35 Things You Never Knew About Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been in the news for years but how much do you really know about this country?

It’s a beautiful land with a diverse population that we know so little about. Here are 35 facts to give you a glimpse into the Afghanistan beyond the War on Terror.


1) Over 250 years old. Afghanistan was founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747.

2) The official name of Afghanistan: the Islamic State of Afghanistan

3) The capital city has changed. Initially it was Kandahar and later changed to Kabul.

4) Learn a new language. The official languages are Dari (Persian) and Pashto.

5) Pay for groceries with Afghani, the official currency.


6) Afghanistan borders six countries,  Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, China, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

7) UNESCO recognized. The Minaret of Jam, in Western Afghanistan, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

8) Rich in resources. Afghanistan is home to gold, silver, copper, zinc, and iron ore; precious and semi-precious stones and significant petroleum and natural gas reserves in the north.


9) A diverse population. There are several ethnic groups, including Hazaras, Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks.

10) A home for nomads. The Kuchis, a nomadic tribe, to this day largely remain nomadic and travel the country seasonally.

11) Surprisingly large. There are nearly 30 million people in Afghanistan with only 10% of them living in Kabul.

12) Life expectancy is only 46, much lower than the global average of 67.

13) Literacy is also low at 36 percent.

14) Things are changing. Six million children are now going back to school. One-third are girls.


15) Family comes first. It is considered the most important aspect in life.

16) Arranged marriages exist. Families often choose suitable pairings based on tribes, status or wealth.

17) Families stick together. Many extended families live together in compounds.

18) Shoes off. When you visit the home of friends shoes must be removed in the house.


19) Passion for fruit. Afghanistan grows some of the best fruits, such as grapes, melons and pomegranates.

20) Breaking bread. Naan, a flat unleavened bread, is present at every meal.

21) You will be seated. When eating at someone’s home, they will show you where to sit.

22) Get comfortable. Food is often served on plastic tablecloths on the floor and people sit on cushions.

23) Be polite. Although your shoes are off it is not proper for your feet to be stretched out toward the food.

24) Dig in. Food is communal and shared by everyone at the table.

25) Which hand? Only eat and pass or receive things with your right hand.

26) No worries about using the right fork. Food is eaten with your hand.


27) A smaller economy. The GDP (gross domestic product) per capita is U.S. $700 compared to the United States at $47,200

28) Small scale production. With an industry of shoes, furniture, textiles and soap.

29) Agriculture plays an important role with farming of nuts, wheat, fruit, wool and opium.


30) Religion plays an important role. Most Afghans practice Islam which influences both personal decisions and the direction of the country.

31) Obligations include prayer five times a day – at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening.

32) Sunday is not the day to rest. Friday is the Muslim holy day and things are often closed. It’s also common for businesses to close on Thursday, creating a “weekend” that is different to most of the world.

33) Ramadan changes everything. During this holy month Muslims fast during daylight hours and cannot eat, drink or smoke.


34) Grab a goat. Buzkashi, meaning “goat grabbing”, is the national sport of Afghanistan. Players on horses try to take the body of a headless goat or calf, get past the opposing team and throw it across the goal line.

35) The kite runner. Kite flying continues to be a popular sport in Afghanistan.

Have you visited Afghanistan? What did you think of the land and its people? Post up your comments and let me know.

If you liked this, you might also like: North Korea: A Traveler’s Guide to Successful Tourism in a Secretive Nation.

Main image Afghanistan 2010 by isafmedia

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