Afghanistan is a landlocked country, a region with no border touching the sea, located in Central Asia. It borders Iran to its west, Pakistan to its east, Turkmenistan to its northwest, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to its north, and some parts bordering China.
Afghanistan is a popular country due to the political conflicts it witnesses and rising tensions in the region. However, there is so much more to the beautiful land of Afghanistan and authentic Afghan culture, which you would love to learn more about.
Keep reading to find out more captivating facts about Afghanistan
1. Afghanistan has a unique national game
A popular game in Afghanistan is called Buzkashi, goat grabbing. It is a game played by two teams, where players try to catch a goat carcass while riding on a horse and ride ahead to drop it into a chalked circle.
This game has an old history as it was played by wealthy lords in the northern areas but now is sponsored by large companies. It is a wild game, definitely not for people with a queasy stomach.
2. Afghani culture has a deep bond with poetry
Afghanistan is a land of people who appreciate exquisite poetry. Rumi, Rahman Baba, Khushal Khan Khattak, and Ferdowsi are some of the most popular poets of Afghanistan.
Afghanis have a penchant for retelling their feelings in beautiful verses. Thursdays are called poetry nights in the city of Herat, where people gather together to listen to modern and ancient poetry recitals. These events are accompanied by sugar tea and pastries to make the evening much sweeter.
3. Afghanistan has a delectable cuisine
Afghani cuisine is so much more than palao (flavored rice) and kebabs. The country has been the epicenter for many ancient civilizations, and the food of the region reflects its history perfectly. Kabuli pulao, ashak, and mantu are some of the many delicious dishes found in the country.
The Afghans are famous for their love for lamb meat and mutton. Afghan cuisine is becoming more and more open to new influences from other cultures and tastes.
4. Afghanistan celebrate their new year on the first day of spring
On the 21st of March every year, Afghans from all over the country flock to Mazar-e-Sharif, a northern city in Afghanistan, to celebrate Nawroz. Nawroz is a pre-Islamic festival where men lift up a heavy flag, called a Janda, to welcome spring and start a new year. If the Janda is lifted the first time smoothly, it is supposed to be a good omen for the rest of the year.
5. Afghanistan has a kite-flying tradition
Kite flying is a popular way to enjoy spring in Afghanistan. Afghanis take pride in making and flying their own kites. Children can be seen flying colorful kites in the sky, and they even have kite fights.
The string used for the kites is made with glass which is used to cut the opponent’s string and bring it down sailing from the sky. The Taliban banned this enjoyable pastime under their strict rule, but it has been legalized again.
6. Afghanistan is a country rich in minerals
Afghanistan is a country that has large mineral reserves. Copper, iron, gold, natural gas, oil, chromium, uranium, and lithium are some of the minerals that can be found in the region.
These mineral reserves have not been explored to their full potential as political conflict and changing governments in the region do not allow for proper extraction. Lapis Lazuli, a vivid blue stone, is rich in the country and was also used to construct the resting place for the Egyptian royalty, Tutankhamun.
7. Afghanistan has a rich family culture
Afghans are famous worldwide for their hospitality and strong family values. They are welcoming of their guests and will go to all lengths to ensure they are comfortable.
Family is another important part of the Afghani culture. Men are conventionally given the responsibility of earning for the household while women take care of matters at home. Women are highly respected in Afghan culture. Most women wear modest clothing and are expected to wear a headscarf.
8. Afghanistan is ruled by the Taliban
Taliban, a word that means students in Pashto, is an extremist political and religious group that has disrupted the nation’s peace in the past decades. The group ruled in the country from the mid-1990s till 2001, when the American forces arrived in the country after the 9/11 attacks.
Afghanistan was thought to be a newly formed democratic nation until recently before the Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021. The rule of the Taliban was strict in the past, with tough restrictions on men and women.
9. Afghanistan has a rich ancient history
Afghanistan was home to many cultures and civilizations in ancient times. The famous Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, made Afghanistan a part of its large empire in 330 B.C. Alexander was the one who constructed the old citadel in Herat.
He brought Greek culture and language to the region and even fell in love with the stunning Roxanne, a beautiful woman from Afghanistan’s northern area called Balkh. The Mongols under Genghis Khan’s power also invaded the land of Afghanistan.
In the 18th century, Pashtun elders got together for a meeting and created the Kingdom of Afghans. The British fought with Afghanistan in the 19th and 20th centuries in three great wars. Although they did not have complete control over the land, the British still had a major part in Afghanistan’s foreign affairs. Afghanistan claimed independence on the 19th of August 1919.
10. Afghanistan has an ancient link to Buddhism
Afghanistan is rumored to have the first oil paintings in the world in the caves of Bamiyan in 650 BC. The region is situated in the country’s central highlands, where there used to be a prosperous Buddhist population in the second century until the Islamic invasion took place in the ninth century.
Bamiyan is the city where two large standing Buddhas once stood, reflecting the region’s rich religious history. These Buddhas were broken down and destroyed during the Taliban regime.
11. Afghanistan produces opioids
One of the most surprising facts about Afghanistan is that the country has an increasing opium poppy cultivation in its regions. Even though there are food shortages and droughts in the country, the opium and drug trade in the country has flourished. Afghanistan also has a history of being the largest producer of cannabis.
12. Persian is widely spoken in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has a range of different languages spoken in the country. Persian and Pushto are the most widely spoken languages in the country. Regional languages of Afghanistan include Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Hazaragi, and a few more. Farsi and Dari are dialects of the same language.
13. Islam is the dominant religion in Afghanistan
Islam is the religion followed by the majority of Afghanis in the country. Almost 99% of Afghanis follow Islam, the religion of peace.
Sunni Muslims make up almost 80% of the country’s religion, Shia Muslims make up 19% of the Muslim population, and the remaining 1% of the Muslim population is from other sects of Islam. There are a few ethnic and religious biases in the country which have caused internal rifts.
14. Afghanistan is known for its handicrafts
Afghani carpets, handicrafts, and jewelry are considered to be exquisite and unique all over the world. Talented artisans create hand-weaved products with intricate designs. Afghani carpets are made from high-quality materials and are known for their softness, texture, and beautiful designs.
15. Afghanistan has been marred with conflict
Afghanistan is a land of friendly people and rich culture, but history has not been kind to it. After Afghanistan claimed independence from the British in 1919, the Afghanis enjoyed a brief flourishing period.
In the late 1970s, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan took hold of Afghanistan with the support of the Soviet Union. The Soviet invasion lasted for a whole decade and reduced the country into a shadow of its previous glory. To fight the PDMA regime, mujahideen or Islamic fighters were funded by the USA, Iran, Pakistan, and China.
Civil war continued from the time of the Soviet invasion in 1979 until various Islamic extremist groups took control of the country in the mid-1990s. This was a dark period in the history of Afghanistan when the Taliban regime killed millions, and almost 4 million Afghans became refugees to escape the country.
The Carpets of Afghanistan
In this short film, The Rug Mine presents a step-by-step guide that shows how rugs are made in Afghanistan. The hard-working artisans who make these beautiful rugs spend up to a year or more to make them.
Although the Rug Mine tried their best to show each step of the rug-making process, you should know that there are many more sub-steps to complete the rug. And, once complete, these gems become heirlooms that will last for generations to come.
Afghanistan is a country rich in ancient cultures and traditions. Although it has been the target of dangerous political conflicts in the past, the cultural beauty of Afghanistan and welcoming people continue to shine.
Hi I’m Jay. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and live in Los Angeles, California. I have travelled to 23 countries so far and planning to go explore more countries soon! My Favorite trips so far have been to Israel, Japan, Rome, Iceland and Australia. I started this site to share my love of travel with everyone and build a community of like-minded, free thinking, free exploring people.