National Holidays: Based on Afghan/Persian Solar Calendar (365 days)
|Now-Roz (New Year)||March 21|
|Victory of the Muslim Nations||April 28|
|Anniversary of Revolution||April 29|
|Afghan Independence Day||August 19|
|National Labour Day (May Day)||May 1|
Religious Holidays: Based on Islamic Lunar Calendar (355 days)
|Islamic New Year (First of Muharram)||February 1, 2006|
|Tenth of Moharram (Ashura)*||February 10, 2006|
|Mawlud-un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)*||April 11, 2006|
|First Day of Ramadan*||September 24, 2006|
|Lailat-ul-Qadr (Night of Power)*||October 19, 2006|
|Eid ul-Fitr*||October 24, 2006|
|Eid ul-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)*||December 28, 2006|
Dates may vary according to the sighting of the moon
Islamic calendar consists of twelve lunar months. Each month may be of 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the new moon. An lunar year has, on average, 355 days. The reason in the variances is that lunar calendar is 10 days less than the solar year. Hence an Islamic year is moved ahead 10 days each year in solar calendar year. Holidays such as Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Ashura and Mawlud Nabi are dependent on the Islamic lunar calendar and vary from year to year.
Eid al-Fitr (Eid-e-Fitr): The most important month of the Islamic calendar is Ramadan, the ninth month, during which every Muslim -except the old, young, pregnant women and the sick- is required to avoid food, drink from dawn to dusk. The feast of Eid al-Fitr commences after the month of fasting ends, on the first day of the month of Shawal. Celebrations usually last for about three days. Congregational prayers are held in mosques, after which Afghans visit their friends and relatives. New clothes, especially for the children, are made, and food is prepared.
Eid al-Adha (Eid-e-Qurban): Once the fasting month and ensuring celebrations have ended, it is time for those planning to perform their pilgrimage to Mecca to start preparations for their journey. The hajj, takes place in the 12th month of the Muslim calendar, the rituals being performed in Mecca between the 7th and 10th days. The feast of Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of the month. Animals, such as sheep, goats, and camels, are sacrificed, especially by those who have already performed the hajj. This commemorates the slaying of a sheep, instead of Isaac, as a sacrifice by his father Abraham, at the command of the Allah. One third of the slaughtered animal is used by the family, another third is distributed to relatives and the rest is given to the poor.
Now-Roz (New Year’s Day): Literally meaning a new day. Nau Roz is the first day of spring and of the Afghan solar calendar, and falls on March 21st. This festival dates back to the time when Zoroastrianism was still a powerful religion, long before Islam arrived in Afghanistan. During the celebrations, lavish meals are prepared in Afghan homes. Two dishes, Samanak and haft-mehwah are specially cooked for the occasion. Samanak, a dessert like made of wheat and sugar, can take more than two days to prepare. Haft-mehwah consists of seven fruits and nuts to symbolize spring: walnuts, almonds, pistachios, red and green raisins, dried apricots, and a local fruit known as sanjit.
Mawlud-un Nabi: A large number of Muslims do not believe in celebrating birthdays of death anniversaries because there is no historical evidence that such was the practice of the Holy Prophet. However, similarly large number of Muslims do commemorate the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal of the Islamic lunar calendar year. For Muslims, this date marks the most important event in the history of the mankind because the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is regarded as the Chief of the Prophet, to whom the Holy Quran was revealed. The extent of the festivities, on this occasion, is restricted because of the fact that the same marks the death anniversary of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as well. On this occasion public meetings are held in the mosques where religious leaders and scholars make speeches on different aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The stories of the Prophet’s birth, childhood, youth and adult life, his character, teachings, sufferings, and forgiveness of even his most bitter enemies, his fortitude in the face of general opposition, leadership in battles, bravery, wisdom, preaching and his final triumph through Allah’s mercy over the hearts of people are narrated in detail. Salutations and songs in his praise are recited. In some countries, streets, mosques and buildings are decorated with colorful buntings and pennants and well illuminated at night. Affluent Muslims generously donate to charity. Feasts are arranged and food is served to guests and the poor.
Lailat-ul Qadr: This blessed night is also called the night of Power. It is the particular night in the month of Ramadan when the Holy Quran first began to be revealed. The Holy Quran states: “The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran began to be revealed, the Book which comprises guidance for mankind and clear proofs of guidance and divine signs which discriminate between truth and falsehood … “(2:186) The translation of first verses which were revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, were the following: ‘Recite in the name of thy Lord Who created everything. He created man from a clot of blood. Recite, for thy Lord is Most Beneficent, Who has taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.’ (96:2-6) The Holy Prophet (PBUH), was forty years of age at that time. The Holy Quran regards the Night of Decree as better that one thousand months.
Muharram: Muharram festival commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). This festival starts at the 1st day of Muharram and lasts for 10 days until 10th of Muharram. Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar. To the Shi’ites, the most important religious period of the year is the first 10 days of the new year. This is a period of mourning, in memory of the killing of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), at Karbala on October 10 680 A.D., along with 72 of his immediate family and followers. The festival climaxes on the tenth day of the month of Muharram. Ashura is an optional fast day. As the shi’ite population is relatively small, this day is celebrated on a smaller scale in Afghanistan.
During this month, while on a journey, Hazrat Imam Hussain, his family members and a number of his followers were surrounded by the forces of Yazid, the Muslim ruler of the time. During the siege, they were deprived of food and water and many of them were put to death. The incident happened at a place called Karbala in Iraq in 61st year after Hijra. This dispute was result of a disagreement among Muslims on the question of succession after the demise of Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph. Some sects of Muslims hold meetings where speeches are made on the happenings of Karbala and on the lives of martyrs. The Shias, however, observe this festival in a different fashion. As Muharram, the first month of the Muslim year, approaches, they put on black clothes, as black is regarded as a color of mourning. Majalis (assemblies) are held every day during the first nine days where Shia orators relate the incident of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his party in a great detail. On the 10th day of Muharram, large processions are formed and the devoted followers parade the streets holding banners and carrying models of the mausoleum of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his people, who fell at Karbala. They show their grief and sorrow by inflicting wounds on their own bodies with sharp metal tied to chain with which they scourge themselves. This is done in order to depict the sufferings of the martyrs. It is a sad occasion and everyone in the procession chants “Ya Hussain”, with loud wails of lamentation. Generally a white horse beautifully decorated for the occasion, is also included in the procession, to mark the empty mount of Hazrat Imam Hussain after his martyrdom. During these first ten days of Muharram, drinking posts are also set up temporarily by the Shia community where water and juices are served to all, free of charge
Learn more about Ramadan
Contacts in Afghanistan:
Afghan Ministry of Communication: Mohammad Jan Khan Wat, Kabul – www.moc.gov.afAfghan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mohammad Jan Khan Wat, Kabul Federation of Afghan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Daraulaman Wat, Kabul
Air Travel: Afghanistan’s national airline is Ariana Afghan Airlines (FG). PO Box 76, Afghan Air Authority Building, Ansari Wat, Kabul. Ariana Afghan Airlines has direct flights to and from Kabul, Islamabad (Pakistan), Dubai (UAE), Western China, cargo flights to Frankfurt (Germany), Ashgabad (Turkmenistan), and every month more locations are being considered for service. Passengers should contact the Ariana office in Kabul or Dubai (UAE). In the north, Balkh Airlines operates a service to Peshawar (Pakistan), and Mashed (Iran).
International Airport: Kabul Airport (KBL) is 16km from the city (Tel: 9251-61001). Airport facilities include banking, buffet-bar, car park, post office and restaurant. Taxis are available to the city centre. Airport facilities in Kabul have been expanded and new airports have been built near the border.
Consisting of two huge mountain ranges, the region is wild and remote and, though one can travel by car, the steepness of the routes makes vehicles prone to breakdowns. The Hindu Kush is best left for travelers prepared to rough it. For those who make the journey, the mountain, valley and lake scenery is stupendous. Bamiyan is the main centre. Balkh (Wazirabad) Balkh is an ancient town that served as headquarters for Alexander the Great for two years after his invasion in 328 BC. Destroyed in 1221 by Genghis Khan, the town was rebuilt by the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane almost 200 years later. The ruins of the Madjide Haji Pivada (Piyada) Mosque (one of the world’s oldest mosques), the Arch of Nawbahar and the remains of a Buddhist stupas are some of Balkh’s attractions. It was here that Zoroaster was born and raised. Also called Zarathustra, he was the founder of Zoroastrianism, the state religion of ancient Persia. 322 km northwest of Kabul, only a few kilometers north of the Balkh provincial capital city of Mazar-i-Sharif.BamiyanExtensively bombed during the war, Bamian(pop. 50,000) is of interest as an ancient center for Buddhist learning. This beautiful (if arid) site on the Kunduz River is historically significant as the place where an indigenous Afghan religion developed during the 1st-6th centuries. The area has some 10,000 caves (and assorted tunnels), ancient cave dwellings and the Red City fortress (and its other mountaintop companions). Two huge Buddhas (one 53 m tall and the other 35 m tall) carved into a mountainside are still standing but badly damaged by the war. Nearby are the ruins of Zohak and Gholghola and the lakes of Band-i-Amir (see separate paragraph). 130 km west of Kabul.Band-i-Amir The barren Band-i-Amir region offers deep blue lakes set amid treeless desert and hills at an elevation of 9,800 ft/3,000 m. Up to two days could be spent exploring the area, probably in a sturdy 4-wheel-drive vehicle. 200 km west of Kabul
This out-of-the-way place was once known as Kapisa, capital of the Kushan (Indo-Greek) kings. Sights include the remains of a fort built by Alexander the Great. A number of other sites are waiting to be excavated. 32 km north of KabulBost (Lashkar Gah) Bost, which was seriously damaged during the war, is the site of the ancient buildings, ramparts, arches, towers, etc., of what was once a capital of the Ghaznevid Empire. The Qalai Bost (arch) still has a skeleton lying at its base. 565 km southwest of Kabul.
(pop. 32,000) Was one of the most powerful capitals in the world during the time of the Ghaznavid Empire, which stretched from the Tigris to the Ganges. Today Ghazni is not very large, but it does have a fabulous minaret shaped like a double star, a museum, a palace, a mausoleum and the tomb of Ahmad Shah (founder of Afghanistan). The city is also known for the beautiful Afghan sheepskin coats made there. 130km south-southwest of Kabul..
(Aria) The country’s third-largest city (pop. 165,000), Herat was once occupied by Alexander the Great. Enormous defensive walls and earthworks remain from ancient times. Destroyed in the early 13th century by Genghis Khan, it was later rebuilt. Although much of the old town is in ruins again, remaining sites include the 10th-century Friday Mosque, a synagogue, minarets, monuments and the impressive 444-column Masjid-i-Jame. The tomb of Queen Gawhar Shad was damaged during the war — it was a government artillery position. Herat is also famous for its hand-blown blue glass; artisans can be seen creating delicate works of art in the shop across from the Friday Mosque (the proprietor gives tours). Nearby, at Gazergah, is a 1,000-year-old monastery and mausoleum. 645 km west of Kabul.
Ngarhar Province was an attractive winter resort, with many cypress trees and flowering shrubs. This ancient walled town of 58,000 guards the western end of the Khyber Pass. A playground for the rich and famous of the ancient world, Jalalabad continued to serve as a resort for the wealthy during the winter – Afghanistan’s last king had a palace there. More recently, the city was the site of fierce battles and drawn-out sieges in the Soviet war. 113 km east of Kabul.
Set atop a plateau nearly 1,825 m high in the Hindu Kush Mountains, 3,000-year-old Kabul once rated at least a three-night stay. Today, the arid capital city is not much more than ruins. The city has been ruined since 1992, warring factions has been fighting since, but now it is comparably quiet and safer than most cities. Museums, once grand, have been looted or destroyed. Nearby are Mahipar Falls, the spectacular Kabul Gorge, the Babur Garden Tomb (where a descendant of Tamerlane is buried), Istalif and Charikar (Buddhist stupas from the 2nd and 3rd centuries).
Qandahar (pop. 210,000), the nation’s second-largest city, is considered to be the birthplace of modern Afghanistan. Virtually all of this 200-year-old city was destroyed during the war, and fighting continues. Prophet Mohammed’s (Peace be upon him) Sacred Mantle (enshrined in the main mosque) has escaped damage. So have the orchards of the nearby Arghandab Valley, a place to find large, succulent pomegranates. 465 km southwest of Kabul.
The Khyber Pass is one of the world’s most notorious passages. It winds 35 mi/56 km through the Himalaya to link Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve traversed it three times and recommend the trip (when peace returns) with a caution or two: even in more tranquil times, check locally about the safety of making the crossing. As has been the case throughout history, very serious and brutal bandits frequent the pass, and certain periods are worse than others. The pass itself makes for an interesting drive through the mountains — not as spectacular as the Swiss Alps, perhaps, but the pass’s history, the fortresses of Jalalabad (see separate paragraph) and the people combine for an unforgettable experience. 187 km east of Kabul Qunduz This town (pop. 57,000) was known as having one of the most fascinating bazaars in the country before hostilities broke out. The nature of the bazaar has undoubtedly changed, but Kunduz’s beautiful setting in the mountainous Badakhshan region is a permanent attraction. Kunduz is also home of the Spinzar Cotton Company, whose founder collected many Greco-Bactrian artifacts. They are displayed in a local museum. 257 km north of Kabul Mazar-i-Sharif Mazar-i-Sharif (pop. 123,000) is not that interesting in itself, but its airport is the closest to Balkh. Before the years of warfare, Mazar-i-Sharif was worth a stop to visit the Tomb of Ali (Blue Mosque) and to shop for carpets in the busy market. 185 mi/300 km northwest of Kabul
Nouristan is one of the country’s most unusual regions. Set in striking mountains near the Indian border, this dramatic, forested area features wooden hillside homes. (The Greek god Dionysus figures prominently in Nouristani legend.) 125 mi/200 km northeast of Kabul Takht-i-Rostam This Buddhist cave site just southwest of the town of Kholm dates from the 5th century. The caves once housed a monastery. 282 km northwest of Kabul and 50 km east of Mazar-i-Sharif.Tags: Festivals