KABUL, May 18 (Xinhua/GNA) — A few hundred meters from Dar-ul-Aman Palace, a destroyed historic citadel, the two-story Kabul museum showcases the cultural relics of Afghanistan, a crossroad of the ancient world, to the war-weary Afghans and foreign visitors.

 

“Afghanistan itself is similar to a museum,” said Fawzia Hamraz who is in charge of the ethnographic department of the Afghan National Museum (Kabul Museum), referring to the numerous archeological sites across the militancy-hit country.

 

After Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and collapse of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government in 1992, fierce fighting occurred particularly in western and southern Kabul and also during the Taliban regime (1996-2001) when most of the treasures in the museum were looted and some were deliberately destroyed, she said.

 

Now in ruins, the Dar-ul-Aman Palace is a European-style palace located about 16 kilometers southwest of the center of Afghan capital Kabul. The palace was built in the early 1920s as a part of the plan by King Amandullah Khan.

 

Hamraz was one of the staff members who rushed to the museum as soon as she heard that Taliban were driven out of the city in late 2001.

 

“The moment when I came to museum after Taliban pulled out the city, the scene around the museum building was disastrous and the building was ruinous,” said Hamraz who has been working for 28 years at the museum excluding a six-year gap when Taliban who confined women to house were in power.

 

“All these wooden sculptures from eastern Nuristan province were like a mound of wood after I came back to museum and I began to renovate them in early 2002 before an expert arrived in Kabul to help me from Austria,” she said.

 

The 50-year-old museum protector recalled that the Soviet- backed President Najibullah, whose government fell in 1992, also played a role to preserve several dozens of items by moving them to a safer place inside the presidential palace in central Kabul.

 

“Everything that we remember is that the decision was made by a committee and President Najibullah ordered the objects to be moved to the presidential palace in fears of being looted in upcoming fighting,” she said.

 

“Most of our visitors are university students and school children who frequently get transportation provided by government and private education institutions, but we also have foreign tourists,” she said.

 

The International Museum Day falls on May 18 every year but there has been no official gathering or meeting to mark the event in Afghanistan. In an effort to attract visitors, the admission is free on Fridays, an official holiday in Afghanistan.

 

“The Kabul museum is open seven days a week, and it is aimed at arousing viewers’ interest in cultural relics, heritage and ancient objects as well as raising public awareness about protecting the historic articles and artifacts,” Hamraz said.

 

According to the director, the Kabul museum was first founded in 1919 when Afghanistan declared its independence and King Amaullah Khan begun to modernize the country.

 

“Initially the items displayed at this museum included embroider clothes, elaborated silky clothes, military uniform and equipment, but later on all historic articles were collected from across the country and put here for display,” she said.

 

Hamraz hoped that the Afghan government and the international community enhance the support to their efforts on museums and cultural heritage sites.

 

Earlier this year, Germany has given back an ancient pre- Islamic sculpture looted during the civil war, giving confidence to every Afghan that one day the rest of the stolen items would return home and would be in display in Kabul museum again.

 

A cemented plaque in front of the Kabul museum states that “A NATION STAYS ALIVE WHEN ITS CULTURE STAYS ALIVE”.

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