Afghanistan: Holidays and National Customs
|February||Festival of Sacrifice|
|February||Islamic New Year|
|April 18||Liberation Day|
|18th of Augu||Independence day|
|October November||Beginning of Ramadan|
|November||Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)|
The dates for the Islamic holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and therefore shift every year.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, which precedes the festival day Eid al-Fitr, Muslims do not eat during the day, but only after sunset. Many restaurants are therefore closed during the day.
The festivals Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha last 2-10 days depending on the region.
The national sport of Afghanistan is Buzkashi, a type of polo from the time of Alexander the Great without any set rules.
A goat’s head is used instead of a ball.
Awesta, the old book of songs, consists of traditional stories, sagas and chants, but also of hymns that were probably later written in the country’s own language, the remains of which have been preserved in the cuneiform script of the Hachamanischa. Awesta is not only the holy book, but also the first literary book of the Arian peoples. Gâthâ (literally: song) is the five-chapter original of Awesta. The tradition that poets recite their poems and songs orally still exists in Afghanistan today, as they often cannot read or write themselves.
Afghanistan is an Islamic country, so everyday life is heavily influenced by Islam. Islamic traditions and morals influence both individual behavioral standards and legal affairs. With the exception of residents in the larger cities, most Afghans live in their tribes and maintain centuries-old customs and rituals.
Close-knit tribal communities with clearly defined male and female roles predominate outside of Kabul. It is considered an insult to show the soles of your feet. Guest rooms are unknown, so guests share the room with the family. Women should cover their shoulders and wear pants or long skirts. You embrace to greet you.
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that AF stands for the nation of Afghanistan as a two-letter acronym.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
One has to bear in mind that Afghanistan once had a very rich cultural heritage, a significant part of which was razed to the ground by the Taliban after they captured Kabul in 1996.
In addition to the paintings and figures dating back to Buddhist times, the destroyed cultural assets included, above all, the Buddha statues carved into a rock by Bamiyan, once the most important sight of the battered country.
Silk Road in the Tian Shan Mountains
The Silk Road crosses borders and includes the following core areas.
– the province of Xinjiang in China
– the north of India
– the northern parts of Pakistan
– Iran’s Khorasan province in the northeast of the country
The Silk Road is an old caravan route. According to our era, it has been known since the year zero.
The Silk Road led from China to West Asia and India, bypassing the Gobi Desert. For example, the cities of Antioch and Damascus became rich through constant trade with other countries – and also gained political importance.
City-states such as Turfan and Chotan emerged along the Silk Road.
A trip from China to the Mediterranean took about three to four years. In this way, China supplied silk, glass and precious metals, among other things. In return, cultivated plants were brought to China from the west.
The tracks of the later railways were largely laid along the old Silk Road. It is hoped that by maintaining and renewing the Silk Road, Afghanistan will become a hub between Central and South Asia and the Middle East. The Silk Road was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2014.
Minaret and archaeological relics of Jam (2002)
At 65 meters, the Jam Minaret is the second tallest minaret in the world.
It was built in 1194. Brick reliefs, stucco and an inscription on blue ceramic are the decorations. There are historical and archaeologically valuable monuments to be seen in the area.
The Jewish cemetery, fortress walls, the ruins of three watchtowers and a castle.
The Jam Minaret was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2002.
Cultural landscape and archaeological relics of the Bamyian Valley (2003)
Occidental and Asian cultures mingled along the Silk Road in the Bamiyan Valley.
Only the remains and the remaining rock niches of the two Buddha statues from the 5th and 6th centuries with heights of 53 and 38 m have been preserved.
They come from the Gandhara culture around the 7th century. They show oriental but also Greek style elements. The caves, which were probably also suitable for living, have fresco paintings on clay plaster in an Indian-Iranian style.
There are numerous Buddhist monasteries, sanctuaries and fortifications from Islamic times on the site. The valley is on the “Red List” of World Heritage in Danger. The destruction in 2001 by the Taliban was also given to justify inclusion in the “Red List”.
The archaeological sites were nevertheless entered on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2003. Further information on the local Buddha statues can be found below under Buddha Statues by Bamiyan.
The Jam Minaret
For details, see UNESCO World Heritage Sites above
Minarets of Sultan Baiqara
These four minarets are located in Herat. They are remnants of a madrassa that the Sultan Baiqara once had built. A new road cuts right through the minarets and divides them into two groups of equal size. The main part of the wonderful blue tiles has unfortunately disappeared.
Fortresses, citadels and tombs
This old fortress in Kabul was built around the 5th century BC. and was originally divided into two parts: the lower and the upper fortress. The latter is what the visitor gets to see today. The Bala Hissar Fortress was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting in Afghanistan during the 19th century and gave its name to a 1979 uprising that led the Afghan Liberation Organization against the pro-Russian regime. The fortress was also a hotly contested site in the conflict during the Afghan civil war. Today the 55th Division of the Afghan National Army is stationed here.
Fortifications The fortifications of historic Balkh completely surround the city. The stone walls are at least nine meters high and in very good condition. They can be climbed and offer excellent views of the countryside and the city.
Darul Aman Palace
This European-style palace rises approximately 15 kilometers outside the city center of Kabul. It was built in the early 20th century in the neoclassical style on a hilltop, from where you get an interesting view over the flat, dusty western valley around Kabul. The building was supposed to serve as a parliament building, but was badly damaged by fire in 1969. After the restoration, it was home to the Kabul Museum and later the country’s Ministry of Defense. The palace was last destroyed in the early 1990s when the Mujahideen factions fought for control of Kabul. Today there are NATO troops and an observation post in the palace.
Citadel of Herat
The sand-colored citadel of Herat with its 18 towers – located in western Afghanistan on the former Silk Road – offers a magnificent view over the city. The origins of the citadel are said to go back to the time of Alexander the Great. It is considered one of the largest and most important castle complexes in Central Asia. The so-called mock graves from 1378 in the catacombs of the castle, in which no mortal remains were buried, but only served Islamic culture and memory, are also of great importance. In October 2011, the renovation work was completed and a museum was inaugurated. After the citadel served military purposes for a while, it and the museum can be visited again.
The tomb of Jami can be reached near the city of Herat, about one kilometer from the minarets of Baiqara. Jami was a famous Sufi poet who was greatly revered in the 15th century.
Dargah der Rabia Balkhi
The small tomb of the well-known Persian poet Rabia Balkhi is located at the Parsa shrine in the city of Balkh. The poet was locked up there by her brother because she is said to have had an affair. She wrote her most famous poems on the walls with her own blood before she died.
Buddha statues by Bamiyan
One has to bear in mind that Afghanistan once had a very rich cultural heritage, a significant part of which was razed to the ground by the Taliban after they captured Kabul in 1996. In addition to the paintings and figures dating back to Buddhist times, the destroyed cultural assets included the Buddha statues in rock niches from Bamiyan, once the most important attraction of the battered country. The “students” (Taliban) from Pakistan blew them up in March 2001 for religious reasons. These largest standing Buddha statues in the world, in the 2,500 m high valley of Bamiyan, date back to the 6th to 7th centuries. The two works of art, carved from red stone, had heights of 35 (eastern statue) and 55 m (western statue), respectively. Bamiyan used to be one of the largest settlements in Central Asia. Several thousand monks are said to have lived here in the 6th and 7th centuries. They lived in caves that were carved into the same rock wall from which the two Buddha statues were created. Although the statues have been subject to numerous destruction since the ousting of Buddhism by Islam, they were a well-traveled international tourist destination until the occupation of Afghanistan by the USSR in 1979. The face of the smaller Buddha was destroyed by the Taliban in 1998, three years later, Taliban militias demolished both statues at the behest of their leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. It is currently being discussed
Mosques and shrines
Eid Gah Mosque
The second largest mosque in Kabul was most likely built under King Abdur Rahman Khan in 1893. Located in the more affluent part of Kabul, the Islamic place of worship is also an unofficial political center because of its great influence on government decisions.
Herat Friday Mosque The Herat Friday Mosque is
over 800 years old. The minarets of the incredibly beautiful Islamic church dominate the old town.
This large and famous Sufi shrine by Khoja Abdullah Ansari stands in front of his tomb, an impressive blue construction.
Shrine of Hazrat Ali
Mazari Sharif, the modern fourth largest city in Afghanistan, centers around the already often restored shrine of Hazrat Ali, one of the most imposing monuments in the country. The city’s large sanctuary, decorated with blue tiles, is passionately venerated by both Sunnis and Shiites. Both groups believe that the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son of the Prophet Mohammed, is located on the site of the mosque.
Afghan National Museum
A few kilometers from Kabul city center is the Afghan National Museum, which once housed the largest collection of Central Asian artifacts in the world. Much of this collection was looted in the 1990s after the upper floors of the museum were bombed under Taliban leadership. The museum, reopened today, is still impressive, but shows a much more modest collection of Buddhist and Islamic art objects.
OMAR Mine Museum
The OMM in Kabul contains a collection consisting of 51 types of land mines that have been used in Afghanistan over the past few years. For security reasons, the museum is only open to visitors who have previously contacted the museum’s main office.
Bagh-e Babur (Babur Gardens)
This tourist park in Kabul, which also houses the tomb of the first Mughal emperor Babur, consists of several parks and is surrounded by walls, which were restored in 2005 by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) were built. The original ones had been destroyed in the civil war.
This park is a nice place to relax. However, it is only intended for women.
This popular park in Kabul is used by residents of the Afghan capital for relaxation and recreational activities. Right at the entrance you will find the European designed entrance portal, which looks very similar to the Paris er Arc de Triomphe.
This is a very old and famous park located on a mountain near Gazar Gah.
More natural beauties
The Band-e-Amir chain of lakes near Bamiyan used to be a very important tourist attraction and at the same time an important stage destination of the so-called “Hippie Trail” of the 1960s and 1970s. This hippie trail describes the travel routes of the hippies overland from Europe to East Asia and had as basic ideas such ideals as self-discovery or God-discovery as well as cultural exchange with other peoples. The “Reservoir of the Prophet” is made up of a total of six lakes, which have been dammed by dams. There is a legend about the origin of the lakes, according to which Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed, in the 7th century in exile in Afghanistan in the valley of Band-e Amir met an evil prince who wanted to take him prisoner. Ali escaped and created these lakes through various defensive acts.
The wild Hindu Kush in the northeast of the country consists of two huge mountain ranges.