Afghanistan is a very unique country. The culture, history, food, and even the place itself are not something you won’t find elsewhere. Afghanistan’s unique culture and interesting cultural traditions are very different from what most countries practice. So much so, even a basic rundown of general Afghanistan facts might really surprise you.
Afghanistan’s people are strong believers in the omnipresent God and adhere to Islamic values. Their faith deeply shaped their cultural and national identity. What they believe in influences how they dress, what they eat, how they speak. Praising Allah, the name of their God, often appears in casual conversation.
Afghans are fiercely devoted to their clans and tribes. They are welcoming and trustworthy people who place high importance on personal honor and duty as the foundations of social structure.
In Afghan culture, men and women never shake hands or make eye contact. Only in families do unrestricted contact between people of different gender occurs. Authorities prohibit women from wearing skirts or blouses without sleeves. And if you visit Afghanistan during Ramadan, you may not eat, chew gum, or drink music in front of local Afghans.
Some people may think their practices are too archaic, even restricting. For most Afghans, their uncomplicated lifestyle and traditional lifestyle work for them, which is all that matters.
Join us as we explore Afghanistan on a deeper level. Read up on these 70 truly fascinating facts about Afghanistan.
- Afghanistan is the 37th most populated country in the world.
- Afghanistan has a land area of 652,000 square kilometers or 252,000 square miles.
- It is the 41st largest country in the world.
- Afghanistan has six bordering countries.
- Afghanistan became a member of the United Nations in 1946.
- Afghanistan is an Asian country.
- It is a landlocked or isolated country.
- The country’s nickname is “Graveyard of Empires.”
- Afghanistan is slightly bigger than France.
- It has a continental climate.
- Afghanistan is separated into 34 provinces.
- About 99.7% of Afghans are Muslim.
- The Afghan government has three branches: the executive, legislative, and judicial.
- The country is divided into 400 provincial districts.
- Afghanistan’s country code is +93.
- The word Afghan was derived from “Asvakan,” which means “horsemen” or “horse breeders.”
- The most popular sports in Afghanistan are cricket and football.
- Approximately 67% of the Afghan population live within a two-hour walk to the nearest health service.
- Even if Afghanistan has various reservoirs and rivers, most of the country is dry.
- Afghanistan is nearly the size of Texas, in the United States.
The official languages in Afghanistan are Dari and Pashto.
In Afghanistan, bilingualism or the use of more than one language is common. Dari and Pashto are the two main languages in Afghanistan.
Afghans also use languages like Hindustani, the language used in India and Pakistan. This is used a lot by the refugees of Pakistan. English is also a popular language since the 2000s.
Dari is a Persian language in Afghanistan.
Dari is the widely used language in Afghanistan, and the primary language of around 25% to 50% of the population. Since 1964, the Afghan government has been promoting the use of Dari.
King Mohammed Zahir Shah made Pashto the national language of Afghanistan.
In 1936, Mohammed Zahir, the King of Afghanistan from 1933 to 1973, made Pashto the national language of the country. At present, approximately 45% to 60% of the total population of Afghanistan has Pashto as their first language.
Afghanistan's population growth rate is one of the highest in the world.
According to the Afghanistan National Statistics And Information Authority, as of 2019, the population in the country is about 32.9 million, an increased rate of around 2.37%, one of the highest in the world outside Africa. Its population is comprised of Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks, and Pashtuns.
Afghanistan has the highest number of refugees in the world.
For almost 32 years, Afghanistan has been the country with the most number of refugees in the world. Afghans refugees are people from Afghanistan who left the country because of war and various uncertainties.
When did this begin? The Soviet War of Afghanistan from December 1979 to February 1989 marked the movement of refugees to nearby countries. About 95% of refugees are currently in Pakistan and India.
Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan.
In 1776, Kabul became the capital of Afghanistan. It is also the largest city, situated in the eastern part of the country. It’s ranked as the 75th biggest city in the world.
As of 2020, the population is about 4.222 million, including all the major tribes in the country. Kabul covers a land area of 1,023 square kilometers or 395 square miles.
Gardens of Babur is a historical place in Kabul.
It is an 11-hectare garden at the foot of Kuh-e Sher Darwaza mountain. It is the final resting place of the Mughal emperor, Emperor Zahīr ud-Dīn Muhammad, also known as Babur.
Left untended after the Afghan Civil War and the 1842 earthquake, restoration of the garden began a few years back.
Garden of Babur became the resting place of the Mughal emperor.
Among the 10 gardens that Emperor Babur built, his favorite was the Garden of Babur. He loved it so much that he expressed his desire to be buried there. When he died in 1530, he was initially buried in Agra, India, but his body was reburied in the garden in 1544.
After years of restoration, the Garden was reopened to the public in 2008, and an average of 300,000 people visited the site. In 2016, about 1,030,000 people toured the garden.
42% of Afghanistan's population is below the poverty line.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the Afghan government, 42% of the total population of Afghanistan is under the poverty line, and only 20% is above it. However, that 20% still has a high probability of falling into poverty.
Polygamy is acceptable in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, under the Sharia Law, (religious law forming the Islamic traditions), permits polygamy, which means that an Afghan can marry up to four wives. But he needs to treat each wife equally. Though Qur’an, the religious text of Islam, allows men to have only four wives, the number of concubines an Afghan can have is unspecified.
Afghanistan recorded 240 honor killings.
Honor killing is the murder of a family member that has brought shame or dishonor to the family. In 2012, Afghanistan had a record of 240 honor killings. About 21% of male spouses engaged in an honor killing; 45% by their father, and 7% by their brothers.
The national flag of Afghanistan has three colors.
The flag of Afghanistan has three colors, presented in a vertical manner, and the country’s National Seal in the center. The color black symbolizes the fearful time of being a protected state in the 19th century; red represents the blood of those who fought for their freedom, while green means hope and success in the future.
Afghanistan's flag features the national emblem.
The national seal of Afghanistan has the inscription of the shahada, an Islamic creed, written in Arabic. Beneath the inscription is a picture of a mosque or a temple, in which two Afghanistan flags are attached. Below the mosque is the name of the country. Around the picture of the temple are heaps of wheat.
Aushak is Kabul's traditional dumpling.
One common dish during Islamic gatherings like Eid and Ramadan is Aushak. It is a pasta dumpling dish stuffed with spring onions, served with meaty tomato sauce. Afghans often enjoy this with yogurt and dry mint toppings.
Muslims who take part in Ramadan do not eat or drink during the daytime. They only eat one meal, (the ‘suhoor’ or ‘sehri’), just before daybreak, and another (the ‘iftar’), after dusk. ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ or the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast marks the end of Ramadan.
Kabuli Pulao is the national dish of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan facts for foodies! Kabuli Pulao or Qabli Palaw came from the northern part of Afghanistan and is the most famous course in the country. This delicious rice dish contains different spices like vegetables, nuts, and meat, especially lamb meat.
Check out the video to see how Kabuli Pulao is made!
Sheer Khurma is a holiday dessert.
Sheer Khurma or Sheer Khorma literally means “milk with date plum fruits”. The combination of nuts, whole milk, saffron, dates, sugar, and rose water gives a delightful taste to it. It is one of the best desserts, often eaten during Eid and Ramadan.
Afghanistan produces tons of fresh fruits.
Currently, Afghanistan produces about 1.5 million tons of fresh fruits yearly. Plus, it also produces some of the finest fruits like grapes and pomegranates, along with mulberries and melons.
Other widely grown fruits in the country are apricots, berries, figs, and peaches. Another fast-growing industry in Afghanistan is the building and use of greenhouses.
Afghanistan exports hand-woven rugs.
One of the most prominent products Afghanistan exports are hand-woven rugs.
Other products that Afghanistan exports are leather, fur, and handcrafted antique reproductions of furniture. Furthermore, Afghanistan is the third largest trader of cashmere.
Afghanistan has vast natural resources.
The country is rich in natural resources. It has great deposits of natural gas, marble, coal, gold, and other rare, raw materials. Based on a 2007 assessment, Afghanistan has still a remarkable volume of unexposed non-fuel mineral reserves.
Rohullah Nikpai is a two-time Olympic medalist.
Taekwondo athlete Rohullah Nikpai from Afghanistan won a bronze medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics. He won against Juan Antonio, a Spanish taekwondo player, and became the first Afghan Olympic title holder in any competition.
Mirwais Azizi is the richest man in Afghanistan.
Mirwais Azizi is an Afghan businessman based in Dubai. He is the founder and director of Azizi Bashuka, the biggest commercial bank in Afghanistan.
Based on a report, he is the richest man in the country, who controls 70% of the oil market in the country. Mirwais Aziz’s estimated net worth is 5 to 10 billion US dollars as of the year 2020.
There are two KFC restaurants in Kabul but KFC does not stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
There are two KFC restaurants in Afghanistan. However, this KFC does not stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken, but actually Kabul Fried Chicken.
Mirwais Abdurrahimzai is the owner of Kabul Fried Chicken, which offers pizza, burgers, and chicken on its menu. After he returned from the USA, Mirwais built the restaurant to give his countrymen a taste of American food.
Handshake between opposite sex is not allowed.
In general, Afghan men do not touch the women during greetings, unless they are close family members. A man should wait for the woman to initiate a handshake. Men may greet a girl by putting his hand above his head and bowing.
A pig named Khanzir is the only pig in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has no pig farms, nor does it sell pigs. In 2002, China gave a male pig by the name of Khanzir, and his female companion, to the Kabul Zoo. Khanzir and his companion had piglets, but an accident occurred when a bear attacked their cage. The female pig and the piglets died, and Khanzir was the only survivor.
Buzkashi is Afghanistan's national sport.
Buzkashi is a centuries-old Asian game. Men on horseback fight over a beheaded goat with no hooves, which weighs about 40 to 100 pounds or 20 to 50 kilograms. The aim of the game is to grab the goat and deliver it to a goal. Afghans usually play Buzkashi on Fridays.
Nauruz is the Afghan New Year.
In Afghanistan, the Nauruz celebration usually happens on March 21 and lasts for two weeks. During this time, a huge crowd party in the streets to join the celebration of Afghan New Year. In addition, they host parties for friends and families and cook different Afghan traditional foods.
Friday is a Muslim sacred day.
Though Afghanistan is a poverty-stricken country, people here are diligent. They work for six days a week, from Saturday to Thursday. Friday is their only day off, because it is a Muslim holy day. Most shops and businesses are closed on Fridays.
60% of out-of-school youth are girls.
In Afghanistan, there are about 3.7 million children not in school, and 60% of these are girls. The lack of female teachers, especially in rural areas, is one reason for low enrollment. Only 16% of schools are all-girls schools. Most of these do not have proper sanitation facilities which also deters attendance.
The number of internet users has slightly increased.
According to a source, the number of internet users in Afghanistan is about 7.65 million, as compared to its population of nearly 40 million in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, there was an increase of 366,000. Unfortunately, having internet access in the country is relatively costly.
Afghans eat using their right hand.
Generally, Afghans use their right hand for eating, and specifically their fingers for scooping food. Though sometimes utensils like spoons and fork are provided, it is still acceptable to use one’s hands in eating. However, the left hand should not be used to touch food.
Zablon Simintov is the only Jew living in Afghanistan.
As of 2019, Zablon Simintov, a carpet trader, is the only Jew, (a person whose religion is Judaism), staying in Afghanistan. He is the caretaker of the Jewish temple in Kabul. According to Simintov, “I stay to care for the synagogue,” he says. “If I was not there, the land would have been already sold off.”
The life expectancy in Afghanistan is 64.96 years old.
Life expectancy in Afghanistan is one of the lowest in the world. Based on studies made in 2020, life expectancy is around 64.96 years, though it’s an increase of 0.52% from the previous year. Unfortunately, about 25% of children die before their fifth birthday. This is mainly due to malnutrition and lack of medical facilities.
The Hindu Kush is 800 meters long.
The Hindu Kush is an 800-meter long mountain range that stretches through Afghanistan. It has several peaks, the tallest is the Terichmir at 7,708 meters or 25,289 feet. The Hindu Kush is also called the “Killer of the Hindus”, because of its dangerous routes located on the mountains.
Helmand is the longest river in Afghanistan.
Helmand River, which means, “dammed or having a dam” is the longest river in Afghanistan with a length of 1,150 kilometers or 710 miles. It is mainly used to irrigate the crops of Afghan farmers. Though it has a mineral build-up that lessens the advantage in watering crops, it is salt-free.
Taliban is a political group in Afghanistan.
The word Taliban is an Arabic word that means students. Taliban is a political and military government that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. It was also one of the groups involved in the Afghan Civil War. The group has been criticized internationally for the rigid execution of their Islamic laws, ending in violence in the country.
Al Qaeda is a terrorist group.
Al Qaeda, which means “The Base”, is an Islamic military group founded in 1988. The United Nations Security Council declared Al Qaeda as a terrorist group. The group has initiated different terrorist attacks including the September 11 attacks, often called 9/11.
Osama Bin Laden founded Al Qaeda.
Osama Bin Laden, born in Saudi Arabia, was the founder of Al Qaeda. During the Soviet-Afghan War in 1979, Bin Laden offered assistance to the leaders of the country. He created a database recording the names of the volunteers for the Afghan War, which directed the creation of the Al Qaeda group.
Casio F-91W is a sign of Al Qaeda.
According to a report, the Casio F-91W digital watch was a sign created by Al Qaeda. Moreso, the United States Military intelligence officials have classified that rebels used F-91W in creating bombs.
The world's two biggest Buddhas are in Afghanistan.
Bamiyan Buddhas are two statues that were carved on the cliff of the Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan. The bigger one measured 175 feet in height, while the smaller one measured 120 feet in height. Unfortunately, the Taliban destroyed the statues in March 2001.
Afghans consider dogs "unclean" and "impure."
As part of their religious beliefs, Afghans consider dogs as vile and undesirable. In connection with this belief, they do not let dogs get into areas where people pray. Contrary to the West’s people, who treat dogs as man’s best friend, Muslims reject canines and avoid contact with these animals.
Tuberculosis is a serious health problem in Afghanistan.
Tuberculosis is a contagious disease that affects the lungs. In Afghanistan, it is an endemic disease, with about 76,000 cases annually. In 2007, around 8,200 people died because of tuberculosis. As such, the country is ranked 22nd in the world amongst the highest cases of tuberculosis.
Drinking alcohol is illegal in Afghanistan.
Afghans at any age are not allowed to consume alcoholic drinks. Violation of this law is punishable in accordance with their religious laws. Imprisonment or prescribed whipping is the punishment to the violators of the law.
Most Afghans celebrate their birthday on January 1.
During the war from 1980 to 1990, the Afghan government had no system to record the birth of their citizens. Due to the lack of available records, Afghans born in that decade, do not know their exact birthdate. To make things easier for them, they chose January 1, since it is the easiest date to remember.
Kapisa is the smallest province in Afghanistan.
Kapisa is in the northeastern part of the country, and it has a land area of 1,842 square kilometers. However, it is one of the most populated provinces in Afghanistan, apart from Kabul, with a population of 364,900 people.
Niloofar Rahmani is the first female pilot of the Afghan Air force.
On May 14, 2013, the Afghan Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Niloofar Rahmani made history when she became the first female pilot of the Afghan Air Force. Even though her family received threats from the Taliban while she was doing it, she worked hard and completed the training.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a lot of fans in Afghanistan.
There are about 200 gyms in Kabul and their fitspiration is former California governor and movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Pictures of muscled Schwarzenegger hang in most of these gyms. Some say that Arnold looks like an Afghan.
Afghanistan is the leading opium producer.
Since 2001, Afghanistan has been consistently one of the top producers of opium. In addition, 90% of opium worldwide came from Afghanistan. As of 2017, opium production has provided 400,000 jobs in the country. According to a report, the production of opium increased by 63%, from 2016 to 2017.
The Blue Mosque is Afghanistan's haven of peace.
The Blue Mosque in the northern province of Balkh Province, Afghanistan, is famous for the thousands of doves circling the temple. The temple is a place to escape the busy and noisy streets of the city because it is consistently quiet. The temple is also used in the celebration of Nowruz or Persian New Year.
Afghani is the country's currency.
Some people mistaken Afghani as the term used for people in Afghanistan. Afghani is the currency, while Afghan refers to the people. The country’s currency has gone through various changes. In 1925, Afghani replaced the Afghan rupee. In 2002, the government modified the currency again and replaced all the old notes.
An entire city in Afghanistan has weekly poetry nights.
Herat, a city located west of Afghanistan, have poetry night every Thursday. People of all ages share classic and modern poems, listen to music, and eat pastries all night.