The beauty of painted veils, enigmatic lyrics full of wisdom and plants and herbs in open markets — Afghanistan has made quite a name for itself. Despite current media being more concerned with its foreign affairs, the country is still renowned for its great beauty and interesting traditions.
Many strangers praise Afghan hospitality and admire the respect they pay to tradition and hierarchies. Religion is not a joking matter. People live usually in small communities and more than anything, they treasure their families. Most of them are gifted storytellers who like to share their tales with their guests. Literature, especially poetry, gained global recognition centuries ago. Chants, poems or sagas talk about the beauty of life, love, loyalty or the mystery of death. In some cities, it is still common to gather in a public place to listen to poets pouring their hearts out. Afghans see themselves as keepers of a long tradition, defined by their role in the family or community. They can be guardians, philosophers, lovers, warriors or leaders.
When visiting your Afghan host, don’t ever refuse a cup of tea. Besides its delicious taste, tea plays a very important role in socializing. Ask about someone’s ancestors, they’ll surely know a story or two about their families. The woman initiates the handshake, as she is to decide whether physical contact is necessary. Winking is a vulgar gesture and a sexual invitation, so maybe you should skip that. Remove your shoes upon entering. Don’t move things around with your feet; don’t use them to point at something or someone: it’s completely rude. Guests should bring some pastries or sweets upon visiting.
If you’re going only to visit, the Minaret of Jam is probably the country’s treasure. It has over a millennium of existence, a fascinating history and breathtaking architecture. You need to look for jewelry and textile markets since Afghans are very meticulous and inventive when it comes to manufacturing. You think the price is too high? You couldn’t be more right. Merchandisers love to negotiate and the normal price is usually 55-60% of the one displayed on the tag. Probably the most curious thing would be buzkashi. This is the most popular sport in Afghanistan and involves similar rules to polo. The trick is that there is no ball but instead, a headless goat.