the world, and more gold objects than in Tutankhamun’s tomb.
In the Museum artists had used water-colours to paint over oil paintings that had forbidden representations of living beings on them. The National Film Archives had survived behind hidden doors.
The Bamiyan statues had been destroyed with explosives, but one Afghani archeologist at least thinks that another, which lies underground, is still there: a thousand foot reclining Buddha statue.
This is the story of the people who worked to save Afgahnistan’s cultural legacy, and their continuing work to preserve it for the future. What that future holds eight years later, is much more uncertain that it might have appeared to be at the time the film was shot.
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