- Afghanistan is selling tickets to the ruins of recently-destroyed monuments, the Washington Post reported.
- The Taliban demolished 1,500-year-old Buddha in 2001 in a purge of non-Islamic art.
- Its economy has faltered so much it now wants tourists at the site, per the Post.
The Taliban are selling tickets to vist the site of ancient monuments they themselves blasted to pieces in an attempt to boost Afghanistan’s flagging economy, The Washington Post reported.
Tickets to see the cavernous remains of the Bamiyan Buddhas, in the Hazarajat region, are sold to locals for 57 cents and $3.45 to foreigners, the paper reported.
It appears out of character from the militant political movement that, to the horror of the international community, blasted away the 1,500-year-old Buddhist reliefs, leaving little more than their niches hewn out of the mountain.
Over a period of days in March 2001, the Taliban destroyed the two statues, using anti-tank mines, anti-aircraft guns, artillery and systematically placed explosives to reduce them to vacant holes in the rock, as Slate reported.
Later that year the US invasion ousted the Taliban from power and occupied the country until 2021, when American troops withdrew and the Taliban regained control.
The international outcry in 2001 was almost universal, with even friendly countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia expressing their alarm, as CNN reported at the time.
The Buddhas had stood there, 175 and 120 feet high, since 600 AD, and had been a major tourist attraction. But political instability that decade and the rise of the Taliban put the monuments, along with much of the country’s wealth of cultural heritage, in danger.
Some tourism to Bamiyan continued even after the Buddha’s destruction. In 2022, some 200,000 tourists visited, local official Saifurrahman Mohammadi told The Post. Most were Afghan, he said.
Since the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, the country’s finances have plummeted, causing what a UN official called “an economic contraction that we’ve never seen before, ever,” as the Financial Times reported.
But some Afghan officials believe that sites like Bamiyan still have potential to bring in significant tourist money, despite the loss of the Buddhas.
Mohammedi is planning a souvenir market nearby, The Washington Post reported. He told the paper he believes that with investment, it “could become a significant source of income.”