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Where is Afghanistan?

 locate-afghanistan

Facts and Statistics

Location: Southern Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran
Capital: Kabul
Official languages Pashto, Dari
Ethnic groups Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, and others
Religion Islam
Government Unitary presidential Islamic republic
    President Ashraf Ghani
    Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah
Population 34,656,032 (2016)
Currency Afghani (Afs) (AFN)
Time zone UTC+4:30 (Solar Calendar)
Drives on the right
Calling code +93
Internet TLD .af افغانستان.
Climate: Arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers

Islam in Afghani Culture

Islam is practiced by the majority of the population and governs much of their personal, political, economic and legal lives. Friday is the Muslim holy day. Most shops and offices will be closed. Government offices and businesses may also close on Thursday, making the weekend Thursday and Friday.

About: Islam consists of individuals who believe in Allah, a deity whose teachings its followers believe were recorded, verbatim, by the last prophet, Muhammad.

Literal Meaning: Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salema": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law. A Muslim is one who is a believer in One God (Allah) and follows Islam.

Years Formed: 610-622 CE.

Founder: Prophet Muhammad. According to the Qur'an, all people who follow God's revealed guidance and the messengers sent with it submit to that guidance. Those who submit are considered Muslims (including Adam, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, etc.).

Geographical distribution and predominance: There are approximately 1.6 billion. By the percentage of the total population in a region considering themselves Muslim, 24.8% in Asia-Oceania, 91.2% in the Middle East-North Africa, 29.6% in Sub-Saharan Africa, around 6.0% in Europe, and 0.6% in the Americas.

Holy Days:
    Ramadan* (month of fasting)
    Eid-ul Adha (feast of the sacrifice)
    Eid-ul Fitr (sweet festival at the end of Ramadan).

Place of origin: Mecca at Mount Hira (in Saudi Arabia)

Place of worship: Mosque or any place which is considered clean by Islamic standards.

Practices:
   1. Five pillars
   2. Prayer five times daily
   3. Fasting during Ramadan
   4. Charity to the poor (zakat)
   5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).

Sacred Texts: The Qur'an is the only holy text of Islam. The Hadith, (the sayings of Muhammad), and the actions/traditions he performed are also highly revered.

Important Tenets: The Five Pillars of Islam among Sunni Muslims and the Seven Pillars of Islam among Shia Muslims. The Shia Twelvers also have the Ancillaries of the Faith.

* During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. Foreigners are not required to fast; however, they must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public.

Languages in Afghanistan

Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan with both belonging to the Indo-European language family. Being bilingual in both languages is very common.

Pashto (also written Pushtu) is the native tongue of the Pashtun people. It was declared the National Language of the country during the beginning of Zahir Shah's reign. According to estimates, approximately 35% of the Afghan population speaks Pashto.

Dari is spoken or understood by the majority of the Afghan people. It is a variety of Persian (mainly spoken in Iran) and functions as the lingua franca in business and government transactions in Kabul as well as in much of the northern and northwestern parts of the country.

There are smaller regional languages spoken in Afghanistan including 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.


CHILDREN'S BOOKS WRITTEN IN PASHTO

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Afghan Culture & Society

Afghanistan is mostly a tribal society with different regions having their own subculture. In the southern and eastern region, the people live according to the Pashtun culture by following Pashtunwali (the Pashtun way) which is largely connected to the culture of South Asia. The remaining Afghans are culturally Persian and Turkic.

Pashto and Tajik culture

The Family

The family is the single most important unit in Afghan culture. The family is considered a sacred institution and is highly protected. As a result, probing about the family is not advised.

Men and women's roles are much more defined along traditional lines. Men are the bread winners, while women are generally responsible for household duties. In Kabul or large cities professional women do exist.

Arranged marriages are common among families. Choices may depend on such factors as tribe, tribal (or social) status, network, and wealth.

The traditional Afghan family lives together in the same home, known as a kala. When a son marries, he and his wife begin their married lives in a room under the same roof.

Social Etiquette, Customs and Protocol

Meeting and Greeting

When meeting someone the handshake is the most common form on greeting. You will also see people place their hands over their hearts and nod slightly.

It's acceptable to ask about things like a person's health, business. Avoid asking about the family.

If a woman and a man are not related or married to each other, they will never shake hands let alone speak directly to one another.

Eye contact should also be avoided between men and women. Between men eye contact is acceptable as long as it is not prolonged - it is best to only occasionally look someone in the eyes.

Mixing Between Genders

Social interaction between men and women are followed by some strict rules. It's best that you learn to read the rules (i.e. closely observe others) and live by them. Free mixing between genders occurs only within families.

In professional situations such as at businesses or universities, males and females may be co-workers, but are nevertheless cautious to maintain each other's honor.

Men should note that it is inappropriate to initiate social conversation with a woman, and one should not ask a male about his wife or female relatives.

Men and women who are not related or married to each other should never touch one another under any circumstances, nor be alone in the same room together. If this happens you should ensure a door is left wide open.

If a man speaks directly to a woman in a social context, he is dishonoring her. If a man speaks to a woman on the street, that is equally inappropriate. Women should avoid looking men in the eyes, and keep the eyes lowered when walking down the street to avoid and problems and maintain their reputation as a proper woman.

Women must always dress properly to avoid unwanted attention. Always wear loose fitting pants under your skirts making sure the shape of your legs is indistinguishable. It is also strongly advisable to wear a headscarf in public.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Rule #1: never give alcohol, unless you know from first hand experience that the receiver drinks you may do so, but very discreetly to avoid shame.

The first time you go to someone's house for tea, it is appropriate to bring a small gift. If you are invited to lunch or dinner, bring fruit, sweets or pastries making sure the box is wrapped nicely.

When bringing a gift do not bring attention on yourself or how it is given. Do not immediately give the present to the host/receiver, but discreetly place it near the door or where you sit down.

When it comes to wrapping gifts there is no special protocol. Green is good for weddings.

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