35 Interesting Facts About Afghanistan

  1. Afghanistan is a landlocked country in south-central Asia. It shares borders with countries from Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), South Asia (Pakistan), West Asia (Iran), and East Asia (China).
  2. Afghanistan is one of the most poorly surveyed countries in the world due to its tense history and other factors. Its physical geography includes the northern plains region, central highlands, and the southern plateau with deserts and semideserts.
  3. According to estimates, human inhabitants initially settled in Afghanistan nearly 100,000 years ago during the Stone Age.
  4. Afghanistan remained under various ancient empires and dynasties from the 6th Century BCE to the 7th Century CE. These include the Achaemenid Empire, the Greek Empire, the Mauryan dynasty, the Kushans, the Sasanids, and others.
  5. A Jewish community existed in Afghanistan more than 1,000 years ago, while there were around 40,000 Jews in the 19th Century. However, the last Jew left Afghanistan in 2021. (Source)
  6. Islam arrived in Afghanistan in the first half of the 7th Century when Muslim armies defeated Sasanids in the Battle of Nahavand. Later, the area was ruled by several local Muslim dynasties, such as Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, and Ghurids.
  7. Afghanistan has the 7th highest elevation span in the world and the 5th highest in Asia. The country is nearly 75% mountainous and has an average elevation of 6,180 feet above sea level.
  8. According to estimates, the worth of untapped natural resources in Afghanistan is more than $1 trillion. These include vast reserves of iron ore, marble, copper, aluminum, gold, gemstones, etc. (Source)
  9. Scientists have discovered the world’s oldest oil painting from caves in Bamiyan near the Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban. These paintings, made from oil paints of walnuts or poppies, date around the 7th Century AD. (Source)
    The oldest oil painting in Bamiyan, Afghanistan
    The world's oldest oil painting is in Afghanistan

  10. Afghanistan is known as the “Graveyard of Empires” for defeating powerful nations in history. These include the Safavid dynasty, the British Empire, USSR, and the USA. It is due to its rugged mountains (particularly the Hindu Kush), hostile tribes, and fortresses in almost every village. (Source)
  11. Ahmed Shah Durrani established the first modern Afghan state in the 18th Century. The Durrani dynasty was the second largest Muslim empire (after the Ottoman Empire) during the second half of the 18th Century, ruling (directly or through its vassal states) from Mashed in Iran to Kashmir and Delhi.
  12. Afghanistan played a vital role during the confrontation between the British and the Russian empires in the 19th Century, known as the Great Game. It acted as a buffer state between these two empires during this period. The British and Russians drew the boundaries of modern Afghanistan in 1893.
  13. Afghanistan fought three wars against the British Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries. They defeated the British in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-42) but lost in the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80). The British recognized the independence of Afghanistan after a treaty following the Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919). Afghanistan also recognized Durand Line as the international border.
  14. Zahir Shah was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Afghanistan, who ruled from 1933 to 1973. His cousin Daud Khan overthrew his government in 1973 and established the Republic of Afghanistan.
  15. PDPA, an Afghan communist party, and its members in the military overthrew and assassinated Daud Khan after a coup in 1978. It transformed the country into the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan under the rule of PDPA.
  16. People in Afghanistan, particularly those living in the countryside, considered the new regime anti-Islam and pro-Soviet. Therefore, they started an uprising against the government.
  17. Due to this rebellion and internal differences between communist parties, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan in December 1979. However, Mujahideen (Islamic fighters) immediately started guerilla warfare against the USSR. They received military and financial support from Pakistan, the USA, and other Muslim and Western countries.
  18. The stiff resistance from Afghans forced the withdrawal of the Soviet Union after the Geneva Accords (1988), an agreement with Pakistan and the USA. They completed their withdrawal in February 1989.
  19. The communist regime of Afghanistan collapsed in 1992. However, it followed a civil war between various factions of Mujahideen. This war continued until the Taliban, students of religious seminaries, took control of the country and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996.
  20. Only three countries (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE) recognized the government of the Taliban. During its tenure (1996-2001), the hard-line Islamist regime took several positive (eradication of opium and improving law and order) and controversial (preventing girls from education and destruction of Buddha statues in Bamyan) steps.
  21. The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda, a militant organization harbored by the Taliban. It resulted in the fall of the Taliban regime and the establishment of the US-sponsored Afghan government.
  22. However, the Taliban soon started an insurgency against the occupants. The US and its allies failed to subjugate the Taliban despite their presence in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. America left Afghanistan in August 2021 after Doha Agreement with the Taliban, who immediately reestablished their emirate.
  23. Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer and supplier of Cannabis. It produced nearly 3,850 tons of this psychoactive drug in March 2010. (Source)
  24. Afghanistan is the least developed country in Asia, with a GDP per capita of $369. It is primarily due to continuous conflicts and political instability in the country. (Source)
  25. Afghanistan was once the largest refugee-producing country in the world due to continuous wars and unrest. Even in 2022, the number of refugees from Afghanistan is more than 2.8 million, the 3rd highest after Syrians and Ukrainians. (Source)
  26. Afghanistan has the lowest life expectancy among countries outside Africa due to continuous violence for decades. The life expectancy at birth in this Asian country is 62 years.
  27. Salang Tunnel in northern Afghanistan is one of the highest road tunnels in the world. This tunnel, completed in 1964 by the Soviet Union, connects the northern part of Afghanistan to the rest of the country. (Source
    A car inside the Salang tunnel
    Salang Tunnel is one of the world's highest road tunnels

  28. Afghanistan is one of the most multi-ethnic countries in the world. Pashtuns (around 40%) are the largest ethnicity, followed by Tajiks (estimated 25%), Uzbeks, Hazara (nearly 10% each), and several small groups.
  29. Pashtu and Dari (Afghan dialect of Persian) are the official languages in the country. The majority of Afghans speak one of these or both languages.
  30. Nearly 99% of Afghans are Muslims: 80% Sunni and 19% Shiite. Hazara in central Afghanistan forms the majority of these Shiites.
  31. Afghanistan has the 14th youngest population in the world and the youngest outside Africa. More than 51% of Afghans are less than 18 years old. (Source)
  32. Afghanistan changed its flag 30 times in the past 102 years due to constant instability. The country changed its flag six times only in 1919. (Source)
  33. The Afghan government did not register births during the 1980s and 1990s due to constant wars. Therefore, many people born during these years celebrate their birthdays on January 1. (Source)
  34. There are two UNESCO world heritage sites in Afghanistan. These cultural sites are the Remains of the Bamiyan Valley and the Minaret of Jam.
  35. Buzkashi (goat grabbing) is the national sport of Afghanistan. Taliban banned this game during their first tenure (1996-2001) but took a soft stance during their current rule after 2021.

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