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Afghan youths run to preserve heritage

Updated: 2023-05-25 09:29

Afghan children take part in a mini-marathon in Bamiyan Province on Friday. SAIFURAHMAN SAFI/XINHUA

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Relishing the cool breeze sweeping across central Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, Eid Mohammad proved his athletic prowess when he won a mini-marathon sponsored by a group of young Chinese scholars.

"Today, we ran in front of the Buddha site to call for the preservation of cultural heritages," said the 16-year-old Mohammad after completing the 2.1-kilometer race, referring to the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan in Bamiyan Valley.

The mini-marathon, which was held in front of the Buddha site recently, was sponsored and organized with the assistance of a group of scholars from Chinese universities, including Peking University and Lanzhou University, and the Hong Kong-based nonprofit Friends of Dunhuang.

Mohammad Taqqi Taqadosi, race coordinator and a professor of Bamiyan University, thanked the Chinese scholars for holding the event and said organizing such a race is vital to promoting awareness of protecting cultural heritages.

"Organizing sports activities and boosting tourism are good ways to preserve cultural heritages in Bamiyan," Taqadosi said.

Bamiyan Province is famous for many cultural heritages, particularly the two well-known giant Buddhas. Standing at 53 meters and 35 meters tall, the Buddha statues are more than 1,500 years old, with thousands of caves containing monk statues surrounding them. It is also evidence of the ancient Buddhist civilization in the region.

In 2003, the cultural landscape and archaeological remains of Bamiyan Valley were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Samad, another youth among the 40 runners for the mini-marathon, recognized sports as a tool to create awareness for cultural heritage protection. Though the 14-year-old works on the streets to support his family, he still dreams of becoming a good runner one day.

"We want to let other people know that we are emphasizing the importance of protecting cultural heritage by running," Samad told Xinhua News Agency.

"I am thankful to the Chinese scholars for holding the marathon to inspire us to preserve cultural heritage," 13-year-old competitor Malika said. She praised the scholars for their work in preserving Bamiyan's cultural heritage.

Due to years of war and economic hardships, the caves in Bamiyan Valley were not properly preserved and have been ignored for a long time. However, the situation has been reversed now.

"With our specific suggestions and financial support, most of the caves near the Buddha site have been officially recorded numerically and installed with introductory nameplates," Shao Xuecheng, a member of Friends of Dunhuang, said. In addition, the Chinese scholars funded a program to teach local children how to preserve their cultural heritage.


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