Emirates transports ancient Buddha between Pakistan and Switzerland

Published: Monday, May 6, 2019

A 2000-year-old Buddha belonging to Gandhara Civilization was transported by the Emirates SkyCargo between Pakistan and Switzerland.

Between December 2018 and March 2019, visitors to the Museum Rietberg in Zurich, Switzerland, had the rare opportunity to come face to face with a colossal statue of Buddha more than 2,000 years old.

The statue from the Peshawar Museum in Pakistan was safely transported from its home to Zurich and back by Emirates SkyCargo.

The ancient Gandhara civilization Buddha statue was given on special loan by the Peshawar Museum to feature in the exhibition ‘Next Stop Nirvana- Approaches to Buddhism’ at the Museum Rietberg.

It was the first time that the statue had travelled outside of Pakistan. Special care had to be taken by the museums during the packing and installation process, as well as by Emirates SkyCargo during the transportation, to ensure that the monumental statue was not accidentally damaged.

Emirates SkyCargo pulled out all the stops to make sure that the statue weighing 1,700 kilograms, and reaching over 2 metres in height, was transported safely in the belly hold of its wide body passenger aircraft through handling processes and security measures outlined under Emirates Valuable, its specialised product for transporting precious goods. However, the air cargo carrier also had to do some out of the box thinking.

“Our standard procedures mention that any precious cargo has to be transported in secure metal door containers. However, for a statue of this size, this was not really an option,” said Julius Mooney, Commercial Development Manager – Speciality Products, Emirates SkyCargo. “For us the priority was twofold, to ensure that the shipment was handled with utmost care to avoid any damage from impact and of course to ensure the security of the priceless statue.

Emirates SkyCargo also worked with Emirates Group Security and Transguard to ensure seamless security screening, handling and clearance for the statue.

During its transit at Dubai International Airport, the statue was quickly transferred on the ramp to its connecting aircraft.

Emirates SkyCargo executed the first leg of the movement from Peshawar to Zurich in December 2018 and completed the return leg from Zurich in early April 2019.

“It was a landmark shipment for Emirates SkyCargo. We are delighted that we were able to successfully transport the statue to the exhibition in Zurich. Audiences in Switzerland had an opportunity to become familiar with an important part of Pakistan’s ancient heritage and Emirates SkyCargo had a part in creating this link between the two countries,” said Jassim Saif, Emirates Vice President Cargo Commercial- West Asia and South East Asia.

“Gandhara art played a significant role in the propagation of Buddhism around the world and Peshawar Museum, being the repository of the world’s richest and finest collection of Buddha statues, has a prestigious status in the eyes of art lovers,” said Mohammad Asif Raza, Curator of the Peshawar Museum.

“Our mission is to highlight the soft image of Pakistan throughout the world by exhibiting these masterpieces of art and the exhibition of colossal Buddha statue in Museum Rietberg Switzerland is the beginning of a new era of friendship and cooperation,” he added.

“The colossal Buddha from Peshawar – one of the absolute highlights of the exhibition – came as an ambassador of peace, tolerance and wisdom,” said Dr. Johannes Beltz, Vice Director at Museum Rietberg.

“The statue pioneered for a new partnership between museums in Switzerland and Pakistan. Rewarding and worthwhile cooperation that was made possible by the great commitment of the Peshawar Museum, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan,” he added.