Afghanistan, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a landlocked multi-ethnic country located in the heart of south-central Asia. The country lies along significant trade routes linking southern and eastern Asia to Europe and the Middle East.
It has long been considered a prize pursued by empire builders, and for millennia great armies have tried to conquer it! We’ve prepared 39 interesting facts about Afghanistan that’ll probably give you a better insight into this war-torn country…
1. Humans moved in early
It’s estimated that Afghanistan was first inhabited by humans at least 50,000 years ago.
In 642 CE in Herat and Zarang, Arab Muslims spread the religion of Islam in Afghanistan.
Before the introduction of Islam, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism were the dominant religions of Afghanistan.
4. The father of the nation
Ahmad Shah Durrani was the founder of the last Afghan empire, crowned in 1747. He united the country into one kingdom.
His son, Timur Shah succeeded him, after his death in 1772.
6. A new capital city
In 1776, Timur Shah relocated the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul.
On the 19th of August, 1919, Afghanistan became an independent country (from Britain). The 19th Augugst is celebrated as a national holiday.
8. Civil war
The Afghanistan 1992 to 1996 civil war left at least 50,000 victims.
9. The Taliban
For nearly 5 years, between 1996 and 2001, the Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan controlled Afghanistan.
10. The first democratically elected president
Elected in 2004, the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan was Hamid Karzai.
11. A war on terror
After the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States in 2001, believed to have been carried out by Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda forces, a US and UK coalition launched a military attack on the major cities of Afghanistan including Kabul, against the Taliban regime.
12. Whats in a name?
The name Afghanistan means quite literally, “the land of Afghans”.
13. Where is Afghanistan located?
Follow the coordinates 34.5333° N, 69.1333° if you want to explore the amazing cultural and historical sites that Afghanistan has to offer. The terrain is mostly dominated by rugged mountains, whilst the north and southwest of the country also feature flat plains.
14. Its surrounded by other nations
Afghanistan is a landlocked country bordered by Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, India, and China.
15. Population stats
Afghanistan’s population was 38.04 million in 2019. As a comparison, that’s about half the UK population! Afghanistan is the 37th most densely inhabited country in the world. Afghanistan is inhabited by – 80% Sunni Muslims, 19% Shia Muslim and 1% others.
16. Afghanistan is a large country
The total land area of Afghanistan is 251,773 square miles (652,090 square kilometres) – twice the size of the UK. Afghanistan’s location on the Silk Road route gave the country many economic and cultural advantages.
17. A historic capital city
Kabul is the largest city as well as the capital of Afghanistan. It became Afghanistan’s capital in 1776 and stretches across an area of 106 square miles (275 square kilometres) and had a population of 4,114 in 2019.
18. Try not to mix up the people and the currency!
The residents of Afghanistan are known as Afghans and their currency is Afghanis. Often people get puzzled with the terms!
19. A towering height
Noshaq is the highest point in Afghanistan with a high of 7,492 meters or 24,580 ft. To put this in to perspective, Mount Everest is 8,849 meters tall.
20. A river runs through it
The longest river in Afghanistan is The Helmand.
21. Afghanistan is hot… and cold!
Afghans experience an arid to semi-arid climate with hot summers and cold winters.
22. Official languages
Afghanistan has two official languages – Pashto and Dari. Around 35% of the population speak Pashto while 50% speak Dari. In fact, thirty other minor languages are also spoken in Afghanistan.
23. Friday is the holy day here
Most of the shops and businesses here close on a Friday, the Islamic holy day.
24. Islamic laws
The legal, political, economic, and personal lives of the Afghans are ruled by Islamic laws.
Fasting and praying during the month of Ramadan is a mandatory act except for those who are sick, traveling, or having some other issues.
26. Family expectations
Family is an important feature of Afghanistan’s culture. Men are responsible to earn and provide for the family, while women are expected to stay home and serve the family. In modern Afghanistan, some women work for a living!
27. Handshakes are a common way of greeting
Interestingly, in Afghanistan’s culture, besides handshakes, some people place their hand on their heart and nod slightly to show respect and approval to the other party.
28. Food and dining
Meals are generally served on the floor, on clothes made from various materials. It’s generally shared from the same dish unless required otherwise.
29. Marriage is important
In Afghanistan divorce is rare and is not well accepted in society.
30. Polygamy is permissible but rare
Also, many of the marriages are consummated between cousins.
31. Life expectancy
The average life expectancy in Afghanistan is 64.49 years (2018).
32. New Year celebrations
Unlike many countries around the world, Afghanistan celebrates the New Year on the 21st of March, which is the first day of spring.
33. The national game here is unusual
Afghanistan’s national game is “Buzkashi”. Players in two teams try to catch the rogue goat while riding a horse. This is a tough game and it’s been played for centuries.
34. Afghanistan is well connected!
Mobile signal is available in more than 90% of the country and mobile phones are in fact considered a status symbol.
35. Body-building pin ups
In Afghanistan, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the poster boy in many of the bodybuilding centres.
36. A massive Buddha
Until it was destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, Afghanistan boasted one of the largest Buddha statues in the world at an amazing 180ft tall and 1,500 years old!
37. Ancient cave paintings
A truly fascinating fact! These oil paintings were drawn in the caves of “Bamiyan” around 650BC.
38. Unhealthy crop cultivation
Afghanistan was once the largest producer of cannabis in the world. In 2013, Afghanistan saw an increase of 300% in opium cultivation compared to the previous seven years before the USA invasion.
Afghanistan exports opium, fruits, nuts, hand-woven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems.
Afghanistan imports machinery and other principal goods, food, textiles, and petroleum products.
Do you know any interesting facts about Afghanistan? Share them here in the comments below!
If you want to learn more, check out these interesting facts about Iraq