Ten Facts About Afghanistan that Will Blow Your Mind

Afghanistan has been a prominent fixture in global news for over a decade, often associated with the Taliban, terrorism, burkas, and beards. However, beyond the war-related headlines, Afghanistan holds a rich tapestry of ancient traditions and the emergence of a new nation, according to Lyse Doucet. Here are some lesser-known facts about Afghanistan.

Nowroz and Buzkashi

Nawroz, the Afghan New Year celebrated on March 21, marks the first day of spring. In the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, locals partake in Nawroz festivities, including the raising of the Janda, an Islamic banner, signaling the arrival of spring and the start of the new year amidst a backdrop of over 30 years of enduring war.

Buzkashi, Afghanistan’s national game, is a contender for Olympic status. This wild game involves horseback riders competing to grab a goat carcass, aiming to gallop and drop it within a chalked circle. Initially, it was merely a sport for rival warlords. However, it is now also supported by mobile phone companies and private airlines, transforming into a fiercely competitive spectacle.

Despite low electricity access, mobile phone coverage is set to reach 90% of Afghanistan this year. Mobile phones are cultural game-changers, with even the Taliban using sophisticated smartphones. These devices, considered status symbols, allow for personalized, memorable numbers and reflect the changing dynamics of communication in the country.

Ancient Art and Architecture

Poetry is a crucial part of Afghan culture, with a tradition spanning over 1,000 years. Thursday nights in Herat are dedicated to “poetry night,” where people of all ages gather to share ancient and modern verse, indulge in traditional music, and savor sweet tea and pastries.

Herat’s ancient citadel, built by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, is a historical landmark. Alexander’s only love interest from the region was Roxanne, hailing from the northern Afghan province of Balkh. She bore him his only son before his untimely death at the age of 33.

Arnold Schwarzenegger serves as a source of inspiration for many young Afghan men. His muscled physique in his prime years prominently displays in bodybuilding centers across the country. There are some Afghans who have noted his resemblance to people from the region.

Culture and Civilization

Afghanistan’s culinary landscape extends beyond the stereotypical kebabs and rice. It reveals a sophistication shaped by centuries at the crossroads of major civilizations. Delve into the intricacies of Afghan cuisine with dishes like ashak, delicate ravioli filled with leeks, adorned with minced meat and yogurt, or Mantu pasta brimming with lamb and onions. As Afghanistan embraces global connections, new influences emerge, exemplified by former Japanese journalist turned chef Hiromi, now known as Mursal (meaning Rose in Persian). Mursal, enamored with Afghanistan, married into the culture and is imparting her sushi expertise to Afghans, adding a delightful international touch to the nation’s culinary repertoire.

Kandahar airfield holds the title of the busiest single-runway airstrip globally, accommodating the first complete non-NATO air traffic capability. With the influx of over 30,000 additional US troops and civilian personnel, it has become a hub for constant landings. It hosts not only US forces but also various non-US military entities, journalists, and dignitaries. Many considered controlling Kandahar pivotal in the Afghan conflict, as whoever commands it controls the entire country.

Paintings

The caves of Bamiyan in the central highlands of Afghanistan, date back to around 650 BC. They housed the world’s first oil paintings, showcasing a thriving Buddhist civilization until the 9th-century Islamic invasion. The region was once home to the world’s largest standing Buddhas until their destruction by the Taliban in 2001. Despite these challenges, a newly established tourism company aims to attract visitors back to the scenic Bamiyan. In the previous year, the company managed to welcome a total of two tourists, along with Afghan and foreign residents.

It is crucial to note that the currency of Afghanistan is the Afghani. One should not confuse it with the people referred to as Afghans. The resilient people of Afghanistan, despite enduring hardship and heartache, take pride in calling their country home.