Afghanistan’s location at the crossroads of great civilizations in history has created a stunning diversity in food, arts, languages, and traditions. This diversity is demonstrated in each city of Afghanistan.
In Afghan folklore it is said that “everything comes to Kabul,” Nothing could be truer of Afghanistan’s bustling capital city. Proud of its heritage as a major trading city between the East and West, today it is still the central marketplace for all Afghanistan. Although change with tall modern buildings and busy traffic has come rapidly to Kabul, the bazaars and other landmarks of the old city are still the center of life. Baghi Balah, (Upper Garden), which is located inside Kabul on top of the hill and behind the Intercontinental Hotel, is the place where people go for sightseeing and swimming. From this hill, Kabul city is clearly visible. Qargha is another nice place for a sightseeing which is a 35 minute drive from center of the city. Qargha offers canoeing, biking and hiking facilities. There are many hostels and Chai khanas (tea houses) around for families and people to go in a group.
Every year thousands of pilgrims come to the capital of Balkh province, Mazar-e-Sharif, to pay homage to the Shrine of Ali, the Fourth Caliph of Islam. Festivities are held on Now Ruz, the Afghan New Year, observed on March 21st – the beginning of spring. Mazar-e-Sharif is also a major market place for karakul and traditional Afghan carpets. Referred to by the ancients as the “Mother of Cities,” today it is a small town near Mazare that is overshadowed by memories of past glory. Here, Zoroaster first preached, and it was at or near Balkh that Alexandra made this headquarters for two years. The city was also the capital of the Bactrian Empire. Later the Timurid dynasty built a college and an impressive shrine at Balkh. Nearby stand the remains of one of the oldest mosques of the Islamic world, the Masjide Haji Piyada.
Few cities have as diverse a past as Herat. Within Heart’s city walls Alexander built a mighty fortress; today a citadel, although altered many times, still stands on the same spot. In the centuries that followed, Herat was the pivot around which cultural influence from Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan converged. Ghenghis Khan and Tamerlane each wreaked havoc upon the city, but Herat persevered to live a period of unequaled splendor during the reign of the Timurid Kings. Today, Herat’s minarets, mosques, shrines, and monuments testify to the glory of that period, when art, literature, and refinement attained high degrees of perfection.
The birthplace of modern Afghanistan, Kandahar is thriving commercial and industrial center. Excepting its modern share Nau (New City), Kandahar still remains substantially unchanged from the city that Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of the state of Afghanistan, built two hundred years ago. It is famous for its fruits and intricate embroidery work.
Seven hours by car and one hour by plane from Kabul, this beautiful valley is undoubtedly one of Afghanistan’s foremost attractions. There are also extensive ruins of ancient towns and fortresses – one being the Red City – which flourished until the onslaught of Ghenghis Khan in the thirteenth century. Without fail, visitors to Afghanistan have marveled at the country’s natural beauty. The formidable Hindu Kush, the vast expanse of the Turkestan plains, and the seclusion of the Southern desert have impressed travelers from Alexander the Great to Marco Polo. In fact, it is the raw, unspoiled natural beauty that forms the visitor’s first and most enduring impression of the country. But of all the natural wonders of Afghanistan, the lakes of Band-e Amir are perhaps the most outstanding.
Social and Cultural Affarirs
Over thousands of years, Afghanistan has been the home of myriad civilizations and different religions. Its rich historical culture has played a great and important role in the heritage of humankind.
Afghanistan has attracted the attention of historians, archaeologists, and an endless variety of scholars over many generations. As the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H.E. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has expressed, the rebuilding of Afghanistan’s cultural institutions is a main priority of the Afghan government and people.
Through the Ministry of Information and Culture, the Afghan government supports various government newspapers, radio and TV stations and initiatives to promote culture, arts, tourism and youth affairs in Afghanistan.
The Social and Cultural Affairs Department of the Embassy of Afghanistan organizes and facilitates cultural shows, art and handicraft exhibitions, and Afghan musical and theater performances and films screenings. It gives regular advice and works closely with American academic and cultural agencies to better expose the American public to Afghan culture and traditions.
Promoting tourism to Afghanistan is an important part of our mission. The department is a resource for those who wish to travel to Afghanistan for tourism purposes. The Embassy provides assistance in obtaining visas and provides information on visiting historical places, museums and art galleries. Additionally, it will provide information to tourists traveling to Afghanistan.
The department believes that a cultural exchange between the United States and Afghanistan is imperative for strengthening U.S.-Afghan bilateral relations. The Social and Cultural Affairs Department works closely with its counterparts in Afghanistan to ensure that its work aligns properly with respective Ministries. The department has worked in close collaboration with the Office of First Lady, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs, and Disabled, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2015 and 2016, the Social and Cultural Affairs Department has worked with a number of think tanks, NGOs and academic institutions, and cultural and art organizations based in Afghanistan and the U.S. to address key issues relating to Afghanistan in this area, including the US Afghan Women’s Council, the Bush Institute, the Office of the First Lady of the US, Georgetown University’s Child and Human Development Center, the Department of State, the United States Institute for Peace, the American University of Afghanistan, DC Public Schools, Washington Performing Arts, and many other organizations.
Recent programs and events from 2015/2016 initiated and implemented via the Social Affairs Department include the following:
- Hosting the first Jobs Opportunities Conference: Facilitating Employment in Afghanistan
- Participating in DC Public Schools’ and Washington Performing Arts’ Embassy Adoption Program
- Hosting Her Excellency First Lady Rula Ghani for official visits to Washington, DC, including public events at USIP and Atlantic Council
- Participating in Passport DC, Washington’s largest cultural tourism event
- Active participation and engagement with the US Afghan Women’s Council
- Hosting a networking dinner for leaders of Afghan diaspora organizations
- Support to charitable organizations working for education, including the Aschiana Foundation and the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women
- Co-hosting the launch of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation’s exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Freer Sackler Gallery
Planning is currently underway for a conference on disability rights and programming that will be hosted in the Spring 2017 by the Embassy of Afghanistan, in partnership with the US Afghan Women’s Council and Georgetown’s Child and Human Development Center.
Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan
Radio Television of Afghanistan (RTA)
Bakhtar News Agency (BNA)
National Museum of Afghanistan