Languages Spoken: Pashtu 35%, Afghan Persian (Dari) 50%, Turkic languages (primarily Uzbek and Turkmen) 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%, much bilingualism.
Tour guides and service professionals in tourist-oriented facilities are very likely to speak English.
Religions: Sunni Muslim 84%, Shi'a Muslim 15%, other 1%
People and Culture: Afghanistan is an intensely Muslim country. Although the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif is one of the most important Shia Muslim shrines, the country is 85% Sunni. The Hazaras of central Afghanistan form the bulk of the Shias, and as such have strong links to Iran. The country has historically been a great centre of Sufism.
In 1959, Afghan leadership stopped enforcing the seclusion and veiling of women, something that the Holy Qu'ran is often interpreted to require. However, the Taliban's accession to power has brought back the burqua with a vengeance. Afghan women are flogged or otherwise punished for refusing to wear the shuttlecock-shaped accouterment, or for being on the street without the company of a male relative, or for painting their nails. Women can only attend single-sex hospitals (of which there are few) and are not allowed to seek employment or education. Female visitors to Afghanistan should take great care: dress even more carefully than you would in Iran, keep a man close by whenever you take to the street, and do not enter mosques.
Afghanistan's Islamic heritage is also the basis of its famous hospitality: if you - male or female, Muslim or not - are invited into a home, expect to be treated with a respect not often understood in the West. Though a family may clearly be putting themselves under financial strain to provide a meal for you (the honoured guest), refusing the invitation or offering to bring food would be a grave insult. A gift of fruit, flowers or something small from home would be appreciated, however.
Afghanistan's geographical position - for centuries crisscrossed by armies, empires and trade routes - combined with its varied geological terrain have given rise to the great diversity of foods, arts, languages and traditions that make up this country's cultural heritage. Unfortunately, many of the country's artistic treasures have been surreptitiously sold on the global market, while 2001 saw the destruction of the Great Buddhas in Bimiyan by the Taliban. The Afghan people have, in some ways, sacrificed such luxuries in order to survive. However, no country with as rich and plentiful a heritage as Afghanistan could forget this source of strength and expression. If and when this country is blessed with a little peace, expect to be dazzled by its contributions to the world's culture once again.
A resident or national of Afghanistan is called "Afghan". The Term used to describe things from here is "Afghan". For example, "Afghan food".
Food: Indian-style cuisine. Most modern restaurants in Kabul offer international cuisine as well as Afghan specialities such as pilau and kebabs. Traditional foods and tea from chai khanas are found in all areas at low prices, which normally include service. Afghan dishes can be very good, but spicy, so visitors should take care when ordering
Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in this country’s customs, laws, and regulations. Common sense and discretion should be exercised. Visitors should dress conservatively when and where appropriate (e.g. women should not wear tight or revealing clothing or short skirts, and both men and women should refrain from wearing shorts). Respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities especially when visiting holy places and mosques. During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), Muslims refrain from drinking, eating, and smoking between sunrise and sunset. This may affect the availability of food services. Non- Muslims may wish to refrain from these activities in public. Ramadan is expected to begin on or about:
September 24, 2006
September 13, 2007
September 02, 2008
August 22, 2009
September 24, 2010
August 01, 2011
July 20, 2012
July 09, 2013
June 29, 2014
June 18, 2015
June 07, 2016
May 27, 2017
May 16, 2018
May 06, 2019
April 24, 2020