“Peace and Prosperity Through Tourism”

Band-e-Amir, Bamiyan Afghanistan. Photo by Ali Asghar

UNWTO should prefer Bamyan as Host to 2010 World Tourism Day under the theme of “Peace and Prosperity through Tourism”

World Tourism Day is celebrated each year on 27 September. The United Nations World Tourism Organization marked the day in 1970, aimed at generating awareness about tourism and its importance to economy and culture of communities. Every year the day is celebrated by a host country.

There has been no effort at all, by the Government of Afghanistan to promote tourism in the country. Beside the Government inefficiency, insurgency has been another reason. Afghanistan is always on western headlines for insurgency, bomb blasts and suicide attacks but the other side of Afghanistan is less shown to the world.There are many tourist sites in safe parts of Afghanistan. The western media generally reports “Insurgency in Afghanistan” for incidents in South or Southeast. This negative and exaggerating reporting makes the western tourists think of entire Afghanistan as insurgency-hit. Thus many international tourists avoid coming to Afghanistan.

Before the civil war Bamyan was one of the most famous tourist sites in Afghanistan. Tourism was the only source of income for this isolated, yet safest province. Famous as roof of the world, heart of Asia and crossroad of the Western and Eastern ancient civilizations, the beautiful valley lies amidst the mountainous highlands of Hindu Kush and Pamir. Center of the ancient Kushan Empire. Bamyan centuries ago used to be an intersection where Eastern and Western civilizations met and co-existed. Thus the land was the center of trade between East and West. Bamyan has rich history of civilizations and tragic memories of brutality. Beauty of this valley had not only impressed Marco Polo, but also Alexander the Great. Bamyan is at the altitude of 9200 (feet), making it roof of the world. Its geographical location highlights the mountainous valley as heart of Asia.

During the brutal Taliban era, Bamyan was a symbol of resistance and sacrifice. It suffered the most. But today it’s the safest province of Afghanistan. There has ot been a single incident of insecurity in the province during the last eight years. The Kiwi forces of Provincial Reconstruction Team enjoy wrestling with local Hazaras.

Bamyan gained international attention in 2001 when Taliban destroyed the giant Buddhas that stood there since centuries. The brutal forces of evil deemed the Buddhas as non-Islamic. They not only committed the worst genocidal war crimes in the history of human beings, but also destroyed the centuries old Buddhas which was the only source of income for the downtrodden economy of the isolated mountainous province. According to some reports, one of the reasons behind the destruction of Bamyan Buddhas was to destroy the economic resources of the province. After the ouster of Taliban and during the last seven years of international efforts in Afghanistan, Bamyan has been neglected both by the Government and the international community.

There is only two kilometers of paved road in the entire province. Billions of dollars has been poured in Afghanistan for development. All these have been going to insurgency-hit areas. The roads from Kabul to Bamyan are risky due to insecurity on the way from Maidan Province, and the long uncomfortable way from Shiber Pass. Many tourists and travelers prefer traveling by air. There are no proper flights because Bamyan is yet deprived of a proper Airport. Some private flights of UN and PACTEC operate for INGOs, diplomats and journalists. Thanks to Laura Bush, whose visit of Bamyan last year in June blessed the province with 2 kilometer road from Governor House to the Runway. Many international tourists avoid traveling to Bamyan because of the deplorable way and unavailability of an Airport.

Governor Sarabi and UN Envoy Kai Eide boating in Band-e-Amir. Photo by A. Daiyar

After Buddhas, Band-e-Amir, the world famous group of lakes, is the second attractive site for international tourists. Govt. declared Band-e-Amir as the First National Park of Afghanistan. How can tourists visit the world-famous group of lakes with no airport in Bamyan? USAID is working on project of developing Band-e-Amir, the National Park. But a paved road from the center of the province to the lakes is needed. The road from Kabul to Bamyan should also be built to improve local tourists coming to Bamyan.

Bamyan Eco-Tourism, a project being run under the Agha Khan Development Network, is working for improving the tourism industry of Bamyan. Their office right in front of the giant Buddha statues are not only training professional tour guides, but also have been organizing trainings for local hoteliers. The 1.2 million aid by the Government of New Zealand is for the three-year project. Bamyan Eco-Tourism is doing all the best to revitalize the dead industry. It has organized many international events, including the recent Silk Road Festival held at Band-e-Amir.

The international community should focus to the peaceful areas of Afghanistan too. All the development aid has been going to insurgency-hit areas due to which places like Bamyan have remained neglected. If tourism industry in Bamyan is improved, it will not only be a good income for the province, but the entire economy of the country. It will create hundreds of jobs for local population.

To highlight this issue, the UN Envoy for Afghansitan Mr. Kai Eidie recently visited Bamyan province to bring the attention of international community to this peaceful, but neglected province.

Bamyan is the most peaceful province of Afghanistan, thus international tourists should flock without any security fear. The United Nations World Tourism Organization is requested to prefer Afghanistan’s Bamyan province as the 2010 host of the World Tourism Day under the theme of “Peace and Prosperity through Tourism”.

9 Comments

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9 responses to ““Peace and Prosperity Through Tourism”

  1. Muhammad Hussain

    After reading your comments on World tourism day i agree with your idea, though there are many places which can host the world tourism day in more better way but there is no place except Bamiyan to host the world tourism day under the theme of peace and prosperity, because Bamiyan a city of war going country(Afghanistan) so in order to promote peace and prosperity in the world Bamiyan is a better place for hosting world tourism day.

  2. Ali Asghar

    Happy to see the picture which I share few months ago on the top of this page. It promotes tourism in Bamayn that is one of my achivements.AA

  3. Riitta Känkänen

    I would like to know about the possibilities to travel to Afghanistan peaceful areas.
    How could I reach any information of those who could be able to provide such trips?

    Thanks alot,

    Riitta from Finland

  4. Ali Asghar

    Ritta,
    Afghanisthan from out side seems to be completely out of order, but there are areas in Afghanithan where it is completely peace, like the areas where specialy Hazara ethnic groups lives.
    To give you example in Hazarajth not a single coalition forces has been even injured or killed yet from after 9/11. Which shows it is realy peaceful.
    In Hazarajth you visit Bamyan where you can enjoy the History(World’s largest Buddah), culture, ppl, beautiful climate and nature lakes like Band Ameer(The picture above).
    How to get Bamyan, is that you to go to Kabul and from there you can get a Pactek(I don;t know if I spelled right) flight to Bamyan or rent a vehicle to Bamyan. Bamyan is 175Km far from Kabul, but it takes 7 hours to reach and in winter more, due to rough roads and snow on the mountains.
    There is a nice Hotel called Silk Road Hotel, you can stay there and it is completley safe for you to walk arround day and night (Not nights in winter, because of wolfs sometimes).
    The best months to visit Bamyan are May-September.
    Beside Visiting Bamyan, you can also have a trip to Mazar-e-sharif, it is one of the safe cities of Afghanistan.

    Want to know further details, you can mail me on aliasghar95@yahoo..com

    C u in Bamyan : )

    • Riitta

      Thanks a lot Ali Ashgar for your reply. If any time coming a possibility to travel there, I will be in contact with you. Stay blessed.

  5. ashu

    This is such a great article :-) Thanks for sharing how beautiful Bamiyan is!

    Do you think it will be safe for a Indian to travel to Bamiyan?

  6. Ali Asghar

    No matter from where ever you are. It is safe to visit Bamyan.

  7. Khalid Noori

    Dear Ali asghar,
    With many tnx of your great picture I would like to use this pic in a afghan student organization with your permission as great picture of Afghanistan.

    Thanks again

  8. Are there any school text books that narrate short stories on Ancient Bamyian Valley’s daily life & activities prior to Christ era , excluding historians travelogues.

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