The Taliban are welcoming intrepid travellers to the ancient Bamiyan Buddha statues, historic monuments that the terrorist organisation blew up two decades ago, fresh after their takeover of Afghanistan.
The Bamiyan Buddhas were carved out of a stony cliffside in central Afghanistan’s Bamyan Valley in the sixth century AD and stood around 180 feet tall for 1,400 years, until the Taliban blew them up with heavy explosives in 2001, just before the US invasion ended their brief reign over Afghanistan.
According to carbon dating of the Buddhas’ structural components, the smaller 38 m (125 feet) “Eastern Buddha” was built around 570 AD, while the larger 55 m (180 feet) “Western Buddha” was built around 618 AD.
The location was a Buddhist pilgrimage place along the Silk Road, an ancient trade route between China and Europe.
Now that the Taliban have retaken control, the place has been opened to the public.
According to an NBC News article published last week, interested travellers may pay the Taliban guards the equivalent of $5 at a ticket counter and stare at the empty holes where the Buddha statues formerly stood.
According to NBC, one Afghan visitor came to the site not to grieve the monuments’ loss, but to celebrate their demolition.
“I was young when these were destroyed, about 7 years old, and since then it has been a dream to come and see what happened here.I’m happy it was destroyed. I’m here to see the ruins actually,” he said.
The Taliban faced international pressure to preserve the sculptures when they revealed their plan to demolish them in 2001.
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However, the extremists used large explosives to demolish the monuments, claiming that they were un-Islamic.
Despite a savage crackdown in some regions, the Taliban have attempted to show a more moderate face to the world since retaking control of the nation a few months ago.
International groups are pressuring the hard-line Islamic group to conserve Afghanistan’s cultural legacy as it navigates the economic and security hurdles of managing the country after years of conflict.
(With inputs from agencies)