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The biggest mistake people make while referring to Afghanistan is the country’s currency.
The currency of Afghanistan is called Afghani but people often mistake it for the people who are called Afghans. Read on for some of the most interesting facts about the culture of Afghanistan.
Is that the only interesting piece of information about this country? No, not at all. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan ranks 37th in terms of population across all the countries in the world. The country of Afghanistan is often in the news as the country is often at war. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been ruled by many powers like the Soviets, the British, the Mongols, the Muslim Arabs, the Maurya, Alexander The Great, and many more. The Taliban rule of the country caused some serious issues in the landlocked country.
In 2004, the country had the first democratically elected president, Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan became part of the United Nations in 1946. With Helmand and the Hindu Kush, the scenery of the country is quite beautiful. The Hindu Kush is a mountain range that is 500 mi (800 km) long. The country is known for its harsh climates and the climate is mainly dry.
There are snow-covered mountains and arid deserts. One would find the summers too hot and winters too cold. But the country has a lot of history. The historic and cultural development of the country is worth knowing. Let us check out some Afghanistan culture facts along with its history here.
Afghanistan is a famous landlocked country situated in the south of central Asia. A landlocked country does not have ports of its own and is surrounded by other countries. It has one port, port Chabahar in Balochistan is the lifeline of the country.
The bordering countries of Afghanistan are Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The official name of the country is the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. But what many people don’t know is the fact that this was not the original name of the country.
The region that is present-day Afghanistan used to be occupied between 3000 and 2000 B.C. It is believed that urbanization began around this time in this region. The region was at the time known as part of the Gandhara kingdom, Kamboja kingdom, and Medes. The region was controlled by an Iranian dynasty from 550-331 B.C. It was under the Achaemenid empire of Iran and ruled by Darius I of Persia. The region was divided and ruled by several governors at the time.
After this, Alexander the Great defeated the rule of this Iranian dynasty and took over present-day Afghanistan. Darius III of Persia lost the region of Afghanistan to Alexander the Great. It was the result of the battle of Gaugamela. Although he didn’t rule the region for a long time, the influence left behind by Alexander was great. After the death of Alexander, Seleucus who was an officer in the campaign undertaken by Alexander the Great took over the region and declared himself as the ruler.
The Seleucid empire that he became the ruler of consisted of the modern Afghanistan region also, but he did not remain the ruler of Afghanistan. The land fell into the hands of Chandragupta Maurya. The Afghanistan regions were ruled by the Mauryan empire after that. Between 250 B.C to 565 A.D, the land of Afghanistan was ruled by the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, Indo-Greek kingdom, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians, Kushans, Sasanian Empire, and so on. It is important to remember that the influence of each of these rules played a role in the making of modern Afghanistan.
During the middle ages, the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan happened. Coming to the modern era, the British tried to own Afghanistan but lost their battle in 1919. The current boundaries of Afghanistan came into being in the late 19th century. Afghanistan was known as the emirate of Afghanistan in 1823 after the decline of the Durrani Empire in Afghanistan.
In 1919, with the Treaty of Rawalpindi, Afghanistan became an independent country. But the Soviet Union ruled this land for 20 years from 1979-1996. The Taliban rule in the land caused a stir in the whole Afghan society. To remove the Taliban from power, the US invaded Afghanistan. The name Afghanistan means ‘land of the Afghans’ or the ‘Afghan land’. The country has Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan in its north. Pakistan lies in the south of the country. The Iranian border is seen at the west of the country and China at the northeast side.
Afghanistan had an important role in history. As we have seen, many rulers and empires were seen in this land before it became the present-day country. Although Afghanistan is far from a peaceful country in the present day, it used to be an important part of the cultural history of the world.
The silk route of China, India, and Europe went through the Afghan regions too. In the present day, Afghanistan’s population is around 40 million in 2021. The average life expectancy of the Afghan population is around 64.83 years in 2019. The Afghan people went through a long history to be at the place that they are now.
One of the things to be aware of is the various ethnic groups present in Afghanistan. Each ethnic group will be different in terms of language preferences. As of now, there are two official languages among afghans.
The two official languages are Pashtu and Darri. These are Indo-European languages spoken in Afghanistan. An interesting fact about the official languages is the fact that both of them didn’t become the official language at the same time. Pashto was declared the national language by Zahir Shah during his ruling period. Dari was already the language used for the Afghan government and business use.
Considering the whole of Afghanistan, around 48% of people speak Pashto. Dari is spoken by 77% of the Afghan people. Dari is an Afghan Persian dialect. This is not the only Persian dialect spoken by the people in Afghanistan. Other dialects of Persian are spoken by people belonging to the ethnic groups of Tajik, Hazara, Chahar, Aimak, and Kizilbash. These dialects are closely related to the Persian spoken by the Iranians which is Farsi and the Persian spoken by the people of Tajikistan.
There are also Turkish and Mongolian words incorporated in the Dari dialects. Although each ethnic group tends to be biased towards a particular language, some of Afghanistan's people are fluent in multiple languages. Bilingualism is quite common in these regions. The Pashtun language is commonly spoken among the Pashtun tribes. But it is no surprise if you find non-Pashtuns speaking this language. Better yet, even Pashtuns speak dialects of Persian too.
The ethnic relations between language and group may not be always applicable in this sense. The languages spoken by Afghans don’t end there. Some small groups of people in Afghanistan speak other Indo-European languages like Dardic, Balochi, and other Indic and Palmiri languages. These groups are often seen in the remote valleys of northeast Afghanistan. Recent settlers of the country who are the Uzbek and Turkmen people speak Turkic languages.
These include Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz. These languages are closely related to each other. Another ethnic group seen in Afghanistan is the Dravidians. You know what this means right? Dravidian languages are also spoken by these people. The Brahuis who live in the southern part of Afghanistan speaks these languages. English is also a popular language spoken by the Afghans.
Arabs also live in Afghanistan. They mainly come from Algeria, Egypt, Saudi, Kuwait, and Yemen.
The migration and conquest history of Afghanistan resulted in all these multiple languages spoken in the region. But if we were to determine the official language, all these languages cannot be included due to the number of people speaking the languages being different. That is why there are only two languages picked as the official languages from among the many that were seen.
As a country with a vast historic background, Afghanistan also has some popular places worth visiting too. The capital city of Afghanistan is Kabul and the Gardens of Babur in this city is a very famous destination for tourists.
You can find this beautiful garden below the Kuh-e-Sher Darwaza mountain in Kabul. Apart from the gardens, there are many buildings found in Afghanistan. Each of these buildings has an important place in history too.
The Blue Mosque is a very important place for the Afghan people. It is on the north side of Balkh province in Afghanistan. There are always plenty of doves circling the mosque. It is one of the quietest places that are away from all the buzzing of the busy city in Afghanistan. The Persian new year called the Nowruz is celebrated in this mosque.
The Blue Mosque was built in the 15th century and is also known by the name of the shrine of Hazrat Ali. The exterior of the mosque is made of blue shaded tiles and the tile work is of the Persian style. Apart from the Blue Mosque, there are plenty of other buildings with historic importance in Afghanistan. The most famous one is the Herat Citadel. The citadel has been used by many empires and has been rebuilt many times too. There are two enclosures that are walled in this citadel. The Hera Citadel underwent a complete renovation in 2006 and 2011.
Another famous building, Minaret of Jam is in the Ghor province of Afghanistan. Baked bricks are used for the entire building. The history behind this building is that this building is a celebration building of the victory gained by the Ghurid dynasty over Prithviraj Chauhan. The tile of this building is beautiful. It contains calligraphy of Kufic and Nakshi, verses of the Holy Quran, and geometric patterns as designs.
The Khwaja Abdullah shrine is in Herat of Afghanistan is a wonderful building with Timurid architectural style. The brickwork of this building is done in glazed turquoise and black in a Banai style. The great mosque of Herat or jummah mosque is an important building for the local communities in Afghanistan. Ghurids built this mosque in the 13th century. There are three walls and a central courtyard for this building. The conventional iwan pattern is used throughout this mosque. The mosque uses blue tiles with floral patterns.
Ahmed Shah Durrani's mausoleum is in Kandahar. Ahmed Shah Durrani is the founder of the Durrani dynasty. This tomb was created in the 18th century. The ancient Islamic Afghan architecture is seen in this octagon-shaped tomb. The tomb has a beautiful sky blue and green color mixed with shade.
The official religion of Afghanistan is Islam. There are both Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims in the country. A lot of the Aghan culture aspects come from the religious beliefs of the people.
Since the religion Islam is the national identity of the country, a lot of the Islamic laws are part of the Afghan culture. Islam is not the only religious influence this place has. The Islamic law and culture came to Afghanistan with the Muslim Arabs who conquered Afghanistan in 642 A.D. Before Islam, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism were very prominent in the Afghan country. In fact, the origin of Zoroastrianism is considered to be in Afghanistan.
The Pashtun culture is also very popular in this country. But since the dominant religion is Islam, the whole culture of the country is dependent on this religion. The whole shops and businesses are closed on Muslim holy days in this country. Islamic law is used for political, economic, legal, and personal matters.
Fasting and praying in the month of Ramadan, which is a holy month for Muslims are mandatory in this region. The family dynamic of Afghan culture is typically what you see everywhere else. The men earn and the women stay home. But in the present day, women are also seen in the workforce. Family is an important factor in the Afghan culture. Normally, you would find the whole family under the same roof.
The son does not live separately in a different house after marriage in most cases. Hospitality is a high priority for Afghan people. They respect the guests that come over to the house. Exchanging gifts is seen as a way to build stronger relationships. The way women are treated is also different in Afghanistan. Direct interaction between men and women is not permissible in Afghan culture. Also, the women are expected to wear modest clothes that are not too tight for the body.
The food culture of Afghanistan is also very rich. The national dish of this country is the Afghan cuisine called Khulab Pulao. This tasty rice dish has many vegetables, nuts, and meat. The Sheer Khurma is made especially for holidays or special occasions. The food is served on the floor under the clothes and everyone shares the food from the same dish. The Afghan people eat with their right hands.
Polygamy is permissible in the Afghan culture and divorce is highly discouraged. Normally, marriage happens between cousins. The marriages of Afghan people are done luxuriously too. Afghanistan is rich in resources. Natural gas, gold, coal, marble, and other raw materials are seen in plenty in these regions. There are also plenty of fruits grown in the country ranging from grapes, mulberries, and melons. In fact, agriculture is the main source of income for Afghan people. ‘Buzkashi’ is the national game that the people of Afghanistan play. In this game, two teams are seen trying to catch a goat while riding a horse. Poetry is also an inevitable part of Afghan culture. They even have a poetry night.
Thursdays are the official poetry night in the western city of Herat. Everyone, the men, women, and children gather to share verses of ancient and modern times. They will listen to Herati music while sipping a cup of tea and eating pastries throughout the night. Afghan people also have a special affection for Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Most of the Afghan posters in the streets will feature the Hollywood star. Afghans say that he looks like an Afghan.
The new year or Nawroz is also an important part of Afghan culture. A banner is raised by the strong men of the city on this day. If the banner is raised swiftly, it is considered a good omen for the country. At the end of the day, Afghanistan is a multicultural country with many ethnic groups. The whole culture of the country is a mix of all these multi-ethnic aspects.
In order to understand the different aspects of modern Afghan society, you must remember that the country has been facing wars or war-like situations for over four decades. This continued violence has had an adverse effect on the people of Afghanistan who are largely peaceful people.
Historically Afghanistan had always been a peaceful country that remained neutral even during World War II. They neither suffered any attacks nor launched any attacks during World War II. But in the last four decades, the country is facing continued attacks from the Soviet Union, the British, the Taliban, and other radical militant groups.
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