Perched on a hilltop in Kathmandu Valley just to the west of the capital, the Swayambhunath religious complex is one of Nepal’s most valued ancient sites.
The main Buddhist monument is intact, but many of the other historic temples and monuments surrounding it were badly damaged in Nepal’s earthquake.
Those parts of the Monkey Temple (as it is known, due to the animals occupying the hill) that have not crumbled, look like they might.
Salvage workers scour the rubble carefully, knowing there’s a chance they could find precious artefacts.
Swayambhunath dates back to the 5th century, and is a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus as well as Buddhists.
Across the Kathmandu Valley – the location of seven World Heritage Sites designated by the UN’s cultural heritage organisation UNESCO – it’s feared that at least 70 ancient, sacred sites as well as others around the country were severely damaged or destroyed.
“I think this is really a dramatic loss not only for the Nepali people but for entire humankind because all these monuments here are totally over, totally unique,” said Christian Manhart, UNESCO’s Representative in Nepal.
Among the most famous tourist attractions, the Kathmandu area’s Durbar squares – decorated plazas opposite old royal palaces in central Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan – bore the brunt of the damage.
Restoring these popular tourist sites is going to take time.
“I think, I promise you, five to seven years, it takes time, you can rebuild again, because this is necessary, this is our pride. We will build it,” said Bhesh Narayan Dahal, Director-General of Nepal’s Department of Archaeology.
A vital part of the process will be designing and drawing the old structures, expected to take around a year.
Archaeologists will then seek to use original materials to reconstruct the buildings.
UNESCO and international donors have offered support for recovering and conserving the sites.
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