Kabul City, Afghanistan
Kabul has been the capital of Afghanistan since about 1776. The city has been badly damaged during the various 1979–2001 wars, particularly its western parts. Kabul is currently going through a period of renovation and development, with some modern style tower blocks and a handful of glitzy shopping malls appearing over the last few years.
Facts & Understand
- The people of Afghanistan are called Afghans and not Afghanis which is the currency. A common mistake that happens among people.
- The capital is Kabul; it covers an area of 106 square miles (275 square kilometres) and had a population of 4,635,000 in 2015
- Hospitality plays a significant role in the country’s culture and tradition. The visitors are treated with utmost respect and are offered the best that the household has.
- Ahmad Shah Durrani, also known as “the Father of the Nation”, is the founder of the last Afghan empire. He was crowned in 1747. He consolidated the country from principalities and fragmented provinces into one kingdom
- Abdul Rahman Mosque in Kabul, one of the largest mosques in Afghanistan.
- World’s largest Buddhas (two of these) were first built in Afghanistan. These statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
- “The Afghan Girl” Is One of the Most Iconic National Geographic Covers
- Kabul is the 4rth fasted growing cities in the world.
- The official language of Afghanistan is Pashto (Est 67%) and Dari (Est 30%). They speak several other languages as well such as Persian, Uzbek and Turkmen to name a few.
- Kabul is a very historic city of the region that was built almost 4000 years ago. People here are famous in hospitality.
- Many shops and businesses are closed on Friday, which is considered a holy day in Afghanistan
- While handshakes are a common greeting, it is rare and unusual for men and women to shake hands with each other
- Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan is believed to be the busiest single runway airstrip in the world (Nationfacts.net)
- Modern Afghanistan was founded in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Durrani
- The most common foreign language spoken in the country is English.
The city is believed to have been founded between 2000-1500BC. It is mentioned in Hinduism’s sacred Rigveda text (ca.1700-1100BC) as a vision of paradise set in the mountains. It was an important center of Zoroastrianism and later Buddhism. The city remained of little importance for much of the first three millennia of its existence. It was controlled variously by: the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire, the Mauryan Empire, the Bactrians, various Hellenistic kingdoms, the Sassanid Empire, and by the 5th century AD was its own kingdom known as Kabul-Shahan. This last kingdom before the Islamic conquest built a large wall to protect the city from invasion when the Arabs arrived at the edge of the kingdom; parts of the wall have survived to this day and are visible above ground within the city.
In 871 Kabul fell to the Islamic invasion (nearly 200 years after invading Muslims reached modern-day Afghanistan). The Kabulistan Empire was formed covering much of Afghanistan and parts of western modern-day Pakistan. The city once again passed uneventfully through the hands of several empires, including the Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Timurids, Mughols, Durranis, and the Barakzais, before conquest by the Mongols in the 13th century.
Under the rule of Tamerlane in the 14th century, the city developed into a regional center of trade. In 1504, the city was captured by the Mughal emperor Babur.
In 1747, Kabul came under control of the Durrani (or Afghan) Empire. In 1776, Kabul would become the empire’s capital, although the empire soon fell into tribal civil war. In 1839, the region was claimed by the British and Kabul was established as the location of British government and the British Indian Forces. They were very unpopular amongst local tribes who revolted and in 1841. Within a few days, a series of events led to the massacre of all but one of the 16,000 occupying British and Indian civilians and soldiers within miles of Kabul as they attempted to flee to Jalalabad, a famous blunder known as the Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army. The British returned in 1878 and 1879, but were both times thousands of them were killed and they were forced to retreat.
In the early 20th century, electricity was introduced to the city and the Darul Aman palace was constructed for the royal family. The 1930s-60s were good times in Kabul. Kabul University was opened; the roads were paved; modern shops, offices, & schools were opened; shopping centers and a cinema were opened; and the Kabul Zoo opened. The city also saw a vibrant tourism industry appear, largely due to the Istanbul-New Delhi “Hippie Trail” which passed through Kabul in the 1960s-70s.
The 1970s-80s brought a turn for the worst. The city hosted two coups, in 1973 & 1978. The second coup was carried out by the Marxist PDPA, which a year later invited the Soviet Union military to maintain their power over the country. From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union maintained headquarters for military and government in Kabul. After the Soviets left, the government collapsed in 1992 and left local warlords to fight over the city leaving tens of thousands dead and (according to the UN) 90% of the city’s buildings destroyed. By 1994, the city was without electricity or water. In 1996, the political movement known as the Taliban captured the city, publicly hanging the former (pre-1992) president and imposing notoriously strict Islamic rule over the country.
A United States led military force invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, bombing strategic installations throughout the city to rout out the governing Taliban, who quickly fled the city. The city was named the capital of the Afghan Transitional Authority and subsequently the capital of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The city saw many suicide bombings between 2002-2007. In late 2008, control of the city’s security was passed from the NATO ISAF force to Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army. Since 2001, billions of dollars in aid and foreign investment have been used to improve the city. Most of the major roads have been paved and improved, government building have been extensively renovated, new hotels and shopping malls have opened, the zoo and many museums have reopened, and utilities have been extensively reconstructed.
Kabul is twinned with the British town of Didcot, for historic reasons relating to the railway.
Kabul’s climate is greatly influenced by its location in a valley at 1800m (5900ft). Summers (June-Sept) are hot and dry, averaging from the high 20s to the mid-30s (80-95F) with next to no precipitation. Autumn (Oct & Nov) is temperate and sees very little precipitation. Winters (Dec-Mar) are cold and the time of year which sees the most precipitation (mostly snow, but also ice, freezing rain, and sleet on warmer days). January is the coldest month, averaging 4/-7 (39/19F). Spring (late Mar-early June) is temperate with lots of rain tapering off by early May. Keep in mind that the city lies in a valley and some villages on the edge of the city are a few hundred meters higher and thus cooler in the summer and colder and snowier in the winters. Many roads leading to/from the city are regularly blocked by high snowfall in winter (although the city’s importance to the US presence means they will be cleared relatively quickly), the most notorious is the highway north towards Kunduz.
Get in By plane
Kabul International Airport (IATA: KBL), is a short drive east of the city center. The new international terminal is now fully open, whilst the old terminal is now used for domestic flights. The airport is a hub for Ariana Afghan Airways, Kam Air, and Safi Airways. Airport facilities include banks, restaurants, post office and car parking.
International carriers and destinations include:
Ariana Afghan Airlines – to Ankara, Baku, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Islamabad, Istanbul-Atatürk, Jeddah, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Riyadh, Sharjah, Tehran-Imam Khomeini, & Ürümqi.
- Safi Airways – flies to Delhi, Dubai, & Kuwait City.
- Kam Air – to Almaty, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Islamabad, Mashhad, Peshawar, & Urumqi & Delhi.
- Emirates daily to Dubai.
- Air India to Delhi.
- Pakistan International Airways – to Islamabad & Peshawar.
- Fly Dubai to Dubai & Delhi
- Air Arabia to Sharjah
- Gulf Air to Bahrain
- Turkish Airlines [Daily flights to Istanbul.
- Spice Jet to New Delhi
Ariana Afghan Airlines to Herat, Kandahar, & Mazar-e-Sharif.
Kam Air to Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, & Tarin Kowt.
Safi Airways to Herat,Kandahar, & Mazar-e-Sharif.
• Get around
Maps of Kabul are available from Afghanistan Information Management Services who can print out custom wall maps of the city. Open Street Map is the only online street level map presently available for Kabul. Currently Google has offered the brand new service or road map in Afghanistan. It is mostly reliable except it wouldn’t have all details.
Bagh-e Babur (Gardens of Babur)
The gardens surround the tomb of the first Mughal Emperor Babur. Though he had wished to be buried here, he was originally buried in Agra, and later moved to this spot. Historically, the gardens have been visited by Afghans for picnics and lazy afternoons. There is a swimming pool, a small mosque for prayers and a small museum among other things. 10 Af for locals, 250 Af for foreigners.
Built in the late 19th century, it served as a summer palace for Amir Abdur Rahman. Today, much of the original interior has been preserved, and the area around the palace has become a large park.
Bagh-e Zanana (Family Park)
A park and market for females only but includes male and female children. It was designed as a place where women could sell their own products and merchandise directly, which cannot be done in areas where men do business, because women in Afghanistan are not supposed to deal directly with men who are not relatives. This park was created as an outlet for these women to sell their goods with respect to their culture. There is also a female run restaurant. The park is also a nice place for female travelers to enjoy the outdoors. Entrance fee 50 Afghani.
Darul Aman Palace
At the end of Daral Aman road, south of the city, next to the Kabul museum. Originally built as King Amanullah’s Palace in the 1920s, it has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times over. Plans were unveiled a few years ago to renovate it once again although it is still in a state of crumbling disrepair on the verge of collapsing. Afs 200 or so bakshesh to the guard to look around inside the ruins
Daoud Khan Memorial
Up the hill behind Darul Aman Palace. On June 28, 2008, the body of President Daoud and those of his family were found in two separate mass graves in the Pul-e-Charkhi area, District 12 of Kabul city. There is now a small memorial to the deceased on a small hill, offering nice views over southern Kabul.
6AM-6PM daily. The zoo is very popular with Afghans, and houses over 100 animals, albeit in relatively poor condition. China was once one of the main donors of animals in the zoo, but after the death of a few animals to disease and malnutrition, China has announced that there will be no donations until living conditions improve. ‘Marjan’ the lion, which was blinded by a grenade, was the main draw of the zoo, but has died recently. locals 10 Af for, 100 Af for foreigners.
Described as Kabul’s Lake District, only 9km from the city. Spogmai restaurant provides international cuisine. Swimming and boating are popular on the lake with plans for water skiing and jet-skis in the future.
National Gallery of Afghanistan
(Afghan National Gallery), Asamayi Watt (34°31’2.94N, 69°10’15.97E). 8am-ish to 4pm-ish, closed Fridays, and you may struggle to be allowed in on Thursday afternoons. A beautiful gallery in a charming old Kabul house that has been carefully restored. The collection used to have some 820 paintings and portraits but 50% have been looted or destroyed; the director said the Taliban destroyed 210 portraits. Most of the collection is of European and Afghan landscapes and portraits of famous Afghan writers and kings and a portrait of the French writer Victor Hugo. Well worth making the effort to see. The Sultani Gallery is attached, but the opening hours are a mystery.
National Museum of Afghanistan
(Afghan National Museum), South Kabul, Darul Aman Road (several miles from the city center, across from Darulaman Palace). 10am-4pm weekdays, 9am-noon Fridays. The National Museum of Afghanistan once housed one of the greatest collections of Central Asian artifacts in the world. A large percentage of the previous collection was looted in the 1990s during Taliban rule after the upper floors of the museum were bombed. Many of the early Buddhist treasures were destroyed by the Taliban at the same time as the Bamiyan Buddhas. Looted items still turn up around the world at auctions. The museum is open once again, with far more modest, but still impressive, displays of early Buddhist and Islamic artifacts. free, donations welcome.
Mausoleum of Nadir Shah and Zahir
(Teppe Maranjan). This is the site where King Nadir Shah and his son, Zahir Shah, are buried. It has been going through renovation since about 2005 and is still not completed.
(Tape Paghman (Paghman Hill)), Paghman-Kabul (14th district-Kabul). Paghman Garden is a very nice place with greenery and Kabul river is beside the garden, It’s a tourist place with nice climate. Afghanistan’s independence gate (Taq e Zafar) is located in front of Paghman garden.
it’s a tourist place at the top of the hill. Former King Zaher shah made it for the enjoyment of local people at the time of his kingdom and now it is a nice place with a pool and greenery and nice view.
Do Kabul Wall
A pleasant hike with rewarding views over the city. The Kabul City Wall is still is pretty good condition, running west-east from Babar Gardens over to Bala Hissar (about 3 km in distance). edit
Kabul Golf Club
Qargha Road, Closed down in 1978 by the Soviet Union, it reopened in 2004 after a 25 year hiatus.
Afghanistan’s first bowling alley. $25 an hour.
Pashtunistan Square. Primarily shows Bollywood or trashy action flicks, and the occasional American blockbuster.
Ghazi Stadium (National Stadium)
Home of the Afghan football team. Just past the stadium is the mine museum as well as a road up the hill where you will find hundreds of Afghan men and boys flying kites on holidays.
Kabul National Cricket Stadium
Home of the Afghan cricket team. Newly built in the last several years.
Swim. There are a growing number of large indoor swimming pools in the city. The nicest is probably at the Serena, but is a steep $40 to use. There are also the Lajward Swimming Complex ($10) and the Nazari Sauna and Pool ($10). UNICA club’s swimming pool ($5) is very popular, especially on Fridays when there is probably as much cat walking as swimming going on. The International Club (aka Maple Leaf) has a large and often empty pool ($8) but it is in a plastic shed rather than outdoors. L’atmosphere also has a pool, again popular on Fridays. Except in private or foreigner-only places, women should not wear anything skimpy (especially bikinis).
The Kabul City Center
next to the park, has some very smart shops.
is situated in Supreme Tower.
is located in Shahre Naw area having a bawling club, café, and many other shops.
has some quite respectable clothes shops.
is famed for its tourist fare (carpets, carvings, knives etc) and pirated CD/DVD’s.
Gul Bahar Center
Da Afghanan, Central of Kabul. Low prices and the biggest shopping mall in Kabul you can find everything in a very low prices.
you can find most of your daily needs and has high quality goods.
A few ATMs that accept international cards are scattered around the city, and most dispense both Afghanis and US dollars.
Afghanistan International Bank
(AIB) has a few machines around Kabul, including one inside the Kabul City Center shopping mall. They dispense in Afghanis and US dollars.
New Kabul Bank
has many branches in the city.
Kabul Serena Hotel
Froshgah Street, Undoubtedly the best hotel in the city, clean and modern 5 star hotel with three great restaurants.
Kabul Intercontinental Hotel
(Bagh-e Bala Rd), 5 star hotel with nice restaurants and a swimming pool. Once the most stylish and modern Hotels in the region.
Safi Landmark Hotel and Suites
Shar-e Naw Park (Top six floors of Kabul City Center shopping mall), Large conference hall, restaurant and gym area, apartments also available.
The cellular telephone system in Kabul is excellent. American and European phones do work on the local system. 3G & 4G services are available by many network providers like MTN, Etisalat, and Afghan Wireless
While visiting Kabul or any other part of the country, having any kind of social interaction with local people should not be a problem, Afghan people are traditionally very kind and hospitable toward guests.