Unlike that first place, Abkhazia, pretty much everyone has heard of Afghanistan for obvious reasons. As Ambrose Pierce once said: "war is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Which is true. Most people understood where Abkhazia was when I mentioned the 2008 violence between South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia.
The more recent history is indicative of much of the Afghan past. They have been a country on the edge, a borderland of sorts throughout history. The country sits along the ancient silk road and was a gateway to both India and China. It is land-locked and mountainous with lakes and rivers in many of it's valleys, but can be very dry in other parts. It's roughly about the size of Texas.
Alexander the Great is attributed to saying that Afghanistan is "easy to march into, hard to march out of." Which others throughout history have also discovered. Being in the crossroads between many cultures, wars have been fought in this land for thousands of years. Gengis Kahn fought through this region as did Darius I of Persia. Empires have risen and fallen here. To name them all would take far more words than I'm intending to place in this post! It was a buffer between the Russian Empire and British controlled India in the 19th century, a cold war battle ground in the late 1970s and the 80s but after Russia left, a huge civil war ripped through the land. And for over 10 years, the west has been fighting the Taliban through this area.
They consider the new year to start on the first day of Spring, which makes a lot of sense given that the Spring is for renewal and new life.
Poetry is very important. In the city of Herat, Thursdays are poetry night. In addition to poetry, Afghans love proverbs. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
- A river is made drop by drop.
- You can't clap with one hand.
- May God not make one hand dependent on the other. (I love the irony between this and the prior).
- One who doesn't appreciate the apple, won't appreciate the orchard.
- There is a path to the top of even the highest mountain.
- A good year is determined by its spring.
Their culture is a mixture of others from the area which influences from China, India, Arabia, Persia and roots back to Alexander the great and prior. Each culture that has crashed into and through this country has left their mark in the music, clothing a foods of Afghanistan.
It's a tribal society with various ethno-linguistic groups. There are fourteen ethnic groups mentioned in the Afghan national anthem. Each of these groups have slight differences in the culture, food and music. The groups have common threads, including Muslim religion and as such, food is always prepared with Halal rules. Haraam is the rule for non-Halal foods. Pork is haraam as is blood and alcohol.
Just like India, hey have naan bread, which I think is one of the most tasty things in the whole world. They also have some other flat breads such as lavash, chapati (which is the same as roti) and a thicker obi non. Rice and lentils are both very important in their diet. Lamb and beef and chicken are popular proteins. Common spices include turmeric, coriander, cardamom, mint and saffron.
Attan is one of the traditional Afghan dances. It was done in times of celebrations like weddings or to pump the army up before war. The following video has some beautiful music with photos of the Afghan people.