When you hear the name Afghanistan do you associate it with conflict, poppy fields and the Taliban? But in ancient times it was at the centre of the famous Silk Route and a great Buddhist civilization under King Kanishka.
In the 6th Century AD the first giant Buddha (35 metres high) was carved into a sandstone cliff in Bamyan and some 50 years later, the highest statue in the world was carved into a nearby mountainside standing 54 metres high.
But after centuries of conflict and conquests, and after the exhausted Soviet army withdrew from the rugged mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, the devastated nation was taken over by religious scholars known as the Taliban who do not believe in idol worship.
In 2001, despite worldwide protests, the Taliban destroyed the two giant Buddhas in Bamiyan with dynamite.
And now Buddha is under threat again … a 7th Century AD Buddhist monastery is going to be destroyed with the development of a nearby copper mine. 15 Afghan archaeologists are in a race against time to meet the three-year deadline to excavate the monastery and save its historical treasures from being destroyed.