Afghan Curiosities Vol. 1

Conflictfood wants to show you another side of the conflict regions transcending dominant negative media images.

With our series Curiosities we regularly offer you exciting, amusing and bizarre information from all walks of life of our partner countries.

Volume 1 combines sports, diversity and bling bling – are you curious yet? Let’s start!

Did you know that the Afghan national sport includes the carcass of a dead goat?

Buz” is the Dari word for “goat“. Buzkashi translated literally from Dari means “goat grabbing“. A wild form of rugby on horseback, where the goal is to get the water-soaked, headless goat from one side of the field to the designated winning spot on the other.

The buz is soaked in water beforehand to toughen it up. It’s placed in a chalked out circle on the ground. At a signal, the two teams try to grab the animal carcass and ride to another chalked out circle on the opposite side of the playing field to drop the dead goat. The winner is the one who gets the (largest piece) buz there first.

The creation of Buzkashi is, perhaps apocryphally, thought to have been inspired by Ghengis Khan’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1219-21, when pillaging Mongols on horseback would sweep up local Afghan livestock at a gallop.

Afghans would like to see this as an official Olympic sport, and it has been proposed to Olympic committees on several occasions. Although this sport has recently seen the introduction of more rules and has been sponsored by Afghan Airlines and various business owners, it doesn’t seem likely that it will become an official Olympic sport in the near future.

Flying hooves, fierce whips, shoving, grabbing, and the melee of gorgeous Arabian horses results in tough sport only master players may win. It is a dangerous game!

Did you know how ethnically diverse Afghan population is?

Afghanistan has a wide variety of ethnic groups with each having different linguistic, religious and ethnic identities. This is partly due to silk traders traveling the Silk Route from China to the Western world, creating a nomadic trait in Afghanistan. Also Afghan topography has contributed to keeping people and communities isolated from each other. During the course of the 20th century, contact between different groups increased, with development of the country’s communication and road system and consolidation of state power. This contact continued after the Soviet invasion, although the country’s development stagnated and violence erupted.

Estimates of the numbers of different ethnic groups have to be taken with a grain of salt. There has not been a census in Afghanistan for decades, and all figures are based on estimates.

Pashtuns are Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and are estimated to make up around 40% of the Afghan population. The majority follow the Sunni Muslim doctrine.  Pashtuns are the world’s largest remaining tribal community. They have held the reins of power in Afghanistan since the 18th century.

Tajiks are also mostly Sunni Muslims, but they speak Dari and group cohesion is non-tribal. They constitute the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, an estimated 30%. They have long been more urbanised than other groups. The majority, however, still live scattered in the mountainous north and north-eastern areas, such as Badakhshan, and parts of Herat province along the western border with Iran.

Hazaras account for about 15% of the population and are the third largest ethnic group.  The majority of Hazaras are located in Hazarajat, an area in the central highlands of Afghanistan that they controlled autonomously until the end of the 19th century. The majority of the Hazara belong to the Twelvers, a branch of the Shia Muslim doctrine, while only a small minority belongs to the Sunni doctrine. Hazaras speak Hazaragi, a dialect very close to Dari that uses many Turkish and Mongolian expressions.

The Uzbek and Turkmen minorities in Afghanistan make up about 10% of the population.  They are Sunni Muslim and originate historically from nomadic tribes that arrived in waves from Central Asia. Their languages belong to the Turkic language family. They are traditionally associated with the areas northwest of the Hindu Kush mountain range, near the borders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Aimaqs are the smallest of the main ethnic groups and probably account for around 5%.  They are Sunni Muslims, and their primary language is Dari with many loan words from Turkish.  They are tribes that historically settled around the western parts of the Hindu Kush, that is, east of Herat and west of the Hazarajat.

Farsiwan are settled in western Afghanistan, near the border with Iran.  They speak a Persian dialect that is close to Dari and they belong to Twelver branch of Shia Muslim in Afghanistan.

Nuristani people are settled in the eastern Afghan mountains where they make their living from agriculture and livestock. They are Sunni Muslims and speak a language that is considered to be very old, with features from both Persian and Hindi. Living in isolated valleys and rough terrain, Nuristanis had a distinct culture and a polytheistic religion, but were conquered and forcibly converted to Islam in the end of the 19th century.

Kyrgyz are Turkic-speaking, and before the war they lived mostly in the Pamir Wakhan Corridor, the long and thin strip of Afghan territory that stretches northeast from Badakshan province to form a narrow border with China. They herd Yak-oxen, goats and camels.  There are only few Kyrgyz living in Afghanistan today.  Most of them fled to Turkey, China, Pakistan or other countries during the Soviet occupation.

Among other smaller ethnic groups are Arabs, Pashayi, Baloch, Pamiris, Brahuis, Mongols, Qizilbash, Hindus, Kohistani, Gujars and Sikhs.

Did you know that Egyptians pharaohs loved Afghan bling bling?

Afghanistan’s most unique and probably most beautiful material is the deep dark blue lapis lazuli. In ancient Egypt pharaohs loved to wear jewelry made of this precious material and they found ways to have it imported all the way from mines in today’s Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the source of lapis lazuli for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, as well as the later Greeks and Romans.

Lapis Lazuli is found in limestone in the Kokcha River valley of Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan, where the Sar-e-Sang mine deposits have been worked for more than 6,000 years.

Afghanistan’s other natural resources comprises of silver, zinc, gold, copper, and iron ore that are found in the southeast. Potentially important petroleum and natural gas reserves are found in the north. The country also has uranium, coal, salt etc.Curiosities vol. 2 will be published soon  – stay tuned and support conflictfood!

Read more about Afghanistan

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1 Comment

  1. Maribel
    Monday June 11th, 2018

    I enjoy the report

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