Afghanistan, in southwestern Asia, bounded on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan; on the east by China and the part of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir controlled by Pakistan; on the south by Pakistan; and on the west by Iran. Afghanistan was a monarchy from 1747 to 1973, when the king was overthrown by military officers and the country was proclaimed a republic; the republic dissolved in 1992 as the country erupted in civil war. Afghanistan lies across ancient trade and invasion routes from central Asia into India. This position has been the greatest influence on its history because the invaders often settled there. Today the population includes many different ethnic groups. Most of the present borders of the country were drawn up in the 19th century, when Afghanistan became a buffer state, or neutral zone, between Russia and British India. Kabul is the capital and largest city.

Ahmad Shah DURRANI unified the Pashtun tribes and founded Afghan

Afghanistan, in southwestern Asia, bounded on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan; on the east by China and the part of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir controlled by Pakistan; on the south by Pakistan; and on the west by Iran. Afghanistan was a monarchy from 1747 to 1973, when the king was overthrown by military officers and the country was proclaimed a republic; the republic dissolved in 1992 as the country erupted in civil war. Afghanistan lies across ancient trade and invasion routes from central Asia into India. This position has been the greatest influence on its history because the invaders often settled there. Today the population includes many different ethnic groups. Most of the present borders of the country were drawn up in the 19th century, when Afghanistan became a buffer state, or neutral zone, between Russia and British India. Kabul is the capital and largest city.

Ahmad Shah DURRANI unified the Pashtun tribes and founded Afghanistan in 1747. The country served as a buffer between the British and Russian Empires until it won independence from notional British control in 1919. A brief experiment in democracy ended in a 1973 coup and a 1978 communist countercoup. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to support the tottering Afghan communist regime, touching off a long and destructive war. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure by internationally supported anti-communist mujahidin rebels. A series of subsequent civil wars saw Kabul finally fall in 1996 to the Taliban, a hardline Pakistani-sponsored movement that emerged in 1994 to end the country's civil war and anarchy. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, a US, Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for sheltering Usama BIN LADIN.
A UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution, a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. In December 2004, Hamid KARZAI became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan, and the National Assembly was inaugurated the following December. KARZAI was reelected in August 2009 for a second term. The 2014 presidential election was the country's first to include a runoff, which featured the top two vote-getters from the first round, Abdullah ABDULLAH and Ashraf GHANI. Throughout the summer of 2014, their campaigns disputed the results and traded accusations of fraud, leading to a US-led diplomatic intervention that included a full vote audit as well as political negotiations between the two camps. In September 2014, GHANI and ABDULLAH agreed to form the Government of National Unity, with GHANI inaugurated as president and ABDULLAH elevated to the newly-created position of chief executive officer. The day after the inauguration, the GHANI administration signed the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement and NATO Status of Forces Agreement, which provide the legal basis for the post-2014 international military presence in Afghanistan.
Despite gains toward building a stable central government, the Taliban remains a serious challenge for the Afghan Government in almost every province. The Taliban still considers itself the rightful government of Afghanistan, and it remains a capable and confident insurgent force despite its last two spiritual leaders being killed; it continues to declare that it will pursue a peace deal with Kabul only after foreign military forces depart.

Judicial branch:
  • highest court(s): Supreme Court or Stera Mahkama (consists of the supreme court chief and 8 justices organized into criminal, public security, civil, and commercial divisions or dewans)
  • judge selection and term of office: court chief and justices appointed by the president with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga; court chief and justices serve single 10-year terms
  • subordinate courts: Appeals Courts; Primary Courts; Special Courts for issues including narcotics, security, property, family, and juveniles


Three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), red, and green, with the national emblem in white centered on the red band and slightly overlapping the other 2 bands; the center of the emblem features a mosque with pulpit and flags on either side, below the mosque are numerals for the solar year 1298 (1919 in the Gregorian calendar, the year of Afghan independence from the UK); this central image is circled by a border consisting of sheaves of wheat on the left and right, in the upper-center is an Arabic inscription of the Shahada (Muslim creed) below which are rays of the rising sun over the Takbir (Arabic expression meaning "God is great"), and at bottom center is a scroll bearing the name Afghanistan; black signifies the past, red is for the blood shed for independence, and green can represent either hope for the future, agricultural prosperity, or Islam note: Afghanistan had more changes to its national flag in the 20th century - 19 by one count - than any other country; the colors black, red, and green appeared on most of them

  • Lion; national colors: red, green, black
  • Name: "Milli Surood" (National Anthem) lyrics/music: Abdul Bari JAHANI/Babrak WASA
  • Note: adopted 2006; the 2004 constitution of the post-Taliban government mandated that a new national anthem should be written containing the phrase "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) and mentioning the names of Afghanistan's ethnic groups
  • Afghanistan\AF.mp3
  • Papulation:34,124,811 (July 2017 est.)
  • Noun: Afghan(s)
  • Adjective: Afghan
  • Ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, other (includes smaller numbers of Baloch, Turkmen, Nuristani, Pamiri, Arab, Gujar, Brahui, Qizilbash, Aimaq, Pashai, and Kyrghyz)
  • Note: Afghanistan's 2004 constitution recognizes 14 ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Baloch, Turkmen, Nuristani, Pamiri, Arab, Gujar, Brahui, Qizilbash, Aimaq, and Pashai (2015)

Afghan Persian or Dari (official) 80% (Dari functions as the lingua franca), Pashto (official) 47%, Uzbek 11%, English 5%, Turkmen 2%, Urdu 2%, Pashayi 1%, Nuristani 1%, Arabic 1%, Balochi, Shughni, Pamiri, Hindi, Russian, German, French .5% each, don't know refused <1%

Note: the Turkic languages Uzbek and Turkmen, as well as Balochi, Pashayi, Nuristani, and Pamiri are the third official languages in areas where the majority speaks them (2017 est.)

Muslim 99.7% (Sunni 84.7 - 89.7%, Shia 10 - 15%), other 0.3% (2009 est.)

  • 0-14 years: 40.92% (male 7,093,980/female 6,869,737)
  • 15-24 years: 22.22% (male 3,859,696/female 3,723,679)
  • 25-54 years: 30.35% (male 5,273,969/female 5,082,972)
  • 55-64 years: 3.92% (male 659,635/female 678,942)
  • 65 years and over: 2.59% (male 407,437/female 474,764) (2017 est.)

Populations tend to cluster in the foothills and periphery of the rugged Hindu Kush range; smaller groups are found in many of the country's interior valleys; in general, the east is more densely settled while the south is sparsely populated

  • Urban population: 27.6% of total population (2017)
  • Rate of urbanization: 3.77% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
  • Major urban areas - population
  • KABUL (capital) 4.635 million (2015)
  • At birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
  • 0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
  • 15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
  • 25-54 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
  • 55-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

Total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2017 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth:19.9 years

Note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio:396 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Total: 110.6 deaths/1,000 live births

Male: 118 deaths/1,000 live births

Female: 102.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2017 est.)

  • Total population: 51.7 years
  • Male: 50.3 years
  • Female: 53.2 years (2017 est.)
  • 5.12 children born/woman (2017 est.)
  • 8.2% of GDP (2014)
  • Urban: 78.2% of population
  • Rural: 47% of population
  • Total: 55.3% of population
  • urban: 21.8% of population
  • rural: 53% of population
  • total: 44.7% of population (2015 est.)
  • urban: 45.1% of population
  • rural: 27% of population
  • total: 31.9% of population
  • urban: 54.9% of population
  • rural: 73% of population
  • total: 68.1% of population (2015 est.)
  • 3.2% of GDP (2015)
  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 38.2%
  • male: 52%
  • female: 24.2% (2015 est.)
  • total: 11 years
  • male: 13 years
  • female: 8 years (2014)

Afghanistan is gradually recovering from decades of conflict. Before 2014, the economy had sustained nearly a decade of strong growth, largely because of international assistance. Since 2014, however, the economy has slowed, in large part because of the withdrawal of nearly 100,000 foreign troops that had artificially inflated the country’s economic growth. Despite improvements in life expectancy, incomes, and literacy since 2001, Afghanistan is extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid. Much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. Corruption, insecurity, weak governance, lack of infrastructure, and the Afghan Government's difficulty in extending rule of law to all parts of the country pose challenges to future economic growth. Afghanistan's living standards are among the lowest in the world.
The international community remains committed to Afghanistan's development, pledging over $83 billion at ten donors' conferences between 2003 and 2016. In October 2016, the donors at the Brussels conference pledged an additional $3.8 billion in development aid annually from 2017 to 2020. Despite this help, the Government of Afghanistan will need to overcome a number of challenges, including low revenue collection, anemic job creation, high levels of corruption, weak government capacity, and poor public infrastructure.
In 2017 Afghanistan's growth rate was only marginally above that of the 2014-2016 average. The drawdown of international security forces that started in 2012 has negatively affected economic growth, as a substantial portion of commerce, especially in the services sector, has catered to the ongoing international troop presence in the country. Afghan President Ashraf GHANI Ahmadzai is dedicated to instituting economic reforms to include improving revenue collection and fighting corruption. The government has implemented reforms to the budget process and in some other areas. However, many other reforms will take time to implement and Afghanistan will remain dependent on international donor support over the next several years.
GDP (purchasing power parity):

  • $69.51 billion (2017 est.)
  • $67.81 billion (2016 est.)
  • $66.25 billion (2015 est.)
  • $21.06 billion (2017 est.)
  • 2.5% (2017 est.)
  • 2.4% (2016 est.)
  • 1.3% (2015 est.)
  • $1900 (2017 est.)
  • $2,000 (2016 est.)
  • $2,100 (2015 est.)

Note: data are in 2017 dollars

  • 22.7% of GDP (2017 est.)
  • 25.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
  • 21.4% of GDP (2015 est.)
  • household consumption: 108.6%
  • government consumption: 12.8%
  • investment in fixed capital: 18.2%
  • investment in inventories: 0%
  • exports of goods and services: 6.6%
  • imports of goods and services: -46.2% (2014 est.)

opium, wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins, poppies


small-scale production of bricks, textiles, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, apparel, food products, non-alcoholic beverages, mineral water, cement; handwoven carpets; natural gas, coal, copper

  • 7.983 million (2013 est.)
  • agriculture: 78.6%
  • industry: 5.7%
  • services: 15.7% (FY08/09 est.)
  • 35% (2008 est.)
  • 40% (2005 est.)
  • lowest 10%: 3.8%
  • highest 10%: 24% (2008 est.)
  • revenues: $1.992 billion
  • expenditures: $6.636 billion (2016 est.)
  • 9.5% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year: 21 December - 20 December

  • 6% (2017 est.)
  • 4.4% (2016 est.)

opium, fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems, and medical herbs

Exports - partners
  • Pakistan 46.3%, India 37.6% (2016)
  • $6.16 billion (2016 est.)
  • $7.034 billion (2015 est.)
Imports - commodities

machinery and other capital goods, food, textiles, petroleum products

Imports - partners

Iran 19.3%, Pakistan 18.3%, China 16.7%, Kazakhstan 9.5%, Uzbekistan 6.1%, Turkmenistan 5.4%, Malaysia 4% (2016)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold
  • $6.477 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
  • $6.232 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Debt - external
  • $1.28 billion (FY10/11 est.)
  • $2.7 billion (FY08/09 est.)
Exchange rates Afghanis (AFA) per US dollar
  • 67.87 (2016 est.)
  • 67.87 (2016 est.)
  • 67.87 (2015)
  • 61.14 (2014 est.)
  • 57.25 (2013 est.)

Agriculture has traditionally driven the Afghan economy, accounting for approximately 50 percent of GDP before the Soviet invasion in 1979. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector has never produced at full capacity. Before the invasion, only 30 percent of the total arable land of 15 million hectares was cultivated. At that time the main exports were sugarcane, sugar beets, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and wool. However, the continuing war reduced production significantly. Soviet troops planted land mines all over the country, rendering large areas of land useless and forcing large sections of the population to become refugees. The resulting cut in production caused massive food shortages. Kabul University produced a report in 1988 which found that agricultural output was 45 percent less than the 1978 level. The UNDP estimated that in 1992 only 3.2 million hectares of land were cultivated of which only 1.5 million hectares were irrigated. In 2001, the principal food crops were corn, rice, barley, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In Afghanistan, industry is also based on agriculture, along with raw materials. The major industrial crops are cotton, tobacco, castor beans, and sugar beets. Sheep farming is also extremely valuable. The major sheep product exports are wool and sheep skins.

In 2000, Afghanistan experienced its worst food crisis ever recorded because of a very severe drought. Such low levels of recorded rainfall had not been seen in the country since the 1950s. The water used to irrigate the lands comes from melting snow, and in 2000 the country experienced very little snowfall. The southern parts of the country were badly affected, and farmlands produced 40 percent of their expected yields. Half of the wells in the country dried up during the drought, and the lake feeding the Arghandab dam dried up for the first time since 1952. The barley crops were destroyed and the wheat crops were almost wiped out. In the middle of 2000, the drought's consequences were felt in Kabul, when more and more displaced people were migrating to the capital. The prices of staple foods have also increased in different parts of the country because demand is much higher than supply. For instance, in Kabul, a family of 7 can earn US$1.14 a day if the head of the family is lucky enough to find employment, whereas a loaf of bread costs US$0.63, roughly half an individual's income per day. A large segment of the Afghan population depends on food imported from abroad or distributed by aid organizations. The civil strife and drought increased the country's food import requirements to a record 2.3 million metric tons in 2000/2001, according to the UN World Food Programme. Much of the needed imports come from the international community and the rest from Pakistan. The disruption to the flow of this international aid caused by the 2001 war between U.S.-led forces on the Taliban has threatened widespread famine and starvation to much of the Afghan population. The number of livestock was greatly reduced during the years of war. In 1970, the total livestock population was estimated at 22 million sheep, 3.7 million cattle, 3.2 million goats, and 500,000 horses. According to a survey carried out in 1988, the number of cattle had declined by 55 percent, sheep and goats by 65 percent, and the number of oxen used to plow the fields was down by 30 percent. Much of the livestock is malnourished and diseased. Afghanistan in 2000 was the world's largest producer of opium, used to produce the drug heroin. The total opium production for 1998 was estimated at 2,102 metric tons against a total of 2,804 metric tons in 1997. This reduction in the level of poppy production was due to heavy and continuous rains and hailstorms in some of the major poppy producing provinces. However, in 1999, the country produced a staggering 4,600 metric tons. The rotting economy forced farmers to grow the opium poppies as a cash crop , and this practice was supported by the Taliban until 2001, because it provided farmers with money that they would otherwise not be able to earn. However, in 2001, the Taliban ordered the country's farmers to stop growing poppies following an edict by Mullah Omar, the supreme religious leader, that opium cultivation is not permitted under Islam. While analysts contend that the reason had more to do with convincing the United Nations and the international community to lift sanctions, officials from various countries argued that this was done in order to boost the market price for heroin. Heroin still flowed from Afghanistan, only at a much higher price—after the Taliban's ban on opium growing, the price shot from $44 to $700 per kilo. This caused speculation that the Taliban had stockpiled a large supply of the drug, and the higher proceeds allowed them further funding for military and government operations. With the September 2001 attacks on the United States, opium production was believed to be resumed.

The Afghan economy has always been agricultural, despite the fact that only 12% of its total land is arable and about 6% is currently cultivated. Agriculture production is constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water. As of 2014, the country's annual fruit and nut exports is at $500 million. Afghanistan is known for producing some of the finest fruits and vegetables, especially pomegranates, apricots, grapes, melons, and mulberries. Several provinces in the north of the country (i.e. Badghis and Samangan) are famous for pistachio cultivation but the area currently lacks proper marketing and processing plants. It is claimed that some Indian companies buy Afghan pistachios for a very low price, process them in India and sell to western countries as Indian products. However, the Afghan government is planning to build storage facilities for pistachios since receiving bumper crops in 2010.The Bamyan Province in central Afghanistan is known for growing superior potatoes, which on an average produces 140,000 to 170,000 tonnes.

Wheat and cereal production is Afghanistan's traditional agricultural mainstay. National wheat production in 2010 was 4.532 million tons. The overall agricultural production dramatically declined following four years of drought as well as the sustained fighting and instability in rural areas. Soviet efforts to disrupt production in resistance-dominated areas also contributed to this decline. Furthermore, since 2002 more than 4 million expats returned to Afghanistan. Many of these former refugees are now involved in the farming industry. Some studies indicate that agricultural production and livestock numbers may only be sufficient to feed about half of the country's population. Shortages are exacerbated by the country's limited transportation network, which is currently being rebuilt. A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that Afghanistan was nearing self-sufficiency in grain production

The availability of land suitable for grazing has traditionally made aimal husbandry an important part of the economy. There are two main types of animal husbandry: sedentary, practiced by farmers who raise both animals and crops; and nomadic, practiced by animal herders known as Kuchis. Natural pastures cover some 7,500,000 acres (30,000 km2) but are being overgrazed. The northern regions around Mazar-i-Sharif and Maymanah were the home range for about six million karakul sheep in the late 1990s. Most flocks move to the highlands in the summer to pastures in the north. Oxen are the primary draft power and farmers often share animals for plowing. Poultry are traditionally kept in many houses, mostly in rural households.

Much of Afghanistan's livestock was removed from the country by early waves of refugees who fled to neighboring Pakistan and Iran. In 2001, the livestock population in Afghanistan had declined by about 40% since 1998. In 2002, this figure was estimated to have declined further to 60%. An FAO survey done in the northern regions in spring 2002 showed that in four provinces (Balkh, Jowzjan, Sar-e Pol, and Faryab), there was a loss of about 84% of cattle from 1997 to 2002 and around 80% of sheep and goat. The majority of Afghans traditionally raise sheep instead of goats because goat meat is not popular in Afghanistan. After 2002, the Afghan ministry of agriculture and livestock with assistance from USAID have been helping to regrow livestock numbers throughout the country. This was done by providing Afghan villagers training and animals to start with.The Agriculture Minister Mohammad Asef Rahimi stated that over the past decade arable land had increased from 2.1 million hectares to 8.1 million hectares, wheat production from 5.1 million tonnes to 2.3 million tonnes, nurseries from 75,000 hectares to 119,000 hectares and grape production from 364,000 tonnes to 615,000 tonnes. Almond production jumped from 19,000 to 56,000 tonnes and cotton from 20,000 to 45,000 tonnes, with the saffron yield reaching 2,000 kilograms.

The country has plenty of rivers and reservoirs, which makes it a suitable climate for fish farming. Fishing takes place in the lakes and rivers, particularly in the Kabul River around the Jalalabad area and in the Helmand River in southern Afghanistan. Fish constitute a smaller part of the Afghan diet today because fish farmers are unable to produce enough fish to keep up with the demands of customers. Most fish and seafood is imported from neighboring Pakistan, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. In recent years, USAID has helped many Afghans in establishing fish farms across the country. There are hundreds of fish farms throughout the country and the largest one is at the Qargha, which supplies fish eggs to the other fish farms. Fish farming has also been launched in the Salma Dam.

Lumber yard in Asadabad, Kunar Province. Afghanistan's timber has been greatly depleted, and since the mid-1980s, only about 3% of the land area has been forested, mainly in the east. Significant stands of trees have been destroyed by the ravages of the war. Exploitation has been hampered by lack of power and access roads. Moreover, the distribution of the forest is uneven, and most of the remaining woodland is only found in the Kunar, Nuristan and the Paktia regions in the east of the country. The natural forests in Afghanistan are mainly of two types: dense forests of oak trees, walnut trees, and many other species of nuts that grow in the southeast, and on the northern and northeastern slopes of the Sulaiman ranges; and sparsely distributed short trees and shrubs on all other slopes of the Hindu Kush. The dense forests of the southeast cover only 2.7% of the country. Roundwood production in 2003 was 3,148,000 cubic metres, with 44% used for fuel. The destruction of the forests to create agricultural land, logging, forest fires, plant diseases, and insect pests are all causes of the reduction in forest coverage. Illegal logging and clear-cutting by timber smugglers have exacerbated this destructive process. There is currently a ban on cutting new timber in Afghanistan. Prior to 2001 and under Taliban rule, massive deforestation of the country side was permitted and Afghans moved large quantities of logs into storage centers for profit, where the trees wait for processing on an individual tree by tree request.

The unique art and culture of Afghanistan has been a major forte of the country in establishing itself as one of the culturally enhanced country of the world. No doubt the ongoing war has to a great extend affected the steady economic growth of the country, yet its vibrant historical heritage still continues to draw appreciation and attraction from all quarters of the society. Since the ancient times, the country has been under the rule of various kings from the Persian kings to Maurya's who well dominated the land for a considerable period of time. A Brief Historical Background of Art and Culture of Afghanistan

Many historians believe that Afghanistan was primarily known as 'Aryana' by both the Hindus and Afghans. Later the land was popularly named as 'Gandahara' and during this phase huge statues of 'Buddha' was constructed in central part of Afghanistan with the spread of Buddhism in the country. Further more, the introduction of Sufism in the art and culture scenario of Afghanistan revolutionized the literature of the country. It's important to note that different regions of the country have their own distinct identity coupled together with their own multi-lingual ethnicity which is unique of their own.

Jam Minarate

The eventful historical invasions of the earlier era in Afghanistan have left behind some unprecedented marks in the form of great architectural landmarks. These marvelous edifices are adorned with carved paintings and sculptures which creates a wonderful splendor worth watching. Some of its landscape architecture has been widely recognized world wide and have been given the status of U.N.E.S.C.O heritage site. The most prominent ones being 'the Minaret of Jam' and 'the Valley of Bamiyan', others include the famous heritage spots situated in the cities of Ghazni, Herat and Mazari Sharif. The rich heritage of Afghanistan has been under the influence of Greeks, Mongolian, Chinese, Indian, Russian and even British which has well modified the cultural aspect of the country in every form. During the reign of Alexander the great, the northwestern city of Heart became a center for Persian art and learning. To the dismay of many, the rich heritage sites of Afghanistan have been destroyed as a result of ongoing political instability and military war.

Literature and Entertainment Activities in Afghanistan The rich literature of Persian language has been well scripted in many of the popular Afghan literary works. The most popular forms of verse in Afghanistan are Ghazal and Charbeiti and are still famous too. Unlike other nations, there's little or no scope for vibrant entertainment activities thus the only source of amusement in the country is the traditional folklore accompanied by music of conventional tools. Classical music in the form of 'klasik' and 'tarana' are widely appreciated in different corners of the society. A visit to Afghanistan remains incomplete without mentioning its delicious mouth-watering Afghan cuisine.

  • Islam is practised by the majority of Afghanis and governs much of their personal, political, economic and legal lives. Islam in Afghanistan.
  • Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day - at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening.
  • Friday is the Muslim holy day. Most shops and offices will be closed. Government offices and businesses may also close on Thursday, making the weekend Thursday and Friday.
  • During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing.
  • Foreigners are not required to fast; however, they must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public.
  • The family is the single most important unit in the Afghan culture.
  • Men and women's roles are much more defined along traditional lines.
  • Women are generally responsible for household duties, where as men will be the bread winners. In the cities professional women do exist.
  • Families commonly arrange marriages for their children. Factors such as tribe, status, network, and wealth are the major factors forming any choice.
  • Families traditionally live together in the same walled compound, known as the kala. When a son gets married he and his wife begin their married lives in a room under the same roof.
  • As with much of the Muslim world, the family is sacred and as such, is highly protected. As a result, probing about the family is not advised.
  • The family is the single most important unit in the Afghan culture.
  • Men and women's roles are much more defined along traditional lines.
  • Women are generally responsible for household duties, where as men will be the bread winners. In the cities professional women do exist.
  • Families commonly arrange marriages for their children. Factors such as tribe, status, network, and wealth are the major factors forming any choice.
  • Families traditionally live together in the same walled compound, known as the kala. When a son gets married he and his wife begin their married lives in a room under the same roof.
  • As with much of the Muslim world, the family is sacred and as such, is highly protected. As a result, probing about the family is not advised.
  • Honour in Afghan culture defines the reputation and worth of an individual, as well as those they are associated with.
  • The head male of a family is responsible for protecting the honour of the family. The issue of honour drives much of the behaviour surrounding the protection of women, modes of dress, social interaction, education and economic activity.
  • If someone's honour has been compromised, they are shamed and will look for a way to exact revenge for themselves, their family or group.
  • The role of honour and tribalism has fuelled much of the disharmony in the country's recent history - with one group carrying out violent acts against another, the victims are forced to respond causing a circle of violence.
  • Hospitality is an essential aspect of Afghan culture.
  • No matter who you are, if you visit a home you will be given the best the family has.
  • This relates back to the idea of gaining honour.
  • If you are invited for tea, which you inevitably will be, you will be offered snacks and your tea glass will be constantly filled. When you have had enough cover the glass with your hand and say "bas" (meaning 'enough').
  • When meeting someone the handshake is the most common form on greeting. You will also see people place their hands over their hearts and nod slightly.
  • One should always enquire about things like a person's health, business, family, etc.
  • Women and men will never shake hands let alone speak directly to one another.
  • Eye contact should also be avoided between men and women. Between men eye contact is acceptable as long as it is not prolonged - it is best to only occasionally look someone in the eyes.
  • Free mixing between genders only takes places within families.
  • In professional situations such as at businesses or universities, males and females may be co-workers, but are nevertheless cautious to maintain each other's honour.
  • Foreign females must learn to read the rules and live by them.
  • If a man speaks to you directly in a social context, he is dishonouring you. If someone speaks to you on the street, that is equally inappropriate. You should avoid looking men in the eyes, and keep your eyes lowered when you walk down the street to maintain your reputation as a proper woman.
  • Women must always dress properly to avoid unwanted attention. Always wear loose fitting pants under your skirts and be sure the definition of your legs is indistinguishable. It is also strongly advisable to wear a headscarf in public.
  • On the other hand foreign men should note that it is inappropriate to initiate social conversation with a woman, and one should not ask a male about his wife or female relatives.
  • Men and women should never be alone in the same room. If this happens you should ensure a door is left open.
  • Men and women should never touch one another under any circumstances.
  • First rule of gift giving is to never give alcohol. However, if you know from first hand experience that the receiver drinks you may do so but covertly to avoid shame.
  • The first time you go to someone's house for tea, it is appropriate to bring a small gift.
  • If you are invited to lunch or dinner, bring fruit, sweets or pastries. Make sure the box is wrapped nicely.
  • When bringing a gift be subtle in how it is given. Do not immediately give the present but rather discreetly place it near the door or where you sit down.
  • When it comes to wrapping gifts there is no special protocol. Green is good for weddings.
  • Dining in Afghanistan is a different experience and there are many differences in etiquette. o Always remove your shoes at the door if visiting a home.
  • If eating at someone's home, you will be seated on o the floor, usually on cushions.
  • Food is served on plastic or vinyl tablecloths spread on the floor.
  • Wait to be shown where to sit.
  • If you can, sit cross-legged. Otherwise sit as comfortably as you can. Do not site with legs outstretched and your feet facing people.
  • Food is generally served communally and everyone will share from the same dish.
  • Do not eat with the left hand.
  • Always pass and receive things using your right hand too. o Food is eaten with the hands. It will be a case of watch and learn.
  • Food is usually scooped up into a ball at the tip of the fingers, then eaten.
  • Leave food on your plate otherwise it will keep getting filled up again.
  • Business cards are not widely used in Afghanistan. They therefore carry a sense of importance and prestige.
  • If you are given a business card, take it respectfully and study it so that they see that you are spending time considering their credentials. Comment on it and any qualifications the giver may have.
  • Try not to keep cards in your pocket - slip it into a holder and somewhere else respectful.
  • There is no real protocol used for exchanging cards except to use your right hand.
  • It may be a good idea to have your card translated into Dari or Pashtu. Make sure you don't "translate" the address.
  • Men should wear conservative suits and shoes.
  • If working in the country in a non-commercial capacity then wearing the traditional Afghan dress (long shirt and trousers) is best.
  • Women must always dress modestly and conservatively. The general rule is to show as little flesh from the neck downwards.
  • If working in business, women should wear knee-length, loose fitting business skirts with loose fitting professional trousers underneath. Wearing headscarf is advisable.
  • Business is very much personal in Afghanistan. If you have not already invested some quality time in getting to know your counterparts, then you must use initial meetings to establish trust.
  • Once this has been accomplished you can move on to the nitty-gritty of business.
  • Do not be surprised or offended if during meetings people walk in and out of a room or phone calls are taken.
  • If the meeting involves a group of people it will be led by the leader who will set the agenda, the content, and the pace of the activities.
  • Meetings are usually held to communicate information and decisions that have already been rather than a forum for discussion and brain storming.
  • Meeting schedules are not very structured. Start times, points of discussion, etc are all fluid and flexible. Be prepared for a lot of tangents in the discussions.
  • Afghani communication style is rather indirect. It is therefore sometimes necessary to read between the lines for an answer rather than expect it to be explicitly stated. For example, if someone is asked if they can complete a job on time, you will rarely get "no" as the answer. It is therefore also important to phrase questions intelligently.
  • Honour and shame should always be considered. Always express yourself in a way that is not direct or pins blame on someone. Never make accusations or speak down to anyone.
  • Negotiating can be a tricky, frustrating but often an enjoyable affair if approached correctly.
  • Always make sure you negotiate with the most senior person possible as they are the decision makers. If you negotiate with someone more junior they may be there to simply test the waters.  As a rule Afghans generally negotiate with a win-lose mentality. The goal is always to get the best for yourself at all costs.
  • This means that there is always a stronger/weaker party. This can however be used to your advantage if you play your cards right. Always start wildly high in negotiations and very slowly work your way down, always explaining why you are dropping in price but at the same time explaining the damage it is doing to you.
  • Always appeal to their sense of fairness and justice and use the fact you are looking to build a strong relationship.
  • If monetary matters do not work then try pushing the idea that a deal with you will bring prestige, honour and respect.
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