PLACES TO VISIT IN AFGHANISTAN
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 market place 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 a 35 minute drive from the 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.
The best time for visiting must-sees places in Kabul is Friday because it is the weekend in Afghanistan. Places to visit in Kabul include: TV Tower Hill; Darulaman Palace; Kabul Museum; King Nadir Shah’s Tomb; Money Market; Chicken Street; Kabul Zoo; Shamali; Istalif, a 50 minute drive out of Kabul; and Paghman, a valley 25 km west of Kabul.
Mazar Sharif – Balkh
Every year thousands of pilgrims come to Marzar Sharif to pay homage to the Shrine of Ali, the Fourth
Caliph of Islam. Festivities are held on Nawrooz, the Afghan New Year on March 21st, which marks the
beginning of spring. Mazare 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 Balkhthat that Alexander 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 the city walls, Alexander built a mighty fortress; today a citadel, but although altered many times, it 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 a 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.
Although today it appears to be only a small town, Ghazni was once the capital of the powerful Ghaznavid Empire, which stretched from Persia to India. Two star-shaped minarets, a palace, a mausoleum, and a museum only suggest the glory of Ghazni’s past.
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 Bande Amir are perhaps the most outstanding. Situated in the mountainous Hazarajat at an altitude of almost 3000 m, and 75 km from Bamiyan, these majestic blue lakes are of legendary beauty.
The most typical characteristic of Afghan society are the Chai Khanas, or tea houses, which abound everywhere in the country. Often beautifully decorated, the Chai Khanas are the central gathering place for every town and village in Afghanistan. In them, one can enjoy a nourishing Afghan meal,such as palaw, chalaw, kabab, a pot of green or black tea, and just sit and relax in the exotic atmosphere.
The people of this remote region, once called Kafirs, or unbelievers, were converted to Islam only 70 years ago. Now called Nouristanis – “People of Light” – they are still unique in all Afghanistan. In legend, the people of Nouristan claim the Greek god Dionysus as their patron.
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.