Customs & Cuisine of Afghanistan | Sahar Education

Customs and Cuisine of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a country in the heart of Asia that is usually mistaken to be in the Middle East. There are 34 provinces in Afghanistan. Its population of 34 million is made up of many different ethnic groups who speak different languages and have their own cultural practices. Some of the largest ethnic groups are, in order, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Nuristani, Baloch and Pashayi. More than 99 percent of the Afghan population is Muslim. The literacy rate among females in Afghanistan is 24 percent.   

Some of the festivals celebrated in Afghanistan are the two religious holidays called Eid. The first is the celebration of the end of Ramadan, and the second is the remembrance of the event when prophet Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son Ismail. In both Eids, everyone makes new clothes to wear on the three days of the Eid holiday. People put henna on their hands and women get designs on their hands and feet. On the first Eid, people eat sweets and visit families and friends. On the second Eid, every family who has the means sacrifices a cow, goat, or sheep. Some of the meat is donated and some of it is cooked and served to the guests who visit. Some of it is also saved for the families themselves.  

The other holiday or festival in Afghanistan is the New Year which starts on the first day of spring or March 21. The New Year is mainly celebrated in a festive way in the northern province of Balkh in Mazar-e Sharif city where there is a centuries-old mosque.  

Afghanistan has some of the most delicious cuisine in the world. Bread is an important element and is on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is eaten with almost every meal and seen as a sign of blessing.   

The national dish of Afghanistan, called Qabeli Palaw, is cooked in most of the central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is rice cooked with lamb or beef, raisins, carrots, onions and other spices. Afghan cuisine is also famous for its dumpling-like dish, Manto, which is filled with a mixture of meat and vegetables and topped with yogurt, tomato sauce and mint. Bolani is another Afghan dumpling dish – a piece of thin rolled dough the size of an egg roll filled with vegetables, fried in oil and served with chatni (chutney).   

Afghanistan has its first national park, Band-e Amir, in Bamyan province, the city that is also home of two Buddhas that were destroyed by the Taliban.   

Marriages are usually arranged among Afghans. Dating between a man and woman rarely happens in big cities like Kabul or Mazar. When it does, it is only out of the sight of families through secret phone conversations or visiting in public spaces. The proposal is always made by the parents of the groom to the girl’s home. In most cases the family of the girl asks for dowry. Some form of a gift is given to the family of the bride on the day of the engagement, an average amount of $3,000 – $4,000. There are cases in rural areas where the family of the girl specifically asks for $10,000 – $20,000 (US) and unless that amount is paid during specific period of time, the girl lives in the parents’ house.   

Wedding festivals are usually very big. More than 1,000 people are invited, everyone is fed, and brides are gifted with large amounts of gold jewelry and luxurious outfits. There are usually three separate parties. The first is the Henna Night where only women are invited and henna is applied to the bride’s hands. The night is full of music, dance and food. The second is the big day of the wedding where men and women are invited in two separate wedding halls. The third is the after-wedding party where women come and bring gifts to the newly wedded couple. The gifts are usually in the form of kitchen appliances, electronics or other things that the newly wedded couple may need. Married couples in most cases live in the house of the groom’s parents. It is very rare that couples move to their own house after their wedding. 


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