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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 11:20 GMT
Afghan treasures head for Kabul
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News

A hat from Afghanistan in the Museum of the Swiss Afghanistan Institute in Bubendorf
The collection of art and other cultural items was created in 1999
Some of Afghanistan's greatest historical treasures are on their way home after spending almost a decade at a museum in Switzerland.

Among them is a foundation stone laid by Alexander the Great.

The pieces were donated to the museum to prevent them being destroyed during Afghanistan's long civil conflict.

The return of the pieces is being described as one of the biggest repatriations of a country's cultural heritage since World War II.


More than 1,000 items are on their way back to Afghanistan.

They range from exquisite hand-woven carpets to simple instruments of daily life - a traditional water pipe and a pitchfork.

The highlight is the foundation stone of the city of Ai Khanum, laid by Alexander the Great around 300 BC, and thought to be the only object in the world which is known to have been in his hands.

The objects have been stored since 1998 in Afghanistan's museum in exile in the Swiss town of Bubendorf.

They were donated by Afghan refugees, or sometimes by Europeans who had visited the country, in an attempt to preserve some of Afghanistan's cultural heritage during the years of the Taleban regime.

Many priceless works of art, including the Buddha statues of Bamiyan, were destroyed while the Taleban were in power.

Afghanistan is now judged safe enough for their return, and, under the careful supervision of the curator of the national museum of Afghanistan, they have been lovingly packed up, and will return, courtesy of the German air force, to Kabul.

Some of the art treasures being returned to Afghanistan

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