AFGHANISTAN

AFGHANISTAN

AFGHANISTAN

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Name: Buddhas of Bamyan
Location: Bamyan, Afghanistan
The Buddhas of Bamyan were 6th-century monumental statues of Gautam Buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, 230 kilometres northwest of Kabul at an elevation of 2,500 metres. Built in 507 CE (smaller) and 554 CE, the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art. They were respectively 35 and 53 m tall.

The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco. This coating, practically all of which wore away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands, and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors. 

The lower parts of the statues' arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts. The rows of holes that can be seen in photographs held wooden pegs that stabilized the outer stucco.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamyan
Name: Blue Mosque (Mazar-i-Sharif)
Location: Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
The Blue Mosque is a mosque located in the center of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

The Seljuq dynasty sultan Ahmed Sanjar built the first known shrine at this location. It was destroyed or hidden under earthen embankment during the invasion of Genghis Khan in around 1220. In the 15th century, Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqarah built the current Blue Mosque here. It is by far the most important landmark in Mazar-i-Sharif and it is believed that the name of city (Noble Shrine, Grave of Sharif) originates from this shrine.

A site plan of the location made in the 1910s shows that there had earlier been a smaller walled precinct in the mosque, which was razed to create parklands later, although the portals to this precinct still remain as gateways for the shrine.

Tombs of varying dimensions were added for a number of Afghan political and religious leaders over the years, which has led to the development of its current irregular dimensions.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Mosque_(Mazar-i-Sharif)
Name: Band-e Amir National Park
Location: Bamyan, Afghanistan
Band-e Amir National Park is Afghanistan's first national park, located in the Bamyan Province. It is a series of six deep blue lakes separated by natural dams made of travertine, a mineral deposit. The lakes are situated in the Hindu Kush mountains of central Afghanistan at approximately 3000 m of elevation, west of the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan.

They were created by the carbon dioxide rich water oozing out of the faults and fractures to deposit calcium carbonate precipitate in the form of travertine walls that today store the water of these lakes. Band-e Amir is one of the few rare natural lakes in the world which are created by travertine systems. The site of Band-e Amir has been described as Afghanistan's Grand Canyon, and draws thousands of tourists a year. The river is part of the system of the Balkh River.

The local people in Band-e-Amir National Park rely heavily on the park's natural resources for their livelihood. Grazing of livestock, collection of shrubs for fuel and winter fodder and rain-fed farming is still widely practiced within the park boundary.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Band-e_Amir_National_Park
FLIGHT TIMES / MAJOR CITIES
PLEASE SEE BELOW MAJOR CITIES IN AFGHANISTAN / CLICK OR TOGGLE BELOW FOR FASTEST AVERAGE FLIGHT TIMES FROM USA.

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COUNTRY INFORMATION GUIDE
PLEASE SEE BELOW FACTS, USEFUL US GOVERNMENT TRAVEL LINKS AND BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES, FOR TRAVEL TO AFGHANISTAN.
FACTS:
Official Languages: Pashto / Dari
Currency: Afghanistan Afghani (AFN)
Time zone: AFT (Afghanistan Time) (UTC+4:30)
Drives on the right
Calling code: +93
Local / up-to-date weather in Kabul (and other regions): BBC global weather – click here
US GOVT TRAVEL LINKS:

For more useful information on safety & security, local laws / customs, health and more, please see the below official US travel.state.gov web link for Afghanistan travel advice. NB: Entry requirements herein listed are for US nationals only, unless stated otherwise.

You can also find recommended information on vaccinations, malaria and other more detailed health considerations for travel to Afghanistan, at the below official US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weblink.

BUSINESS VISITOR ACTIVITIES*:
Activities you may undertake on a business visa / as a business visitor:
PERMISSIBLE
ATTENDING MEETINGS / DISCUSSIONS: TBC
ATTENDING A CONFERENCE: TBC
RECEIVING TRAINING (CLASSROOM-BASED): TBC
NON-PERMISSIBLE
AUDIT WORK: TBC
PROVIDING TRAINING: TBC
PROJECT WORK: TBC
*This information does not constitute legal advice and is not an exhaustive list. For a full legal assessment on business visitor activities, please revert to your internal company legal team / counsel.
TRAVEL INFORMATION**
It is highly recommenced that you access the above official US travel.state.gov web link and read all safety & security information prior to making your travel arrangements / planning your trip.
PLEASE CLICK / TOGGLE BELOW FOR USEFUL TRAVEL INFORMATION TO AFGHANISTAN.
The Afghani (AFN) is the currency of Afghanistan, denoted by the symbol “Af” or “؋” (ISO code: AFN).

BY PLANE:

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 airplanes are not operated after sundown.

BY CAR:

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 5 hr. 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 USD100 (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 2–3 km 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.

EAT:

There are three main types of Afghan bread:

  • Naan – Literally “bread”. Thin, long and oval shaped, its mainly a white/whole wheat blend. Topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, or some combination of these. Upon request, customers may be able to get all white flour and a helping of oil, which makes it rich and delicious.
  • Obi Non – Uzbek-style bread. Shaped like a disc and thicker than naan. Usually made with white flour.
  • Lavash – Very thin bread. Similar to the lavash elsewhere. Usually used as plating for meats and stews.

Rice dishes are the “king” of all foods in Afghanistan. The Afghans have certainly taken much time and effort in creating their rice dishes, as they are considered the best part of any meal. Wealthier families will eat one rice dish per day. The Afghan royalty spent much time on rice preparation and invention as evidenced in the sheer number of rice dishes in their cookbooks. Weddings and family gatherings must feature several rice dishes and certainly reputations can be made in the realm of rice preparation.

  • Kabuli Pulao (or Kabuli Palaw, Qabili Palaw, Qabili Palau or simply Palau) – An Afghan rice dish consisting of steamed rice mixed with lentils, raisins, carrots, and lamb. It is baked in the oven and topped with fried sliced carrots and raisins. Chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds may be added as well. The meat is covered by the rice or buried in the middle of the dish. It is the most popular dish in Afghanistan, and is considered the national dish.
  • Chalao-White rice. Extra long grains such as Basmati is required. First parboiled, then drained, and finally baked in an oven with some oil, butter, and salt. This method creates a fluffy rice with each grain separated, unlike Chinese or Japanese rice. Chalao is served mainly with qormas (korma; stews or casseroles)
  • Palao – Cooked the same as chalao, but either meat & stock, qorma, herbs, or a combination are blended in before the baking process. This creates elaborate colors, flavors, and aromas for which some rices are named after. Caramelized sugar is also sometimes used to give the rice a rich brown color.
  • Yakhni Palao – Meat & stock added. Creates a brown rice.
  • Zamarod Palao – Spinach qorma mixed in before the baking process, hence ‘zamarod’ or emerald.
  • Qorma Palao – Qorm’eh Albokhara wa Dalnakhod mixed in before the baking process
  • Bore Palao – Qorm’eh Lawand added. Creates a yellow rice.
  • Bonjan-e-Roomi Palao – Qorm’eh Bonjan-e-Roomi (tomato qorma) added at baking process. Creates a red rice.
  • Serkah Palao – Similar to yakhni palao, but with vinegar and other spices.
  • Shebet Palao – Fresh dill, raisins added at baking process.
  • Narenj Palao – A sweet and elaborate rice dish made with saffron, orange peel, pistachios, almonds and chicken.
  • Maash Palao – A sweet and sour palao baked with mung beans, apricots, and bulgur (a kind of wheat). Exclusively vegetarian.
  • Alou Balou Palao – Sweet rice dish with cherries and chicken.
  • Sticky Rices -Boiled medium grain rice cooked with its meat, herbs, and grains. Because the water is not drained, it forms a sticky rice texture. Notable dishes include Mastawa, Kecheri Qoroot, and Shola. When white rice is cooked to a sticky consistency it is called bata, and is usually eaten with a qorma, such as Sabzi (spinach) or Shalgham (turnips). A sweet rice dish called Shir Birenj (literally milk rice) is often served as dessert.

Qorma is a stew or casserole, usually served with chawol. Most qormas are onion-based. Onions are fried, then meat is added, as are a variety of fruits, spices, and vegetables depending on the recipe. Finally water is added and left to simmer. The onion caramelizes and creates a richly colored stew. There are over 100 qormas.

  • Qorma Alou-Bokhara wa Dalnakhod – onion based, with sour plums, lentils, and cardamom. Veal or chicken.
  • Qorma Nadroo – onion based, with yogurt, lotus roots, cilantro, and coriander. Lamb or veal.
  • Qorma Lawand – onion based, with yogurt, turmeric, and cilantro. Chicken, lamb, or beef.
  • Qorma Sabzi – sauteed spinach and other greens. Lamb
  • Qorma Shalgham – onion based, with turnips, sugar; sweet and sour taste. Lamb.

Pasta is called “khameerbob” in Afghanistan and is often in the shape of dumplings. These native dishes are wildly popular. Due to the time-consuming process of creating the dough for the dumplings, it is rarely served at large gatherings such as weddings, but for more special occasions at home:

  • Mantu – A dish of Uzbek origin. Dumplings filled with onion & ground beef. Mantu is steamed and usually topped with a tomato-based sauce and a yogurt or qoroot-based sauce. The yogurt-based topping is usually a mixture of yogurt, sour cream, and garlic. The qoroot based sauce is made of goat cheese and is also mixed with garlic. Sometimes a qoroot and yogurt mixture will be used. The dish is then topped with dried mint.
  • Ashak – Kabul dish. Dumplings filled with leeks. Boiled and then drained. Ashak is topped with garlic-mint qoroot or a garlic yogurt sauce and a well seasoned ground meat mixture.
  • Afghan kebab is most often found in restaurants and outdoor vendor stalls. Sometimes they are put into shishas. Families rarely serve homemade kebab in their home due to the need of inaccessible equipment. The most widely used meat is lamb. Recipes differ with every restaurant, but Afghan kebab is usually marinated with a blend of spices, and served with naan, rarely rice. Customers have the option to sprinkle sumac, locally known as ghora, on their kebab. The quality of kebab is solely dependent on the quality of the meat. Pieces of fat from the sheep’s tail (jijeq) are usually added with the lamb skewers to add extra flavor.Other popular kebabs include lamb chops, ribs, kofta (ground beef) and chicken; all of which are found in better restaurants.
  • Chapli kebab, a specialty of eastern Afghanistan, is a fried hamburger. The original recipe of chapli kebab dictates a half meat (or less), half flour mixture, which renders it lighter in taste, and less expensive.
  • Bolani, made in a very similar way as Mexican Quesadilla.

Desserts and snacks

  • Baklava
  • Afghan Cake (similar to pound cake sometimes with real fruit or jelly inside)
  • Gosh Feel (thin, fried pastry covered in powdered sugar and ground pistachios)
  • Fernea (milk and cornstarch very sweet, similar to rice pudding without the rice)
  • Mou-rubba (fruit sauce, sugar syrup and fruits, apple, sour cherry, various berries or made with dried fruits “Afghan favorite is the Alu-Bakhara”)
  • Kulcha (variety of cookies, baked in clay ovens with char-wood)
  • Narenge Palau (dried sweet orange peel and green raisins with a variety of nuts mixed with yellow rice glazed with light sugar syrup)

DRINK:

Since Afghanistan is an Islamic country, alcohol consumption is illegal. However, it is tolerated in Western restaurants in Kabul.

Hotels and guesthouses are available in all major cities, and while some may not meet international standards they are usually friendly and reliable.

CARPETS:

Haggling is very much part of the tradition.

Afghanistan’s most famous products are carpets. There are carpets described as “Afghan”, but also at least two other carpet-weaving traditions. The Baluchi tribes in the south and west weave fine rugs, and the Turkoman tribes in the north do as well; both groups are also found in neighbouring countries. All three types tend to use geometric patterns in the design, usually with red as the background colour and with repeated elements called “guls” to make the pattern. Generally, these are not as finely woven as carpets from the cities of neighbouring Iran. However, many of them are quite beautiful and their prices are (assuming good haggling) well below those of the top Iranian carpets.

Baluchi rugs are usually small since nomadic people cannot use large looms; sizes up to 1.5 by 2 metres (4 x 7 feet) are common, but not many beyond that. They are popular with travellers because they are fairly portable. One very common type is a prayer rug, just large enough for one person to kneel facing Mecca. Another is the “nomad’s chest of drawers” — a bag, often beautifully decorated, that is a saddlebag when travelling and hangs on the wall of the tent when camped.

Turkoman rugs, often labelled “Bokhara” in the Western rug trade, come in all sizes and a very broad range of quality. Some are woven by nomads, with the same range of sizes and types as Baluchi rugs. Others are made in city workshops; the best of these are almost as finely woven and almost as expensive as top-grade Persian carpets. One fairly common design is the Hatchli, a cross shape on a large rug.

Afghan rugs are generally made in city workshops, mainly for the export trade. They are often large; 3 x 4 metres (10 x 12 feet) is common. Most are quite coarsely woven to keep costs down, but others have a fairly fine weave. If you need a big rug for the living room at a moderate price, these are likely to be your best choice.
“Golden Afghan” rugs were fairly common in Western countries a few decades back; they were invented by Western dealers who bleached Afghan carpets to eliminate the red colour, leaving a blue or black on orange or gold design. They are rare in Afghanistan, where the traditional colours are preferred. In the West, collectors also prefer the traditional colours and bleached rugs generally bring a lower price. Also, the “golden” rugs may not wear as well as unbleached rugs since bleaching can damage the fibres. In most cases, they should be avoided.

It is fairly common for rugs woven by nomads — such as many Baluchi rugs and some Turkoman — to show minor irregularities. The loom is dismantled for transport and re-assembled at the new camp, so the rug may not turn out perfectly rectangular. Vegetable dyes are often used, and these may vary from batch to batch, so some colour variation (arbrash) occurs and this may be accentuated as the rug fades. To collectors, most such irregularities fall into the “that’s not a bug; it’s a feature” category; they are expected and accepted. In fact, a nice arbrash can considerably increase the value of a rug.

Turkoman designs are widely copied; it is common to see “Bokhara” carpets from India or Pakistan, China produces some, and the Afghan carpet designs show heavy Turkoman influence. To collectors, though, the original Turkoman rugs are worth a good deal more. Good Baluchi rugs are also quite valuable in Western countries. Afghan rugs, or lower grade Baluchi and Turkoman rugs, generally are not collectors’ items; most travellers will find the best buys among these. Experts might pay premium prices for the top-grade rugs, but amateurs trying that are very likely to get severely overcharged.

Kelims are flat-woven fabric with no pile. These are nowhere near as tough as carpets and will not survive decades on the floor as a good carpet will. However, some are lovely, and they are generally cheaper than carpets. Things like purses made of carpet or decorated with kelim weave are also common.

SHOPPING:

Another common product and popular souvenir is the Afghan sheepskin coat. These have the wool on the inside for warmth and the leather on the outside to block wind, rain and snow. They often have lovely embroidery. Two cautions, though. One is that the makers use the embroidery to hide flaws in the leather; top-quality coats will have little or no embroidery. The other is that Australian customs have been known to incinerate these coats on arrival, to protect their large sheep population from diseases (notably anthrax) that poorly tanned Afghan products might carry.

There are also various bits of metalwork — heavily decorated pots, vases and platters, and some quite nice knives.

Guns are very common in Afghanistan and some are of considerable interest to historians and collectors.

The traditional Afghan jezail is a long muzzle-loading rifle often elaborately inlaid with brass or mother-of-pearl. Be cautious about actually firing one of these. The genuine ones are quite old, perhaps with metal fatigue or other problems. Many of the jezails available are not genuine, just copies made recently for the tourist trade; these were never designed to be fired and are more likely to kill the shooter than to hit a target.

There are also pass-made rifles, from the Khyber Pass area. The most common are copies of the 19th-century British army Martini-Henry rifle, a single-shot lever action weapon. Some are .451 caliber like the original Martini-Henry, but some take a more modern round. .303 is common. Until the Russian invasion in the late 70s — when anyone who could kill a Russian, rob an armoury, or pay the price (i.e., almost any Afghan) got an AK-47 — these were the most common rifle in Afghanistan. There are also pass-made copies of various other guns, anything from Webley revolvers to AK-47s. Quality is often dodgy, in particular the steel is often of low quality, and firing any of these guns is risky. Ammunition made in the pass often contained less powder or lower-grade powder than the standard ammo; some pass-made guns blow up if subjected to the higher stress of standard ammo.

These make a rather problematic souvenir. Importing a firearm anywhere can be difficult and it may be impossible in some places. If you are travelling overland and passing through several countries before you reach home, it is almost certainly not worth the trouble. Also, if you actually fire any Afghan gun, there is a risk that it will blow up in your face.

**All travel information has been sourced from wikivoyage. However like wikipedia, wikivoyage is an open platform editable by any member of the public. Therefore, although very useful, all above information IS INDICATIVE ONLY and must be verified prior to personal use. Moreover, if you wish to see more information please visit: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Afghanistan
TOP ATTRACTIONS
PLEASE CLICK / HOVER ON THE IMAGES BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Name: Buddhas of Bamyan
Location: Bamyan, Afghanistan
The Buddhas of Bamyan were 6th-century monumental statues of Gautam Buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, 230 kilometres northwest of Kabul at an elevation of 2,500 metres. Built in 507 CE (smaller) and 554 CE, the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art. They were respectively 35 and 53 m tall.

The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco. This coating, practically all of which wore away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands, and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors. 

The lower parts of the statues' arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts. The rows of holes that can be seen in photographs held wooden pegs that stabilized the outer stucco.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamyan
Name: Blue Mosque (Mazar-i-Sharif)
Location: Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
The Blue Mosque is a mosque located in the center of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

The Seljuq dynasty sultan Ahmed Sanjar built the first known shrine at this location. It was destroyed or hidden under earthen embankment during the invasion of Genghis Khan in around 1220. In the 15th century, Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqarah built the current Blue Mosque here. It is by far the most important landmark in Mazar-i-Sharif and it is believed that the name of city (Noble Shrine, Grave of Sharif) originates from this shrine.

A site plan of the location made in the 1910s shows that there had earlier been a smaller walled precinct in the mosque, which was razed to create parklands later, although the portals to this precinct still remain as gateways for the shrine.

Tombs of varying dimensions were added for a number of Afghan political and religious leaders over the years, which has led to the development of its current irregular dimensions.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Mosque_(Mazar-i-Sharif)
Name: Band-e Amir National Park
Location: Bamyan, Afghanistan
Band-e Amir National Park is Afghanistan's first national park, located in the Bamyan Province. It is a series of six deep blue lakes separated by natural dams made of travertine, a mineral deposit. The lakes are situated in the Hindu Kush mountains of central Afghanistan at approximately 3000 m of elevation, west of the famous Buddhas of Bamiyan.

They were created by the carbon dioxide rich water oozing out of the faults and fractures to deposit calcium carbonate precipitate in the form of travertine walls that today store the water of these lakes. Band-e Amir is one of the few rare natural lakes in the world which are created by travertine systems. The site of Band-e Amir has been described as Afghanistan's Grand Canyon, and draws thousands of tourists a year. The river is part of the system of the Balkh River.

The local people in Band-e-Amir National Park rely heavily on the park's natural resources for their livelihood. Grazing of livestock, collection of shrubs for fuel and winter fodder and rain-fed farming is still widely practiced within the park boundary.

SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Band-e_Amir_National_Park
FLIGHT TIMES / MAJOR CITIES
PLEASE SEE BELOW MAJOR CITIES IN AFGHANISTAN / CLICK OR TOGGLE BELOW FOR FASTEST AVERAGE FLIGHT TIMES FROM USA.

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Our team is dedicated to providing a consular service which focuses on attention to detail, delivering a personal approach and with a high focus on compliance. Feedback is very important to us, therefore any comments you provide about our service are invaluable.

Our team is dedicated to providing a consular service which focuses on attention to detail, delivering a personal approach and with a high focus on compliance. Feedback is very important to us, therefore any comments you provide about our service are invaluableI have provided some of my own personal testimonials over my years in immigration below; working and leading on very large projects...

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