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Treasures in Brisbane

Brisbane River

Brisbane River

I took a short work trip to Brisbane and wanted to share a few experiences that I had there:


Between meetings I went to the Queensland Museum (at South Bank) for the exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul. I was delighted by the excellent curating that was used for this exhibition. The curator managed to build a narrative around the relics that made up the exhibition and I was compelled to keep on looking to the next piece to discover the next part of the story. A traveling exhibition of extraordinary archaeological treasures from the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul, this exhibition explores the rich cultural heritage of ancient Afghanistan from the Bronze Age (2500 B.C.) through the rise of trade along the Silk Road in the first century A.D. The routes of the ancient Silk Road criss-crossed Afghanistan’s valleys and mountain passes, linking ancient Greece and Rome with the great civilisations of China and India. The collection is currently touring Australia and will at some point be returned to the National Museum of Afghanistan after it has been refurbished. It is incredible that these treasures have survived the difficult history of Afghanistan and I suggest that you go to see it (it is coming to Sydney and Perth in 2014). I love the slogan that appears on the outside of the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul:

A nation stays alive when it’s culture stays alive

A folding gold crown from one of the six graves of Bactrian nomads discovered at Tillya Tepe in northern Afghanistan in 1978. CREDIT: © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

A folding gold crown from one of the six graves of Bactrian nomads
discovered at Tillya Tepe in northern Afghanistan in 1978. CREDIT: © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

The exhibition covers four main archaeological sites in the north east of Afghanistan:

  1. Tepe Fullol – dating from about 2200BC, shown are remains of some beautifully engraved gold and silver bowls, one with a bull and the other with a boar design on it and also an engraved golden goblet. A farmer in Badakshan reported this discovery in 1996. The objects from Tepe Fullol represent a Bronze Age civilisation previously unknown to scholars presumably interacting with the major civilisations in the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia;
  2. Ai Khanoum – an excavated Greco-Bactrian city from about 300BC, Ai Khanum is the site of the architectural remains of the most northerly Greek city in the world, established by descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers. Hellenistic culture survived here for three hundred years until the Graeco-Bactrians were driven out by nomads in 145 BC. The opening plaque of the exhibition mentions that a Corinthian Capital was shown to the King of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah, in 1961 while he was in Bactria for a hunting trip. When he realised the importance of finding a Grecian artefact in Afghanistan he ordered the excavation of the area. I loved that the next item in the exhibition is a Corinthian Capital. Included in the exhibition are artefacts from the palace, gymnasium, temple, sun dials and lidded bowls made for export with lovely inlaid work in the lids.
  3. Tillya Tepe – This is the site of the ancient graves of six nomads (1 man and 5 women – the women may have been sacrificed when the man died) who were presumably royalty and lived between 100 BC and AD 100. In the graves are over 21,000 gold artefacts of exquisite beauty and artistry indicating that the nomads carried their wealth with them and were attracted to flashy gold trinkets and jewellery. The Afghanistan region was populated by wave after wave of Turkic and Mongol descendants who were excellent horsemen (the skull of a horse was found beside the grave of the man) and ruthless raiders. It particularly interested me to see a small medallion that may be the oldest known representation of the Buddha that holds the inscription from his 1st sermon at Benares ‘He who sets the wheel of the doctrine in motion’ and depicts a man pushing a wheel with 8 spokes; and
  4. Begram – This is one of the most important archaeological sites in Afghanistan because archaeologists found two storerooms that were sealed over 2,000 years ago and after being filled with artefacts from all across the Silk Road trade routes. The objects found in the rooms reflect the high quality of artistry in Afghanistan 2,000 years ago and include luxurious items such as blown glass, painted glass, ornaments carved from pretty rocks, and furniture carved from ivory.

I particularly liked the inscription on a funerary monument that was dedicated to Kineas (probably one of the founders of Ai Khanoum) and was a gift from Clearches who was a student of Aristotle –

As a child, learn good manners

As a young man, learn to control your passions

In middle age, be just

In old age, give good advice

Then die, without regret.

View down Queen St towards Soutbank, Brisbane

View towards Soutbank, Brisbane


I had lunch on the first day at Cicada and it’s the 3rd time that I’ve eaten there because:

  • the food is tasty and the meals are nicely designed to have complimentary flavours,
  • the menu is a bit different each time that I go there;
  • there are lots of options for grain-free meals, including salads (I had the smoked chicken salad with grilled artichoke, asparagus, black olives, cucumber, green beans, cos lettuce, rocket basil pesto & macadamia nuts), fish meals, meat meals and vegetarian meals; and
  • they serve some nice wines by the glass (I had the Opawa Pinot Gris).
Sunset at University of Queensland

Sunset at University of Queensland

I had lunch on the second day at the beautiful Turkish restaurant called Sultans in Boondall. I wanted to take lots of photos because the entire restaurant is beautiful but my phone camera wouldn’t have done it justice (plus it’s a bit weird to take photographs of the inside of a restaurant while the owner is watching!) so I’ll try to mention here the aspects that contributed to the beauty:

  • rounded shape of the building;
  • special tiles that cover the exterior of the building;
  • gorgeous coloured glass windows with tulips on them;
  • lovely carved double wooden external doors;
  • sumptuous embroidered fabrics;
  • woven table cloths with intricate patterns;
  • mosaiced glass light covers; and
  • carved chairs and much more.

And to top it all off the food was exceptionally good. I tend to choose Mediterranean food anywhere I go (you can read my post about the lamentable Turkish food I had in Mittagong recently) and so I’ve tried Turkish food in many towns and cities of Australia and other countries (so far not in Turkey though!) and this was some of the best that I’ve had anywhere. It was easy to eat grain-free and the Ali Nazik (lamb) was divine. This restaurant is quite a distance from Brisbane city but I think it’s well worth the trip! It offers parking, it does takeaway and drive-through food options and in the restaurant they have belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.


4 comments on “Treasures in Brisbane

  1. Pingback: Book Review – The World is a Carpet – 5 stars | strivetoengage

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