First oil paintings were not drawn in Renaissance Europe but in Afghanistan

First oil paintings were not drawn in Renaissance Europe but in Afghanistan
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The world's first oil paintings were not drawn in Renaissance Europe but in Afghanistan
For more than a decade Afghanistan was mention mostly with the Taliban and terrorism, burkas and beards. But Afghanistan is much more. It is country where ancient traditions endure and a new country is emerging. The world's first oil paintings were drawn not in Renaissance Europe but in the caves of Bamiyan, in the central highlands of Afghanistan around 650BC. Bamiyan boasted a flourishing Buddhist civilisation from the 2nd Century up to the Islamic invasion of the 9th Century. Afghanistan is the place where the world's two largest standing Buddhas once stood, until the Taliban destroyed them in 2001.

Afghans celebrate their New year in March
Afghans celebrate their new year - Nawroz, on 21 March, the first day of spring. Thousands travel to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to welcome in Nawroz, a pre-Islamic festival. Local strong men raise a great Janda - an Islamic banner, to herald the beginning of spring and the start of the new year. If it is lifted in one smooth motion, it is seen as a good omen for the months to come.

The only woman who captured the heart of Alexander the Great was Afghan
Alexander the Great was the first to build Herat's ancient citadel when he captured the city in 330BC. The only woman to capture the heart of the Macedonian empire builder was the beautiful Roxanne, from the northern Afghan province of Balkh. She bore him his only son before Alexander died at the young age of 33.

Thursday night is "poetry night" in Afghanistan
Poetry is a cherished part of Afghan culture. Afghans have told their stories in verse for more than 1,000 years. Thursday night is "poetry night" in the western city of Herat - men, women and children gather to share ancient and modern verse, listen to traditional Herati music, and enjoy sweet tea and pastries long into the night.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the poster boy for legions of young Afghan men
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the poster boy for legions of young Afghan men. Photographs of a muscled Arnold in his prime hang from the walls of hundreds of body building centres across the country. Some Afghans say the action-star-turned US governor looks like an Afghan.

Afghanistan wants its national game with goat-grabbing to be an Olympic sport
Yes, this is absolutely true! Regarded as the world's wildest game, it involves riders on horseback competing to grab a goat carcass, and gallop clear of the others to drop it in a chalked circle. It has been played on Afghanistan's northern steppe for centuries. The game used to be the sport of rich rival warlords but is now also financed by Afghan mobile phone companies and private airlines. But it is still not a sport for the faint-hearted, and women should not apply.

Kandahar airfield is named the busiest single runway airstrip in the world
Kandahar airfield in southern Afghanistan is said to be the busiest single runway airstrip in the world. Last year's arrival of more than 30,000 extra US troops, along with more civilian personnel, added to constant landings on a base also used by non-US militaries. Of course, lots of journalists and dignitaries also fly in to one of Afghanistan's most volatile cities, the most decisive battle in this war. Afghans have long said whoever controls Kandahar, controls Afghanistan.

Where the Pamirs meet the Hindu Kush - Tajikistan and Afghanistan

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