Bamiyan's ancient cave dwellings shelter poverty-stricken Afghans

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Bamiyans ancient cave dwellings shelter poverty-stricken Afghans
A Hazara Afghan family looks on in front of their cave in the old city of Bamiyan, some 200km from Kabul. - AFP

Bamiyan - The ancient caves lining the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan were originally used by Buddhist monks for meditation and retreat.

By AFP

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Published: Tue 28 Jul 2015, 1:55 PM

Last updated: Wed 29 Jul 2015, 12:10 AM

Carved into dun-coloured cliffs, hundreds of manmade caves situated next to empty niches that once sheltered giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taleban are home to Bamiyan's poverty-stricken who have nowhere else to go.
The ancient caves lining the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan were originally used by Buddhist monks for meditation and retreat but now shelter landless Afghan families who cannot afford conventional housing.
With no electricity or running water, the cave dwellers are forced to adapt to an arduous existence in these dark, dank, and musty structures.
"It's not a good place, it's never been a good place to live," said Haji Hussain, who has been living in a cave atop a cliff with his wife and three children for thirty years.
"It's very difficult to climb up here and then come back down. And as far as water is concerned, it's a big problem. We have to carry it on our back to bring it up here," the labourer told AFP in his cave, just a few hundred metres from the vacant niches. Like Hussain, hundreds of families dwell in the caves of Bamiyan, a rare oasis of tranquility that has largely been spared the wrenching conflict that afflicts the rest of Afghanistan.
When the Taleban captured Bamiyan in the late 1990s, some of these people lost their homes as the hardline movement burned down the houses of the predominantly Hazaras, forcing them to take shelter in caves right next to the Buddha statues. But two years after the Taleban regime was toppled in the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, the area was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
The government came down heavily on the cave dwellers, evicting many and moving them into temporary shelters elsewhere in the city. - AFP



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