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Facts


Population: 34,66 million(2016)
Area: 652 864 km²
Capital City: Kabul


About Afghanistan
Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located within South Asia and Central Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and in the far northeast, China. Its territory covers 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi) and much of it is covered by the Hindu Kush mountain range, which experience very cold winters. The north consists of fertile plains, whilst the south-west consists of deserts where temperatures can get very hot in summers. Kabul serves as the capital and its largest city.
Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era, and the country’s strategic location along the Silk Road connected it to the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia. The land has historically been home to various peoples and has witnessed numerous military campaigns, including those by Alexander the Great, Mauryas, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviet, and since 2001 by the United States with NATO-allied countries. It has been called “unconquerable” and nicknamed the “graveyard of empires”. The land also served as the source from which the Kushans, Hephthalites, Samanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khaljis, Mughals, Hotaks, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires.


Currency


The Afghan Afghani is the currency of Afghanistan. The currency symbol is ؋. The currency issued by the central bank Da Afghanistan Bank. It is nominally subdivided into 100 pul (پول), although there are no pul coins currently in circulation.
Banknotes: 1 Af, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 Afs


Climate


Temperatures in the central highlands are below freezing for most of the winter, and snow is common at higher elevations. Summertime highs in lower elevations (such as Jalalabad or Mazar-e Sharif) can exceed 50°C/120°F. In higher areas such as Kabul, summer temperatures can be 30°C/90°F and winter around 0°C/30°F. The most pleasant weather in Kabul is during April, May and September.


Language

Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan; bilingualism is very common. Dari, which is a variety of and mutually intelligible with Persian (and very often called ‘Farsi’ by some Afghans like in Iran) functions as the lingua franca in Kabul as well as in much of the northern and northwestern parts of the country. Pashto is the native tongue of the Pashtuns, although many of them are also fluent in Dari while some non-Pashtuns are fluent in Pashto.
There are a number of smaller regional languages, they include Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi, and Nuristani. Uzbek, Turkmen, Pashayi, Nuristani, Balochi and Pamiri declared third official in areas where the majority speaks them. A number of Afghans are also fluent in Urdu, English, and other foreign languages.


Economy

.Afghanistan’s GDP is around $64 billion with an exchange rate of $18.4 billion, and its GDP per capita is $2,000. Despite having $1 trillion or more in mineral deposits, it remains as one of the least developed countries. The country imports over $6 billion worth of goods but exports only $658 million, mainly fruits and nuts. It has less than $1.5 billion in external debt.
Agricultural production is the backbone of Afghanistan’s economy. The country is known for producing some of the finest pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits. It is also known as the world’s largest producer of opium. Sources indicate that as much as 11% or more of the nation’s economy is derived from the cultivation and sale of opium.
While the nation’s current account deficit is largely financed with donor money, only a small portion is provided directly to the government budget. The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. The Afghan Ministry of Finance is focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. For example, government revenues increased 31% to $1.7 billion from March 2010 to March 2011.
Da Afghanistan Bank serves as the central bank of the nation and the “Afghani” (AFN) is the national currency, with an exchange rate of about 60 Afghanis to 1 US dollar. A number of local and foreign banks operate in the country, including the Afghanistan International Bank, New Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and the First Micro Finance Bank.
One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 5 million expatriates, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses. Many Afghans are now involved in construction, which is one of the largest industries in the country. Some of the major national construction projects include the $35 billion New Kabul City next to the capital, the Aino Mena project in Kandahar, and the Ghazi Amanullah Khan Town near Jalalabad. Similar development projects have also begun in Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and other cities. An estimated 400,000 people enter the labor market each year.

Education

Education in Afghanistan includes K–12 and higher education, which is overseen by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education. There are over 16,000 schools in the country and roughly 9 million students. Of this, about 60% are males and 40% females. Over 174,000 students are enrolled in different universities around the country. About 21% of these are females. Former Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak had stated that construction of 8,000 schools is required for the remaining children who are deprived of formal learning.
The top universities in Afghanistan are the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) followed by Kabul University (KU), both of which are located in Kabul. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a four-year military development institution dedicated to graduating officers for the Afghan Armed Forces. The Afghan Defense University was constructed near Qargha in Kabul. Major universities outside of Kabul include Kandahar University in the south, Herat University in the northwest, Balkh University and Kunduz University in the north, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the east. The United States is building six faculties of education and five provincial teacher training colleges around the country, two large secondary schools in Kabul, and one school in Jalalabad.
The literacy rate of the entire population is 38.2% (males 52% and females 24.2%). In 2010, the United States began establishing a number of Lincoln learning centers in Afghanistan. They are set up to serve as programming platforms offering English language classes, library facilities, programming venues, internet connectivity, and educational and other counseling services. A goal of the program is to reach at least 4,000 Afghan citizens per month per location. The Afghan National Security Forces are provided with mandatory literacy courses. In addition to this, Baghch-e-Simsim (based on the American Sesame Street) serves as a means to attract Afghan children into learning.
In 2017, Kazakhstan launched an official development assistance program (ODA) to Afghanistan that involved providing training and education to the Afghan women in Kazakh universities. The project aims to strengthen the economic independence of Afghan women by providing education from Kazakhstan’s top educational institutions in public administration and healthcare.


Government

Afghanistan is an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, the executive, legislative, and judicial. The nation is led by President Ashraf Ghani with Abdul Rashid Dostum and Sarwar Danish as vice presidents. Abdullah Abdullah serves as the chief executive officer (CEO). The National Assembly is the legislature, a bicameral body having two chambers, the House of the People and the House of Elders. The Supreme Court is led by Chief Justice Said Yusuf Halem, the former Deputy Minister of Justice for Legal Affairs.
According to Transparency International, Afghanistan remains in the top most corrupt countries list. A January 2010 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that bribery consumed an amount equal to 23% of the GDP of the nation. A number of government ministries are believed to be rife with corruption, and while then-President Karzai vowed to tackle the problem in 2009 by stating that “individuals who are involved in corruption will have no place in the government”, top government officials were stealing and misusing hundreds of millions of dollars through the Kabul Bank.

Health

Afghanistan has its fair share of health issues, and it would be wise to consult a travel doctor ahead of your trip about vaccinations and health risks. Respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis and food-related illness are common, and malaria is a risk in many parts of the country.
Afghanistan is one of the dustiest countries in the world, and you should be prepared to be covered in it and breathing it for most of your stay, even in the major cities. Pollution from diesel engines can also make life unpleasant.
Flies are notoriously heinous here, likely due to poor sanitation. Winter brings some relief, but they come back full-strength when spring arrives.
Food should be approached with a discerning eye, as hygiene standards can often be lacking. Hot, freshly cooked food is generally safer. Bottled water is also advised, unless you have your own purification system.
Bring any prescription medicine you may need from your home country, and don’t count on being able to find it locally. You may also consider carrying pain relievers and anti-diarrheals, as they’ll be hard to find outside of major cities.
As in most parts of Asia, squat toilets are the norm, with toilet paper optional and sometimes scarce. Western-style toilets are seen occasionally in newer buildings and some private homes.


According to the Human Development Index, Afghanistan is the 15th least developed country in the world. The average life expectancy is estimated to be around 60 years. The country’s maternal mortality rate is 396 deaths/100,000 live births and its infant mortality rate is 66 to 112.8 deaths in every 1,000 live births. The Ministry of Public Health plans to cut the infant mortality rate to 400 for every 100,000 live births before 2020. The country has more than 3,000 midwives, with an additional 300 to 400 being trained each year.
There are over 100 hospitals in Afghanistan, with the most advanced treatments being available in Kabul. The French Medical Institute for Children and Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul are the leading children’s hospitals in the country. Some of the other main hospitals in Kabul include the Jamhuriat Hospital and the under-construction Jinnah Hospital. In spite of all this, many Afghans travel to Pakistan and India for advanced treatment.
It was reported in 2006 that nearly 60% of the Afghan population lives within a two-hour walk of the nearest health facility. Disability rate is also high in Afghanistan due to the decades of war. It was reported recently that about 80,000 people are missing limbs. Non-governmental charities such as Save the Children and Mahboba’s Promise assist orphans in association with governmental structures. Demographic and Health Surveys is working with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and others to conduct a survey in Afghanistan focusing on maternal death, among other things.


Transport

Planes fly between Kabul and the major cities (Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif) at varying frequency. If weather is suitable, flights are operated daily. Most flights depart cities in the mornings before 11:00 only. Civilian aircraft are not operated after sun-down.
There is a growing network of public transportation between the country’s cities. Buses ply some routes and Toyota vehicles have a near monopoly on minivan (HiAce) and taxi (Corolla) transportation.
A new highway connects Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. The highway is in good condition and is considered “relatively” safe. The trip takes a minimum of 5h. The highway goes through the famous Salang Mountains and cross the Hindu Kush mountain ranges. If you hire a relatively new Toyota Corolla, this would cost you about US$100 (if bargained by a local) for one direction from the Mazar Station in Kabul to anywhere in Mazar-i-Sharif.
There is no metered taxi in large parts of Afghanistan. Taxis are yellow and clearly identifiable. You should normally strike a deal with the driver before you take a seat. You can consider 2-3km of road in ideal conditions to be around USD1 worth (AFN50).
Jeeps and Land Cruisers are available for hire along with drivers who speak some English (do not keep your hopes high that you might bump into one of them). There are tour operators in Kabul that can provide a car and guide; these people are available for hire at the Kabul International Airport itself. Petrol stations are scarce in the countryside, and fuel is expensive.
Paved roads are the exception, not the rule, and even those roads can be in poor repair. Once outside the major cities expect dirt roads (which turn to mud during rain or snow melt). The highway between Kabul and Bagram is dominated by military convoys and “jingle trucks”.
A new highway links Kabul to Kandahar. The highway is in good condition but should not be considered safe due to frequent attacks by anti-government forces such as the Taliban who often plant powerful mines (bombs) next to highways in which civilians are killed, and the poor standard of driving. The trip takes a minimum of 5 hours.


Cuisine


Afghanistan has a wide varying landscape allowing for many different crops. Afghan food is largely based upon cereals like wheat, maize, barley and rice, which are the nation’s chief crops. Fresh and dried fruits is the most important part of Afghan diet. Afghanistan is well known for its fine fruits, especially pomegranates, grapes, and its extra-sweet jumbo-size melons.

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