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Afghanistan

Geography & Topography

Capital: Kabul

Population: 29,835,392 people

Area: 647,500 km2   

Language: Dari (Persian) and Pashto

Ethnic Groups: Pashtun (42%), Tajik (27%), Hazara (9%), Uzbek (9%), Aimak (4%), Turkmen (3%), Baloch (2%), other (4%)

Religion: Sunni Islam (80%), Shia Islam (19%), Other (1%)

Currency: Afghani



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History

Officially known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the nation is a landlocked one with borders in South, Central and West Asia. Afghanistan shares geographical borders with Pakistan (South and East), Iran (West), Tajikistan & Turkmenistan (North) and China (Far Northeast). Human habitation has been found in this nation as far back as 50,000 BC by archaeologists. Evidence also indicates that farming communities in Afghanistan were amongst the first to be founded in the world. Afghanistan has an extremely strategic location geographically. It essentially links the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent together. Comparatively, the nation of Afghanistan occupies a landmass slightly smaller than the American state of Texas. Afghanistan has an arid to semiarid desert-like climate which entails cold winters and hot summers. Afghanistan is home to the famous Hindu Kush mountain range which also extends into northern Pakistan. Afghanistan has often been compared to Egypt in terms of its archaeological significance as it contains numerous sites of important historical activities. This is likely due to its geographic location which placed it at the crossroads of the hugely important ancient trade route known as the Silk Road. Afghan culture has a rich heritage and has its origins in the Achaemenid Empire of 500BC. Considered to be a nomadic and tribal society, Afghanistan has been strongly influenced by surrounding nations which has resulted in numerous differences between the traditions & cultural practices of the different geographical regions of the country.

 

Performing Arts

Music

The classical music of Afghanistan is called ‘klasik’ and includes both vocal and instrumental melodies. Afghan melodies tend to be very focused on rhythm and are often accompanied by an instrument known as the Tabla.

The most recognisable instruments in traditional Afghan music are:

Tabla

 The Table is a percussion instrument of Indian origin that is somewhat similar to the bongos. The name of the instrument is derived from the Arabic word ‘tabl’ which simply means ‘drum’. Fingers and palms are utilized in various different configurations to achieve different pitch.

 

 

 

 

 

Sitar

The Sitar is an instrument that has been famous since the middle ages. Predominantly used in classical Hindustani music this plucked string instrument has become known throughout the rest of the world through the works of the famous musician Ravi Shankar. The instrument is balanced between the players left foot and right knee allowing hands to move freely without bearing the weight of the instrument.

Dance

 

The main traditional Afghan dance is known as Attan dancing, this dance goes back many many years ago and has evolved over the years. The Attan was originally a dance performed by Afghan Pashtoon men and involves a ritual dance.

 

 

Examples of traditional Afghan dances are:

Attan: Although the Attan’s origins lie in the Pashtan tribes it was later modified into a Muslim soldiers dance in order to get the dancers closer to god before advancing on their missions. Its a circular dance ranging that can be performed  from two to over a hundred people, and the performers will follow each other going round and round in a circle to the beat as the rhythm and beats faster. It is usually performed with a Dhol, a double-headed barrel drum as well as a Robab, a tabla and a wooden flute known as Toola. Throughout the years, many different styles of Attan have developed but the origins remains the same.The dance is known to be so intense that dancers sometimes faint during the performance.

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Afghanistan is the 41st largest nation in the world and 42nd most populous
  • The country is known for producing some of the finest pomegranates, grapes, melons, apricots and several other dry fruits, including nuts
  • The famous warrior Alexander the Great conquered the area today known as Afghanistan in 300BC after defeating Darius III of Persia in battle

Afghan Community in Australia:

More information on the Afghan community: