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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

New Americans

Refugees from other areas of the world

The Afghan people

Cultural Profile of their country of origin- Afghanistan

Afghanistan (æfˈɡænɪstæn, æfˈɡɑːnɪstɑːn) is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Referred to as the "Heart of Asia", it is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, Tajikistan to the northeast, and China to the northeast and east. The Taliban government has named it officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The root name "Afghān" is, according to some scholars, derived from the Sanskrit name of the Aśvakan or Assakan, ancient inhabitants of the Hindu Kush region. Aśvakan literally means "horsemen", "horse breeders", or "cavalrymen" (from aśva or aspa, the Sanskrit and Avestan words for "horse"). Historically, the ethnonym Afghān was used to refer to ethnic Pashtuns. The Arabic and Persian form of the name, Afġān, was first attested in the 10th-century geography book Hudud al-'Alam. The last part of the name, "-stan" is a Persian suffix for "place of". Therefore, "Afghanistan" translates to "land of the Afghans", or "land of the Pashtuns" in a historical sense.

As of August 17, 2021- the Taliban has been using this as their official flag. The text is the Shahadah

The name Afghanistan (Afghānistān, land of the Afghans/Pashtuns, afāghina, singular afghān) can be traced to the early eighth/fourteenth century, when it designated the easternmost part of the Kartid realm. This name was later used for certain regions in the Ṣafavid and Mughal empires that were inhabited by Afghans. While based on a state-supporting elite of Abdālī/Durrānī Afghans, the Sadūzāʾī Durrānī policy that came into being in 1160, the country was not called Afghanistan in its own day. The name became a state designation only during the colonial intervention of the nineteenth century.

Occupying 652,864 square kilometers (252,072 square miles) of land, the country is mountainous with plains in the north and the southwest, which are separated by the Hindu Kush mountain range. As of 2021, its population is 40.2 million, composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France, and about the size of Texas in the United States. There is no coastline, as it is completely surrounded by other countries.

It is mostly mountainous and rugged, with some unusual mountain ridges accompanied by plateaus and river basins.

Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry. The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world.

Kabul is the country's largest city, and serves as its capital.

Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era, and the country's strategic location along the historic Silk Road connected it to the cultures of other parts of Asia as well as Europe, leaving behind a mosaic of ethnolinguistic and religious groups that has influenced the modern Afghan nation.

Known as the 'Graveyard of Empires', the land has historically been home to many people, and has witnessed numerous military campaigns, including those by Alexander the Great, the Mauryan Empire, Arab Muslims, the Mongols, the British, the Soviet Union, and most recently by an American-led coalition. Afghanistan also served as the source from which the Greco-Bactrians and the Mughals, among others, rose to form major empires. The various conquests and periods in both the Iranian and Indian cultural spheres made the area a center for Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and later Islam throughout history.


The modern state began with the Durrani dynasty in the 18th century, with Empire at its peak having spanned from eastern Iran to northern India. Following its decline and the death of Timur Shah, it was divided into the smaller independent kingdoms of Herat, Kandahar and Kabul, before being reunited in the 19th century after wars of unification led by Dost Mohammad Khan. During this time, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the Great Game between the British Empire (in British-ruled India) and the Russian Empire; from India, the British attempted to subjugate Afghanistan but were repelled in the First Anglo-Afghan War; however, the Second Anglo-Afghan War saw a British victory and the successful establishment of British political influence over Afghanistan.

Portrait of Ahmad-Shah Durrani. Mughal miniature. ca.1757, Bibliothèque nationale de France

Following the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, Afghanistan became free of foreign dominance, and eventually emerged as the independent Kingdom of Afghanistan in June 1926 under Amanullah Khan. This monarchy lasted almost 50 years, until Zahir Shah was overthrown in 1973, following which the Republic of Afghanistan was established. Since the late 1970s, their history has been dominated by extensive warfare, including coups, revolutions, invasions, insurgencies, and civil wars. The country is currently under the control of the Taliban, an extreme Islamist political movement that returned to power in 2021 after a 20-year-long war with the United States and its allies.

The country has high levels of terrorism, poverty, and child malnutrition. Afghanistan's economy is the world's 96th-largest, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $72.9 billion by purchasing power parity; the country fares much worse in terms of per-capita GDP (PPP), ranking 169th out of 186 countries as of 2018.

The Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif is the largest in Afghanistan. Picture by Steve Evans

For more information visit their Wikipedia page. To see pictures of this beautiful country, and its people, read this article here, and visit this Flickr page.

Band-e Amir National Park

An Afghan family near Kholm, 1939 CH-NB -Afghanistan, Kulm (Khulm, Kholm) -Menschen -Annemarie Schwarzenbach -SLA-Schwarzenbach-A-5-21-110

Stay tuned for more information on Afghanistan, and more places and their people in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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