Heritage Sites

Afghanistan’s rich heritage has strains of Hindu and Buddhist influences in the past, while Islamic impact has remained dominant. Afghanistan has been under diverse religious, political and social influences and many heritage sites were dilapidated during Taliban regime. Now the new government is trying to restore and refunish them.



The Balkh city is famous for Mosque of Nine Cupolas (also known as Khoja Piada). Famous monuments like Top-i-Rustam, Takht-i-Rustam and shrine of Hazrat Ali, which is known for Mughal architecture and ornamented inscriptions are located here.



Ghazni was once the capital of the empire of Mahmoud of Ghazni and is a famous for strings of monuments like: Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud which is elegantly carved with Afghan marble, Palace of Sultan Mas’ud III, the citadel and the minarets.



Palace of Sultan Mas’ud III, the citadel (Qala-i-Ikhtiyar-ud-din), Mousallah Complex, Minarets of Sultan Baigara, Gazar Gah, Chisht-i-Sharif and Tomb of Jami are famous monuments in Herat. Masjet-e-Jam or Blue Mosque is important from pilgrimage and architectural point of view. Chishti-Sharif houses the two famous domes of Chisht.



Kabul is capital city of Afghanistan and houses monuments, mausoleums and mosques like Kabul Bala Hisar, ARG Citadel Abdur Rahman Mausoleum, Mausoleum of Timur Shah, Mausoleum of Nadir Shah, Id Gah Mosque. Shah-do-Shamshira Mosque, Pul-e Khishti Mosque and Sherpur Mosque.



Chilzina, Masoleum of Ahmad Shah Durrani and Shrine of Baba Wali are Mosques and mausoleums of Kandahar.


http://afghanistan.asiasociety.org/timeline/85/CE/2005 VIDEO





Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian/Farsi) are the official languages of Afghanistan and both belong to the Indo-European group of languages. Approximately 50 percent of Afghan population speaks Dari and about 35 percent speak Pashto. The Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) and other minor languages are the third official languages, in addition to Pashto and Dari in areas where majority speaks them. Bilingualism amongst Afghans is very common.  Both Pashto and Dari are mainly written with Arabic alphabets, with some modifications.

Dari, Afghan version of Persian language is spoken by more than half of the population of Afghanistan and by very diverse groups including- Tajiks, Hazaras, Farsiwan and Aimaq. Afghan Farsi, Herati, Tajiki and Kabuli are various dialects of Dari. The word ‘Dari’ comes from the word ‘Dar’ or valley; thus, ‘Dari’ refers to the language spoken by the people of valleys. This language originates from Khorasan, a mountainous land where valleys are found in abundance. It belongs to the group of western Iranian languages.

Pashto is spoken by more than 9 million people in Afghanistan, with Kabul and Kandhar being the major Pashto speaking towns. Pashto belongs toEast Iranian group of languages and can be further categorised into two major dialects: Western Pashto and Eastern Pashto varying from region to region in Afghanistan. Pashto has rich writing tradition, including thousands of two and four line folk poems. It has a long tradition of classic poets, Khoshal Khan Khattak being the most notable one, who is also considered as national poet of Afghanistan.

Minor Languages

In Afghanistan, Turkmen and Uzbek are more popular among other minor languages like Aimaq, Arabic (Tajiki Spoken), Ashkun, Azerbaijani, Balochi, Darwazi, Gawar-Bati, Gujari, Hazaragi, Jakati, Kamviri, Karakalpak, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Malakhel, Mogholi, Pashayi, Sanglechi-Ishkashimi, Tangshewi, Tatar, Tirahi, Uyghur, Waigali, Wakhi, Warduji and Wotapuri-Katarqali.

Turkmen is spoken by approximately 500,000 people in Afghanistan, mainly along the border of Turmenistan, in Faryab and Badghis provinces. Uzbek is spoken by about 1,400,000 people, mainly in North Afghanistan, especially Fariyab province.


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Traditions & Rituals

Afghan people are quite unique in certain traditions and rituals they adhere to. Geographical location of the country has contributed in making it a perpetual battleground for centuries and this in turn has influenced its cultural traditions and rituals.

Afghans display strong loyalty to their respective clans and tribes. They are known to be hospitable and loyal people, and value personal honour and responsibility as the fundamentals of social structure. At the same time, their identification with Afghanistan as a nation is fragile.

Majority of Afghans follow the principles of Islam and are firm believers in the omnipresent God. They greet one another with the phrase Assalamu Alaikum (‘Peace be with you’) and the response to the greeting is Wa Alaikum Assalaam, which indicates unison in thought. A handshake is the most common form of greeting someone, but women and men never shake hands or make an eye contact in Afghan society. Another way of greeting is to place your hands over your heart and nod slightly. Unrestricted interaction between genders takes place only within the family and at professional environment interaction is limited according to the social norms.




Cultural Festivals & Events

Cultural Festivals & Events

Cultural festivals in Afghanistan can be broadly categorized into three categories- Traditional, National and Religious.


Traditional festivals

Nau Roz  (New Year Festival according to the solar calendar) is celebrated on the first day of spring. It is the most popular and well known festival in Afghanistan. People celebrate this festival with dance, music and buzkashi matches. It is also called Gul e Sorkh in Mazar e Sharif.


National festivals

Jeshyn-Afghan Day (Independence Day) is celebrated on August 19th. Afghanistan was not a British colony, but its foreign policy was controlled by the British. Independence Day is celebrated to mark the Third Anglo-Afghan War which ended British control on foreign affairs of Afghanistan.

Labour Day is celebrated on May 1st and is a legacy of Soviet era.


Religious Festivals

Islam is followed by majority of Afghans and they celebrate all their religious festivals with enthusiasm.

Ashura is the 10th Day of the month of Muharram according to the Islamic calendar. Musharram commemorates the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussain and his followers in the battle of Karbala, whom Shias regard as the rightful successor of the Prophet.

Mawleed al Nabi (Birthday of Prophet Muhammad) is celebrated on the 12th day of the month Rabi al-Awal in the Islamic calendar. It is celebrated by attending special prayers in the mosques and meeting family and friends.

Eid Al-Fitr (After a month of Ramadan/fasting) is celebrated by praying collectively in the mosque, meeting family and friends, and eating sweet dishes.

Eid Al-Adha or Eid e Qurban is celebrated on the tenth day of the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. It marks the commencement of Haj (Muslim pilgrimage) and animals like sheep, goats or camels are sacrificed for feast on this day.


Game of Buzkashi is another major event of cultural significance in Afghanistan. It is also a national sport of Afghanistan. Literally it means “goat killing

Cultural Identities

Afghanistan is characterized by wide variety of ethnic groups, as well as several sects within Islam, each consisting of their own way of life. Particularly in rural Afghanistan, tribal and ethnic groups take pre-eminence over the individual.  Historic and geographic factors have created and preserved this diversity although with varying degrees of cultural assimilation continuously taking place and a considerable degree of cultural homogeneity which is result of this process.

In Afghanistan, ethnic groups can be broadly understood in two ways- tribal and non- tribal. Tribes are type of ethnic groups that define their membership through descent from a common ancestor, real or assumed, and in Afghanistan such descent is through male line, example, Pashtuns. On the other hand, non-tribal ethnic groups make no claim of genealogical relationship amongst their members, but they do
maintain a common identity, distinguishing themselves primarily by residence, example, the Tajiks.

Moreover, ethnicity means different things to different groups with every group using the identification term quam to explain a complexity of affiliations, that is, a network of families or occupations. A quamdefines an individual’s identity in his social world and every individual belongs to a quam which provides protection from outside encroachment, support, security, cooperation and social, political or economic assistance. Quam can correspond to a village, ethnic group, family kin or a descent group in a more restrictive sense.

The cultural pattern is one of competition among equivalent units, which unite in case of competition from outside. Like, competition starts at the level of male first cousins and works its way up through lineages, subtribes, to ethnic group rivalries. This pattern allows all Afghans to unite at least sometimes against outside threat, like it was to a great extent during the Soviet invasion.

Afghanistan is an Islamic country with 84 percent of its population being Sunnis, following the Hanafi School of jurisprudence and the remainder being predominantly Shi’a, mainly Hazaras. One percent ofpopulation is of Hindus and Sikhs. Culturally, Islamic religious tradition and codes with traditional practices provide the principal means of controlling personal conduct and settling legal disputes.

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Some of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan are following:



Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and have been dominant since the mid-eighteenth century. They can be further divided into tribes like Durrani, Ghilzai, Wardak, Jaji, Tani, Jadran, Mangal, Khugiani, Safi, Mohamand and Shinwari. They are scattered all over the country, and many Pashtuns also reside in northwestern Pakistan. Pahtuns are originally from south of Hindu Kush, and speak Pashto language and have a peculiar way of living, called Pashtunwali (rules, regulations and laws of Pashtuns).  Usually, Pashtuns are farmers, and a large number of them are nomads, who are living in tents made of black goat hair.


Tajiks (Tadzhiks) are the second largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan. They live in the Panjsher Valley north of Kabul, in the Northern and northeastern provinces of Parwan, Takhar, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Samangan, and few of them also live in the central mountains. Tajiks identify themselves with the valley or region they live in like Panjsheri, Badakhshi, Samangani and Andarbi.  Tajiks speak Dari and are involved in sedentary mountain farming and sheep/goat herding. In urban centres, they make up bulk of Afghanistan’s educated elite and possess considerable wealth and significant political influence. Hazaras

Hazaras reside mainly in the central region of Afghanistan, known as Hazarat. Their ancestors came from the Xinjiang region of northwestern China and they have been discriminated against for a long time, partly because they are minority Shiites in Sunni Muslim dominated Afghanistan. Hazaras speak Dari and are mostly farmers and shepherds.

The Turkic Groups

Uzbeks are the most populous Turkish group in Afghanistan. The Turkic groups (perhaps 1.6 million) have descendents of the Central Asian Turks who frequently invaded from the north. They speak an archaic form of Turkish, as well as Persian. They are mainly farmers and stockmen, breeding kakarkul sheep and Turkman horse.


Baluch are mainly settled in south western Afghanistan in the sparsely settled deserts and semi deserts of Hilmand Province and in the north western Faryab province. They have a tribal, highly segmented and centrallyorganised society under a powerful; chieftain known as sardar . They live a semi-sedentary and semi-nomadic lifestyle and are known for camel breeding. They speak Baluchi as well as Dari and Pashto.

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The Gender Aspect

The Afghan society regards women as perpetuators of the ideals of the society, symbolising honour of family, community and nation, and therefore are considered to be controlled and protected in order to maintain moral purity. Strict restrains are imposed directly on women and this subordinates their personal autonomy and strengthens male control over them and the society at large. The practice of purdah, seclusion, including veiling is the most visible manifestation of this attitude. Also, proscriptions against interactions between the sexes outside the mahrammat (acceptable male guardian like father, brother or son) severely limit women’s activities outside home, including access to education and employment. Women are considered untrustworthy and socially immature, and therefore such restrictions on them are considered valid and necessary.




Sharma, Rashmi. Afghanistan and SAARC. New Delhi: Regal Publisher, 2007.





http://afghanistan.asiasociety.org/timeline/61/CE/1850 video