When it comes to Afghanistan, people often think about war, destruction, killings, and similar topics. But the beautiful country is much more than the Taliban.
The desperately poor country has been engaged in a brutal civil war that looks like has lasted for ages. And the security situation remains extremely volatile.
With that in mind, let’s try and look at some positives about the country. What are some of the things you didn’t know about Afghanistan? Let’s take a look!
Country with the youngest population
Afghanistan is home to around 38 million people. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, the country has one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world.
More than 67% of its population are under 25 years of age. The country’s median age of 19 years makes it one of the youngest in the world.
Afghan New Year
Afghans celebrate their new year, called Nawroz, on 21st of March. Or, in other words, on the first day of spring.
On this day, thousands of people travel to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to welcome Nawroz, a pre-Islamic festival.
During the festival, local strong men raise an Islamic banner called Janda to herald the beginning of spring and the start of the new year. If the banner is lifted in one smooth motion, it is seen as a good omen for the months to come.
Access to clean water has improved
In 2001, according to UNICEF, only 21.8% of the population in Afghanistan had access to private latrines. In 2020, that number has risen to more than 50%.
In the same report, 28% of Afghans had access to drinking water. That number is 75% as of 2020.
The national game in Afghanistan is buzkashi, or goat-grabbing. The country has lobbied for it to be an Olympic sport.
It is considered the world’s wildest game that involves riders on horseback competing to grab a goat carcass and gallop clear of the others to drop it in a chalked circle.
For centuries, this game has been played on Afghanistan’s northern steppe. Years ago, it was the sport of the rich rival warlords. Nowadays, it is financed by Afghan mobile phone companies and private airlines. Women should not apply.
Roads have been constructed across the country
When you talk about Afghanistan, you have to remember that the country has been at war for like, forever. In 2001, after years of conflict and instability, Afghanistan had a few hundred km of paved roads.
But over the past 20 years, billions of dollars were spent on road improvements, and the country now has 17,903km of paved road.
Amazing mobile phone coverage
Here is something you probably had no idea about Afghanistan. The country will reach 90% of mobile phone coverage this year. And that at a time when high percentage of Afghans have no access to electricity.
Mobile phones have transformed the lives and culture of people in the country. Even Taliban have fancy smartphones.
Poetry is big part of culture
Poetry is a cherished part of Afghan culture. For more than 1,000 years, people in the country have told their stories in verse. In most cities, Thursday night is poetry night. Men, women, and children gather to share ancient and modern verses. They also listen to traditional music and enjoy sweet tea.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Afghanistan
Here is a fun fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the poster boy for legions of young Afghan men. Photos of muscled Arnold in his prime serve as decoration for walls of hundreds of body building centers across the country.
Some even say the actor looks like an Afghan.
Empowerment of women
Afghan women and girls have made substantial gains over the past two decades. They have access to life-saving health care, can work as legislators, judges, teachers, health workers, journalists, and more.
As of 2022, more than 3.5 million girls are enrolled in school, which is a nice percentage out of 9 million students.
Great Afghan cuisine
When most people think of Afghan cuisine, they think of kebaps and rice. But these two staple foods are not the only thing Afghan eat.
The country has been at the crossroads of major civilizations for centuries. That is reflected on the menu and cuisine. For example, one classic dish is ashak, a ravioli stuffed with leeks and topped with minced meat and yogurt. Mantu pasta is pasta filled with lamb and onions.
When you are in Afghanistan, or you want to refer to the people there, call them Afghans. Afghanis is the currency, not the people. They call themselves Afghans and they have a country that they still call home.