Afghanistan’s cultural heroes

Culture has been an abiding passion for Afghanistan’s Ambassador to London Homayoun Tandar, a Sorbonne-educated archaeologist, who led the outcry against the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas. When he first arrived in the capital he promised to bring an exhibition of Afghan archaeological treasures to London – and boy, has he delivered.

The exhibition, Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World at the British Museum is astonishing, not only for the treasures, which give the viewer a glimpse of a cultured, sophisticated nomadic nation trading goods between China, India, Greece and Rome, but also for the tale of extraordinary heroism to save these artefacts that could come straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.

The treasures were originally housed in the Kabul National Museum and were thought to have been looted or destroyed by warring mujahideen and the Taliban in the chaos that followed the Soviet withdrawal.

While 70 per cent was lost, five intrepid men smuggled the most important treasures, including the 2000-year-old Bactrian Gold, to a Central Bank vault deep beneath the Presidential Palace. All five men with five keys needed to be present to open the vault and for more than a decade, each man risked life and limb to keep the location secret from the militants so that today we can enjoy these ancient artefacts.

Don’t miss the exhibition at the British Museum which runs until 3 July.

A detachable crown– the ultimate luxury for a nomadic princess