WHY TO VISIT AFGHANISTAN
It is obvious that at present this country is not a great tourist destination: Many of its riches have been destroyed and an unhappy and hungry population is not symptomatic of a pleasant trip. However there is no lack of places to visit.
Kabul, surrounded by mountains, until recently sheltered an archaeological museum rich in objects originating from India, China and Syria but this was unfortunately pillaged.
Bamiyan became better known after its large Buddhas were dynamited by the Taliban at the beginning of this century. Other sites still remain in this valley; the ruins of a fortress at Char-é-Zohak, the lakes at Bnad-é-Amir, the Adjar canyon...
Mazar-e-Charif possesses a magnificent blue mosque dating from the 15th Century, a sacred place that attracted a large number of pilgrims before the Spring Festival was forbidden.
WHAT TO SEE IN AFGHANISTAN
Top destinations in Afghanistan are:
- Mazar-e Sharif
WHEN TO GO TO AFGHANISTAN
The country benefits from a continental climate with high differences of temperature between day and night as well as summer and winter, especially in the mountain areas. Precipitation varies from one area to another, the dominant being a dryer climate, especially in the north-west and south of the country.
Autumn is without doubt the best season to visit Afghanistan as the weather is dry with warm temperatures. If you go in summer, only in the mountains will you not suffer from the extreme heat. Spring sees the plants flowering as well as frequent rain and the melting of the snows. In winter, snow covers a large part of the country.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Afghanistan.
Ashura: Musharram commemorates the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Imam Hussain or Husayn bin Ali, whom Shias regard as the rightful successor the Prophet. Muharram is the first month month day of Islamic calendar. Ashura is the tenth day of this month of mourning.
Nau Roz (January-March): Literally meaning a new day. Nau Roz is the first day of spring and of the Afghan solar calendar, and falls on March 21st. This festival dates back to the time when Zoroastrianism was still a powerful religion, long before Islam arrived in Afghanistan. During the celebrations, lavish meals are prepared in Afghan homes. Two dishes, Samanak and haft-mehwah are specially cooked for the occasion. Samanak, a dessert like made of wheat and sugar, can take more than two days to prepare. Haft-mehwah consists of seven fruits and nuts to symbolize spring: walnuts, almonds, pistachios, red and green raisins, dried apricots, and a local fruit known as sanjit.
Mawlid-an Nabi (March-May): A large number of Muslims do not believe in celebrating birthdays of death anniversaries because there is no historical evidence that such was the practice of the Holy Prophet. However, similarly large number of Muslims do commemorate the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal of the Islamic lunar calendar year. For Muslims, this date marks the most important event in the history of the mankind because the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is regarded as the Chief of the Prophet, to whom the Holy Quran was revealed. The extent of the festivities, on this occasion, is restricted because of the fact that the same marks the death anniversary of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as well. On this occasion public meetings are held in the mosques where religious leaders and scholars make speeches on different aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The stories of the Prophet’s birth, childhood, youth and adult life, his character, teachings, sufferings, and forgiveness of even his most bitter enemies, his fortitude in the face of general opposition, leadership in battles, bravery, wisdom, preaching and his final triumph through Allah’s mercy over the hearts of people are narrated in detail. Salutations and songs in his praise are recited. In some countries, streets, mosques and buildings are decorated with colorful buntings and pennants and well illuminated at night. Affluent Muslims generously donate to charity. Feasts are arranged and food is served to guests and the poor.
Jeshyn-Afghan Day (19 August): The British relinquished their control on the foreign affairs of Afghanistan. It is celebrated as Independence Day.
Eid al-Fitr - End of Ramadan (October-December): The most important month of the Islamic calendar is Ramadan, the ninth month, during which every Muslim -except the old, young, pregnant women and the sick- is required to avoid food, drink from dawn to dusk. The feast of Eid al-Fitr commences after the month of fasting ends, on the first day of the month of Shawal. Celebrations usually last for about three days. Congregational prayers are held in mosques, after which Afghans visit their friends and relatives. New clothes, especially for the children, are made, and food is prepared.
Eid al-Qurban (December-February): Once the fasting month and ensuring celebrations have ended, it is time for those planning to perform their pilgrimage to Mecca to start preparations for their journey. The hajj, takes place in the 12th month of the Muslim calendar, the rituals being performed in Mecca between the 7th and 10th days. The feast of Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of the month. Animals, such as sheep, goats, and camels, are sacrificed, especially by those who have already performed the hajj. This commemorates the slaying of a sheep, instead of Isaac, as a sacrifice by his father Abraham, at the command of the Allah. One third of the slaughtered animal is used by the family, another third is distributed to relatives and the rest is given to the poor.
- Eid al Adha (August-September): Essentially a festival of sacrifice, Eid al Adha marks the devotion of Prophet Abraham who willingly sacrificed his son Ismael for the God. During the celebrations, animals like goats and lambs are sacrificed and distributed to the poor there after. With Eid al Adha, The Hajj begins when millions of Muslim head to Mecca.
Muharram: Muharram festival commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). This festival starts at the 1st day of Muharram and lasts for 10 days until 10th of Muharram. Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar. To the Shi’ites, the most important religious period of the year is the first 10 days of the new year. This is a period of mourning, in memory of the killing of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), at Karbala on October 10 680 A.D., along with 72 of his immediate family and followers. The festival climaxes on the tenth day of the month of Muharram. Ashura is an optional fast day. As the shi’ite population is relatively small, this day is celebrated on a smaller scale in Afghanistan.
- Lailat-ul Qadr: This blessed night is also called the night of Power. It is the particular night in the month of Ramadan when the Holy Quran first began to be revealed. The Holy Quran states: “The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran began to be revealed, the Book which comprises guidance for mankind and clear proofs of guidance and divine signs which discriminate between truth and falsehood … “(2:186) The translation of first verses which were revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, were the following: ‘Recite in the name of thy Lord Who created everything. He created man from a clot of blood. Recite, for thy Lord is Most Beneficent, Who has taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.’ (96:2-6) The Holy Prophet (PBUH), was forty years of age at that time. The Holy Quran regards the Night of Decree as better that one thousand months.
Mushaira or Orange Blossom Festival: is held on 13 April every year in Jalalabad. Picnics and music concerts are held under the orange trees and near the shrines.
Apple Blossom Festivals: are held to celebrate the herald of spring in Wardak province 23 April every year.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH AFGHANISTAN
The aerial route is the most practical to get to Afghanistan; the only international airport is at Kabul. To travel within the interior of the country there are interior airlines operating as well as crowded buses without fixed timetables that stop frequently without warning and for a variety of reasons.
by plane, main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON AFGHANISTAN
country entry requirements: passport + visa (check your visa requirements)
health tips & vaccination: drink only bottled water and avoid ice. Vaccine against cholera, typhus, hepatitis A and B and malaria prophylaxis are recommended.
local currency: Afghan Afghani
local time zone: GMT+4:30
electricity: tipe C and F (220 V, 50Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN AFGHANISTAN
typical food in Afghanistan
- Pulao: Steamed rice with raisins and carrots, usually served with a side dish of meat, vegetables or beans.
- Qabli pulao: A popular variant of pulao served with lamb.
- Shorma: Soup using various different recipes such as.
- Mantu: Meat-filled dumplings steamed and topped with a sauce of yogurt, mint, lemon and garlic.
- Fruit: Afghanis eat plenty of seasonal fruit, most notably melons from Mazar-e Sharif and Maimana, grapes and pomegranates from Kandahar, and oranges from Jalalabad.
- Kababs: Lamb kebab typically served with naan, and rarely rice.
- Lamb chops: Grilled and cooked with spices.
- Qorma: A rich stew cooked with onions and a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices.
- Kofta: Afghan-style meatballs.
- Chai: Indian-style tea.
- Dugh: Yoghurt flavoured with rose water and salt.
souvenirs from Afghanistan
- Turkman hats
- Kandahar embroidery
- Istaff pottery
- Herat glassware
- nomad jewellery
- handmade carpets and rugs
- Nuristani woodcarving
Goodbye: Makha de khah
How are you?: Ta sanga yee?
Thank you: Manana
What is your name?: Staa num tsa dhe?
How much is it?: Da somra di?
Sorry: Zeh mutaasif yum