Herman Nootix in Afghanistan
Herman: Greetings, gumshoe! Professor Herman Nootix at your service. Let’s take a stroll.
In Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley one thing is sure to catch your eyes – this 175-foot statue of Buddha, carved into the limestone cliffs by monks around 1,400 years ago. Time, weather, and invading armies have damaged this giant, but a monument like this makes you stare in wonder just the same!
Buddhism began in India and this is far west as you travel. The Buddhist monks who lived here in Bamiyan renowned greed and selfishness. And they must have been serious – they lived in huge holes that they carved in the cliffsides. What exactly cushy surroundings.
The statues here were built by Buddhists. But today, nearly everyone in Afghanistan is Muslim. Of course like other religions, Islam has several variations, and like many countries, Afghanistan has different ethnic groups. So, you have one basic religion, but many different kinds of Afghans.
Even though we’re in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, we’re still pretty high up – 8,500 feet above sea level. The weather here can get very, very nasty. In fact, when invading Mongol armies took Bamiyan from the Buddhists who built it, they quickly abandoned it themselves. They just weren’t ready for the cold winter.
Afghanistan has been invaded over and over throughout history. You could argue about why, but there’s one basic reason; it’s in the middle. Whoever controls it, controls east, west, travel, and trade in Asia. And when you control the trade, you control the wealth.