Afghanistan is an important interface between South and Central Asia. The country has many facets and has been a popular travel destination in the past. It is above all the Buddhist and Islamic culture that make the country and a trip to Afghanistan so special.
Today you can still find evidence of a rich cultural heritage in the centers of Afghanistan. The absolute highlights include the paintings and figures from the Buddhist era. Until the destruction by the Taliban in 2001, the Bamiyan Buddha statues were one of the great cultural assets in the world. Year after year, the Buzkashi equestrian games are among the highlights of events in Afghanistan.
On a trip through the country you will quickly recognize the culinary specialties and you can be sure that the Afghan cuisine has one or two surprises in store. The most popular is khabilie.
Afghanistan is a multicultural country, which of course is also due to the influences of the numerous neighboring countries. So Afghanistan borders directly on Iran, with which there are always tensions. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan are also neighbors of Afghanistan.
A peculiarity of Afghanistan is that around three quarters of the land area consists of mountain ranges, which are hardly accessible. These regions are not inhabited and are mostly not managed.
The conflicts that are fought today in this beautiful country are particularly rooted in the 1990s. At that time, the United States, together with Saudi Arabia, gave money to the Mujahideen. These acted from Pakistan and overthrew the government in Afghanistan, which was supported by the Soviet Union. The area was supposed to be divided, but it failed. The rivalries were just too big and so the fundamentalist and radical Islamic Taliban militias took command. They started to spread one of the most radical interpretations of Islamic belief in Afghanistan.
Area: 652,230 km²
Population: 29.8 million people (July 2011, COUNTRYAAH.COM). Pashtuns 42%, Tajiks 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbeks 9%, Aimaks 4%, Turkmens 3%, Baluchi 2%, Others 4%.
Density: 46 people per sq. Km
Population growth: 2.375% per year (2011, CIA)
Capital: Kabul (3.12 million inhabitants, 2006)
Highest point: Nowshak, 7,485 m
Lowest point: Amu Darya river on the border with Turkmenistan, 258 m
Form of government: In 1996 the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan and ruled the country in fundamentalist-Islamic terms. The Taliban were disempowered by western military strikes and a transitional government with Hamid Karzai as head of government was set up after the “Petersberg Conference” in Bonn (November 2001). In October 2004, Karzai was elected president by a large majority in the Afghan presidential election.
The country’s national assembly has 250 members and a council of elders, the constitution dates from January 2004.
Administrative division: 34 provinces (welayat): Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Bamyan, Daykundi, Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghor, Helmand, Herat, Jowzjan, Kabul, Kandahar, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Nuristan, Paktika, Paktiya, Panjshir, Parwan, Samangan, Sar-e Pul, Takhar, Uruzgan, Wardak and Zabul
Head of government and head of state: President Hamid Karzai, since October 9, 2004
Language: The official national languages in Afghanistan are Dari-Persian (spoken by about 59% of the population) and Pashtu (about 35%). Turkic languages (11%, especially Uzbek and Turkmen) are also common. In addition, there are about 30 minority languages in Afghanistan, mainly Baluchi and Pashtun (total 4%). Many Afghans are multilingual.
Religion: Islam, of which 80% are Sunnis, Shiites 19%. There are also Hindus, Jews and Sikhs in Afghanistan.
Local time: CET + 3:30 h In Afghanistan there is no change between summer and winter time.
The time difference to Central Europe is +3: 30 h in winter and + 2:30 h in summer.
Telephone code: 0093 or +93
Mains voltage: 220 V, 50 Hz. In general, the electricity supply in Afghanistan is poor and there are often power outages
The neighboring countries of Afghanistan in the eastern highlands of Iran are Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China in the northeast, Pakistan in the east and south, and Iran in the west.
Afghanistan is usually divided into three geographical regions: the southern highlands, the northern Afghan Turkestan and the northeastern Hindu Kush (here the peaks reach up to 7,400 m).
In the Koh-i-Baba mountain range, is the source of the river Helmand. This mountain range is separated from the Hindukush by the Bamian valley.
In the southwest and north of the Hindu Kush and the Koh-i-Baba chain there are fertile and agricultural alluvial plains.
Afghanistan is largely mountainous, with the exception of the Amudarja plains in the north and smaller desert-like basins in the southwest. Less than 10% of the area is below 600 m.
The largest cities in the country are Kabul (4.9 million inhabitants with surrounding areas), Kandahar (339,200), Mazar-e-Sharif (239,800), Herat (166,600), Jalalabad (158,800, 2002) and Kunduz (118,000, 2003).
In the south and south-west of the country you will find mainly semi-deserts and deserts. The most important water supplier here is the Hilmend river. To the east of the Hilmend extends the Rigestan desert (“Sandland”), to the west of the river is Dascht-e Margoh, which consists largely of clay and gravel plains.
The southern region of the Hindu Kush drops steeply to the Nuristan landscape (partly covered by coniferous forests). The region between the capital Kabul and the Khaiberpass in the border region with Pakistan is the political and economic heartland of Afghanistan. In Western Afghanistan, the city of Herat is the core of the settlement.
The highest elevation in Afghanistan is the 7,485 m high Noshak in the Hindu Kush. The lowest point in the country is on the border with Turkmenistan in the Amudarja river plain (285 m).
Population in Afghanistan
This map of population distribution in Afghanistan was created by the Worldmapper team. Densely populated areas appear bloated, the area of sparsely populated areas is reduced. The shape of the grid has been preserved; an underlying map with the original geographical extent helps interpret the map. The distorted map should help to present abstract statistical information clearly.
Afghanistan has a continental climate characterized by hot summers and very cold winters. Most of the country experiences severe winters from December to February, with maximum temperatures around 8 °C and cold nights down to -8 ° C. A light to medium-heavy rainy season is between October and May, March and April are particularly wet months. Between June and September it is quite dry with average maximum temperatures of 30 – 32 ° C. Apart from dry winds along the Iranian border, this time can be pleasant. May and September to October offer particularly comfortable temperatures in mid-20 °C ranges during the day with a little more precipitation. Winters in Afghanistan’s lower regions are somewhat warmer, during which time the only significant precipitation falls.
In terms of climate, southern Afghanistan is one of the subtropics, where the cultivation of date palms is also possible. The northern part of the country is classified as a moderate zone. The temperature differences in Afghanistan are among the largest in the world: Temperatures from -50 to +53 °C can be reached.