Carved into the are the two niches of the giant Buddha statues (55m and 38m high) destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, and numerous caves forming a large ensemble of Buddhist monasteries, chapels and sanctuaries along the foothills of the valley dating from the 3rd to the 5th century C. In several of the caves and niches, often linked by galleries, there are remains of wall paintings and seated Buddha figures.

In the valleys of the Bamiyan's tributaries are further groups of caves including the , some 3km south-east of the Bamiyan Cliffs where among the more than one hundred caves dating from the 6th to 13th centuries are fragments of a 10m tall standing Buddha figure and a sanctuary with painted decorations from the Sasanian period.

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There has been little aid, but from the reception we received, it appears to have been useful.

(The International Assistance Mission, among the foreign NGOs, has had a particularly long history here.

We saw groups of teenage girls walking to school over the mountains and were told that, like their brothers, they will walk a couple of hours through the snow to get to courses in the winter.

Families send their sons and daughters to university in Kabul and some are even happy for their girls to stay in the dormitories there.

Ghor is currently the subject of a series of dispatches by AAN’s Obaid Ali in which he describes the province’s multitudinous problems, not just threats from the Taleban, but also a host of other armed militias, their leaders entangled with the government, fighting each other and predating on the people.

The one recurring bright spot in his reports is Lal wa Sarjangal, Ghor’s most eastern (and only Hazara district) district; it is also the most western district of the Hazarajat.AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark, has visited the district and says it is actually a bright spot for the whole country.It was in 2000 that I first visited Lal wa Sarjangal (it has two population centres, Lal and Sarjangal, hence the long name, which is usually shortened to Lal).One of the many key goods native to Afghanistan that was widely traded along the Roads was lapis lazuli.Afghanistan is home to over 1500 archaeological sites, and excavations have revealed evidence of both Eastern and Western influences in architecture and material goods.Richer families send older children to stay with relatives in Kabul to get them to schools where standards are seen as higher and better preparation for getting into university. People wanted to talk and seemed to assume that, as westerners, we might be useful – doctors, for example.