by Jawid Omid, Farid Behbud
HERAT, Afghanistan, April 18 (Xinhua) -- The Afghan government is determined to save the rich, historical sites and cultural facilities in the insurgency-hit country, an official told Xinhua during a recent interview.
The western Herat province with Herat city as its capital, 640 km west of the country's capital of Kabul, is home to a number of famous historical and cultural sites.
"We have had some successes in protecting and maintaining historical and cultural sites in Herat," Aria Raufian, head of Herat's Information and Culture Department, told Xinhua.
"And besides the government's efforts, the Agha Khan foundation (a non-governmental association) has also contributed to the protection of more than 52 sites in different parts of Herat, like the old city and the Qal'a Ikhtiyar al-Din or castle of Ikhtiyar al-Din."
"In addition, we have rebuilt some heritage sites such as the great Temple of Herat. In total about 3 million U.S. dollars have been spent on historical and cultural sites' protection and fortification in recent years in Herat," Raufian added.
The official urged for more protection of archeological sites in the countryside.
"However, more efforts are needed for the preservation of rich Afghan cultural sites. If more urgent measures are not put in place to preserve the historical monuments and cultural heritages, we could lose major parts of our heritage, particularly in restive and insecure areas in the countryside," he noted.
The provincial government plans to protect, preserve and rebuild all of the cultural heritage sites in Herat in the upcoming years, said Raufian.
The comments came as the country marks the International Day for Monuments and Sites, which falls on Wednesday. The day is also known as the World Heritage Day and is observed by different types of activities, including visits to monuments and heritage sites, conferences, round table talks and media coverage around the world.
Since the fall of the Taliban regime, in addition to the Agha Khan Foundation and the government of Afghanistan, Italy and private investors have contributed to the rebuilding and protecting the cultural sites.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has also played a role in the preservation of cultural heritage sites across Afghanistan over the past 17 years, according to Raufian.
Herat is one of the most important destinations in Afghanistan for regional and international tourists, particularly religious tourists, but it is obvious that a lack of security remains a major problem.
In 2017, about 500 foreign tourists visited the cultural and historical heritage sites in Herat and more than 100,000 domestic tourists visited the city.
"We are planning to attract more than 2,000 tourists here from international and regional countries in 2018, which will be a great achievement," the official said.