Just the word Afghanistan conjures up images of warlords, the horrors of war, repression of women, the feared Al Queda, the loathed Taliban, a country of 'uncivilised' peoples and more. And yet in years gone by this country was rich being strategically placed on the route of the Silk Road. Just the name conjures up exotic images of traders dealing in the riches of both East and West. Of Gengis Khan, Marco Polo and Alexander the Great. And right here in Melbourne we have a wonderful exhibition showcasing the Hidden Treasures from the National Museum from the capital Kabul. This relatively small exhibition of 230 stunning treasures is on until 28 July 2013. I encourage you to visit. It is an 'eye opener'.
The treasures come from 2000 BC until 200 AD. The delicacy of some left me gasping. Of course there is gold, gold, gold and I particularly liked the 'crown' which is featured in much of the publicity. How fascinating to learn that this beautifully detailed piece could be 'dismantled' and carried in separate pouches when moving from location to location.
|Each 'tree' can be removed from the 'headpiece' (all pictures Melbourne Museum)|
Much of the Kabul collection was only discovered by 'chance' during the mid-20th century by a Russian archaeologist. Then with the ravages of war they were thought to be lost. Fortuitously staff from the National Museum, Kabul secretly placed many of the treasures you will see here in Melbourne in the vaults of the central bank of the Presidential Palace. They were uncovered in 2003.
|Detail of this ivory plaque designed to decorate furniture|
Perhaps my favourite piece is a painted glass beaker from Begrum - 100 AD. The glass work in the exhibition is amazingly detailed.
|Glass originating in Egypt|
Of course one can't go past the beautiful jewellery discovered at Tillya Tepe. The tombs discovered here were all intact and the jewellery from the tombs is worth a visit just to see them.
|Jewellery - 100 BC - 100 AD - Yes I will have one of these!|
I was thrilled to see that my special friend and asylum refugee Najaf Mazari will be talking in conversation about his book 'The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif' on 8 June 2013. Najaf has a wonderful Afghan Traditional Rug Shop at 461 High Street, Prahran, Tel: 9529 2068. Stop by. It is worth a visit to meet Najaf and sip tea in his 'Aladdin's Cave'. During the exhibition both of his books - the newest one is 'The Honey Thief' - will be in the 'library' at the Cottage. They are both inspiring stories. And you will find one of his rugs as soon as you step inside the Cottage door.
|Najaf with his co-writer Robert Hillman|
So take a morning or an afternoon (last entry 3.30) at the Melbourne Museum before 28 July. You won't be disappointed.