Afghanistan, (which literally means Land of the Afghan) is a mountainous land-locked country located in Central Asia. It has a history and culture that goes back over 5000 years. Throughout its long, splendid, and sometimes chaotic history, this area of the world has been known by various names. In ancient times, its inhabitants called the land Aryana. In the medieval era, it was called Khorasan, and in modern times, its people have decided to call it Afghanistan. The exact population of Afghanistan is unknown, however, it is estimated to be somewhere around 21-26 million.
Afghanistan is a heterogeneous nation, in which there are four major ethnic groups: Pashtoons, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. Numerous other minor ethnic groups (Nuristanis, Baluchis, Turkmens, etc.) also call Afghanistan their home. While the majority of Afghans (99%) belong to the Islamic faith, there are also small pockets of Sikhs, Hindus and even some Jews. The official languages of the country are Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian)
The capital of Afghanistan is Kabul, which throughout history, was admired by many great figures, such as the great Central Asian conqueror, Zahirudeen Babur. Unfortunately, due to many years of war, this great city has been shattered and nearly destroyed.
Today, Afghanistan is on a road to recovery, however, after decades of war, the economy is still in ruin; its environment is in a state of crises. The country is riddled with landmines left from the war, which are still injuring and killing people on a daily basis.
Kabul is a city on the move. Once Afghanistan’s cosmopolitan centre and a stop on the old hippy trail to India, the city was ruined in the civil war. The Soviets left the city reasonably intact in 1989, but since then Kabul has been virtually destroyed by bombardments and street battles, with an estimated loss of some 30,000 lives.
The Kabul Museum, which used to have one of the finest collections of antiquities in Asia, has had nearly three-quarters of its finest collections looted. It’s still possible to see the remaining artifacts – those without any significant monetary value – but museum hours are erratic.
It was also once possible to walk the five-hour length of the crumbling walls around the ancient citadel, Bala Hissar, but they are now off limits and extremely dangerous due to unexploded bombs and landmines. The pleasant Gardens of Babur are a cool retreat near the city walls and one of the most peaceful and beautiful spots in the city.
The modern town of Ghazni is just a pale shadow of its former glory. The city is only 150km (93mi) southwest of Kabul on the road to Kandahar, but poor roads mean the trip still takes most of the day. Ghazni today is known mainly for its fine bazaar, featuring goods from Afghanistan and surrounding countries.
The carefully restored tomb of Abdul Razzak and the museum within are of interest. There are also some very fine minarets, the excavations of the Palace of Masud and, most surprisingly, a recently discovered Buddhist stupa that has survived from long before the Arab invasion of the 7th century.
Herat was once a small, provincial, relatively green, laze-about place that everyone seemed to like, an easy-going oasis after a lot of hassle and dry desert. In the 15th century, Herat was the Timurid centre of art, poetry, miniature painting and music, blending Persian, Central Asian and Afghan cultures to create one of Central Asia’s cultural highlights.
The Friday Mosque (Masjid-i-Jami), is Herat’s number one attraction and among the finest Islamic buildings in the world, certainly the finest in Afghanistan. It has some exquisite Timurid tilework to complement its graceful architecture. Herat’s ancient citadel, or qala (1305), was once a Taliban base. The covered bazaar in Charar Su is a complex of all sorts of shops and artisans’ workshops.
A short walk from the city centre, in the Musalla Complex, are the remains of an old medressa (1417), built by Queen Gowhar Shad. The wife of Timurid ruler Shah Rukh, Gowhar Shad was Timur’s daughter-in-law and a remarkable woman in her own right, who kept the empire intact for many years. Her mausoleum still stands near the medressa, a carbon copy of the Gur Emir in Samarkand.
The shrine complex of Gazar Gah (1425) is about 5km (3mi) northwest of Herat. The tomb of Abdullah Ansari, a famous Sufi mystic and poet who died in Herat in 1088, is the main attraction. The Afghan King Dost Mohammed and the famous Persian poet Jami are also buried here.
The 65m-high (123ft) Minaret of Jam, in the valleys of the Koh-e Saba, 313km (194mi) from Herat and around 550km (341mi) from Kabul, is the second highest in the world, as well as one of the oldest, dating back some 800 years.
To see our members, click here
To check Freight Forwarding related jobs, click here