Past and Present
A Geographical, Historical and Anthropological Tour
Bijan Omrani and Matthew Leeming
Monday, 31 January 2005
2/F Sports House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay
Drinks 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm
We are delighted to welcome Matthew Leeming and Bijam Omrani, who are about to publish the first guide book to Afghanistan since the recent war, to give a lecture on this most fascinating of countries. Afghanistan has been ruled by all from Alexander (the Great), to Achaemenese (Persian) and Lord Auckland (British), to most recently the Americans.
Richly illustrated by slides of Afghanistan's spectacular scenery and maps of its various regions, the lecture's starting point is the overall geography of Afghanistan. This includes the extent of the country and its neighbours, its major features such as mountain ranges, valleys and rivers, its location with relation to the earth's tectonic plates and the bearing this has on the country's geology and mineral wealth, the varying climates to which it is subject and the country's agriculture and basic industry.
The second part of the lecture is a short introduction to the complicated history of Afghanistan, examining the various migrations of peoples across the territory, the resulting dynasties, their relations with external powers and empires, their cultural, religious and political legacies, and the evolution of the modern state of Afghanistan. Afghanistan's extraordinary position at the crossroads of the British, Chinese, Russian and Persian empires has led to a unique historical geography, which has shaped the complicated modern history of the country. A key part of this is the diverse ethnic composition of the country, and the parts played by various tribal groups in the history and future of the country.
Matthew Leeming is also going to speak about his own research into Alexander the Great and the Macedonian conquest of the land which is now Afghanistan. This will include the latest developments in the archaeological search for remnants of Greek settlements and Alexander's invasion, and his own project for testing of the Afghan people to see if a genetic footprint, or echo, can be found of the Greek settlers who came in Alexander's wake.
Matthew Leeming was educated at Trinity and Lincoln Colleges, Oxford. He first visited Afghanistan in 1993 in order to help restart the traditional tilemaking industry, left devastated by the Russian invasion. Over the next twelve years, he travelled extensively throughout the country, writing about it for The Times, Telegraph, Spectator and Literary Review most notably after his encounter with two of Osama bin Laden's bombers. In 2003, he established a travel company to take tours to Afghanistan; last year, he led three parties across the country, including the first ever group of western tourists to the source of the River Oxus (Amu Darya) and more trips are planned for this year.
Bijan Omrani was educated at Wellington and Lincoln College, Oxford. He has written for the Spectator, and in addition to his book on Afghanistan, is also the coauthor of the new Odyssey guide to Iran.
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$50 for Members, HK$100 for Members' guests and HK$150 for others.