by Abdul Haleem
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Historical and geographical beauties have converged to make Bamiyan one of the best-known tourist destinations in central Afghanistan.
There are also extensive ruins of ancient Gholghola (the City of Screams) and Zuhak fortress dating back to centuries ago that add to the attractiveness of the central highland.
It takes only half an hour by plane and around three hours by car from Kabul to visit Afghanistan's beautiful landscape and foremost attractive valley of Bamiyan.
In fact, it is not only the raw and unspoiled natural beauty that gives the visitors' most enduring impression of the province, but also the majestic blue of Bande Amir's legendary natural beauty that is perhaps the most outstanding experience for visitors.
Hadi Mehrayen, a domestic tourist who came from the country's northern Mazar-e-Sharif said he had come to visit Bamiyan's historical sites.
"I had a dream to visit Band-e-Amir and the multi millennium Buddha statues. There is a friendly and peaceful environment here and I usually visit the province once each year in the last eight years," Mehrayen whispered in talks with Xinhua recently.
Both monumental statues of 53-meter and 35-meter tall Buddha, which were dynamited by Taliban fighters in 2001, carved into the side of a cliff. Along with ancient Gholghola and Zuhak cities in the valley, some 230 km northwest of Kabul, they have attracted thousands of local and foreign tourists to visit the city annually.
"In 2019, over 13,000 tourists visited various tourist attractions while 100,000 tourists visited Band-e-Amir, the country's first National Park so far this year," Aslam Alavi, head of the provincial department of information and culture told Xinhua.
Among the 100,000 tourists, only 300 are foreigners who traveled to the city through two weekly scheduled direct flights from the capital Kabul to the Bamiyan province, the official said. "Bamiyan has good security and the people live peacefully, but the roads leading to the province are unstable."
Another tourist, Mohammad Bashir Amini who also came from northern Mazar-e-Sharif city, looked very excited to visit the ancient sites.
"This is my first time to visit Band-e-Amir. I had only seen Band-e-Amir pictures, but wanted to see it with my own eyes and swim in its water. How beautiful and attractive are the landscapes, especially for us who have suffered heavily from the war," he murmured.
Millions of U.S. dollars, according to Alavi, has been invested over the past five years to build several luxury facilities including hotels and rest houses in the central province to attract tourists.
To build more accommodations and attract more tourists, the government has encouraged both national and international traders to invest in the tourism sector in Bamiyan and other parts of Afghanistan, so as to create job opportunities for thousands of people.