Customs and traditions
Afghanistan is an almost entirely Muslim
country and most contexts are characterized by Islamic
customs. This means that social interaction between men
and women who do not belong to the same family is
severely limited, almost non-existent. On the other
hand, one often encounters a hospitality that can be
overwhelming to an outsider.
Overview of the capital city of Afghanistan, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Anyone who is invited to an Afghan family, or has a
booked business meeting, may be prepared for the fact
that time is a very relative concept. The wait can be
long before the meeting / dinner starts. In addition,
several activities can take place simultaneously; people
leave the room, others come in, there are various
interruptions. Patience is a virtue.
Men and women
A firm handshake is the normal way to greet, men in
between. It is often followed by both putting their hand
to the heart and bowing slightly. A cheek kiss, men in
between - or women in between, but never between man and
woman - can also occur. The greeting is also usually
accompanied by inquiries about the other's health, his
children, how things are done, etc. A foreign man should
not ask an Afghan how his wife or daughters are doing.
It is an undue intrusion into privacy.
If a foreign man visits a relatively traditional
Afghan home, he probably does not meet any women at all.
In this respect, a foreign woman has a first step; she
can move in both male and female environment. In more
modern metropolitan families, or in workplaces with both
men and women, a man should not try to shake hands with
an Afghan woman unless she takes the initiative herself.
A foreign woman also makes good sense to settle for
bowing to the men and oral health, at some distance.
In the event of encounters with an Afghan woman, a
man should not only avoid shaking hands with her, but
also avoid looking her in the eyes. That, or talking to
men about a woman in their family, is considered
patronizing and a lack of respect for the whole family.
A man and a woman who do not belong to the same
family should never be alone in a room. Should this
still happen, they should keep the door open to show
that nothing inappropriate is going on.
Gifts and clothing
During a general conversation, one should first turn
to the elder in the congregation. If someone enters the
room, or when someone walks in, the others are expected
to line up.
It is customary to bring a gift when visiting an
Afghan home, at least for the first time, but does not
make a big deal with the handover. Don't expect the host
to open the package to everyone's curious eyes. It is
usually not advisable to bring alcohol as a gift to a
host. And even if you know that he is not pure and
appreciative of the gift, you should at least be very
Proper attire is recommended for men in official
contexts, more unofficially goes well with wide afghan
cotton clothing, or western everyday wear. Women should
cover their arms and legs and preferably wear both pants
and long skirts that hide all body shapes. It should
also cover the hair with a shawl.
In private homes, dinner is usually served on a
canvas laid over a large, beautifully knotted rug. The
guests are placed on pillows around the carpet and take,
with their right hand, from common dishes. Green tea,
soft drinks or mineral water are served for the meal.
Any business discussions, or political discussions, are
saved after the meal.
A long dinner can be a torment for a Westerner who is
above sitting with his legs retracted under his body.
The host may have indulgence in the fact that a
foreigner is forced to stretch his legs sometimes, but
care should be taken not to point the soles of the feet
to another. It is very naughty.
Since a guest is considered a gift from God, you are
always served the best house you can bring. Very poor
people may only be able to afford tea and some candies,
maybe a bowl of fresh berries. In the well-off, a
variety of meat and fish dishes, vegetables, yogurt,
bread and other accessories can be brought up, but the
care of the guest is the same no matter what is offered.
Leave some leftover food on the plate. Scratching
cleanly indicates that you are still hungry and did not
get enough. Do not take food with your left hand, nor
hand anything over to someone with your left hand. It is
reserved for toilet visits.
A non-Muslim should never touch a copy of the Qur'an.
It is considered too sacred to be handled by a
Weekends and holidays
In a country like Afghanistan, where almost all are
Muslims, the same religious celebrations are celebrated
as in other Muslim-dominated countries. You fast during
the Ramadan and celebrate the end of the fasting month
with the big holiday id al-fitr, when everyone
goes to the mosque and then frozen in the best food the
household can spend with family and friends. Id al-fitr
can be roughly compared to the Christmas celebrations of
Christians as the feast when the family is at the
During id e-qurban, a sheep or some other
animal is sacrificed to celebrate that hajj,
the pilgrimage to Mecca, begins.
For Shia Muslims, ashura, the tenth day of
the month of Muharram, is an important feast, though
most marked by sorrow. Then the Shia Muslims celebrate
Imam Hussain's martyrdom in 680. Hussain was the Prophet
Muhammad's daughter's son and is considered within the
Shia as the Prophet's rightful successor.
The Muslim New Year, nouroz, is also a
religious celebration but is celebrated as a secular
celebration. At least in music that is not too strictly
religious, there is music and dance. For the peasants,
the New Year is an opportunity to praise God for what
the earth gives them. In northern Afghanistan, New
Year's celebrations are devoted to, among other things,
buzkashi, a game similar to horse polo, where
the two teams of riders fight for a trophy, which is
usually a slaughtered calf.
The Prophet's birthday, mawlid, is partly a
family holiday but most of all an opportunity to visit
Even as deeply a religious country as Afghanistan has
several secular celebrations. In Jalalabad, on April 13,
Mushaira, the day of orange blossom, is
celebrated when families have a picnic in the green
during the blossoming orange trees and listen to music.
Similarly, the arrival of spring in the province of
Wardak is celebrated ten days later with apple blossom
May 1 remains as a public holiday as a legacy from
the time when the country basically obeyed the Soviet
Union. Independence Day jeshyn on August 19 celebrates
the day in 1919 when Britain gave up control of Afghan
foreign policy and the country became an absolutely
And even though the fall of the communist regime in
1992 triggered a continuing civil war, the Mujahedin's
victory day is still celebrated on April 28 - though not
The US is investing harder
Barack Obama is elected President of the United States. He promises to
increase the war effort in Afghanistan. The Taliban are rejecting an offer by
President Karzai for peace talks as long as there are foreign military in the
New billion promise from the outside world
At a donor conference in Paris, Afghanistan promises more than $ 20 billion
for the country's reconstruction.
Suicide attack in big city
Over 100 people are killed in a suicide attack in a crowd in Kandahar, the
worst death of their kind since 2001. The following day, 37 civilians were
killed in an attack directed at a column of NATO soldiers near the Pakistan
Terrorist attack on luxury hotels
Terrorists open fire inside Kabul's finest hotel where a Norwegian government
delegation is located. Seven people are killed, among them a Norwegian