A look at Afghanistan’s culture: art, poetry, food, music, clothing, myths and more!
  • Kabul Museum (Ancient Art)
  • Cooking/Food
  • Traditional Musical Instruments
  • Poetry
  • Proverbs
  • Traditional Holidays/Events
  • Carpets and Rugs of Afghanistan
  • Short Wisdom Stories
  • Traditional Clothing
  • Mullah Nasruddin Jokes
  • Superstitions and popular myths in Afghanistan

The type of food served in Afghan cuisine is quite unique. It has been well documented that the foods, tastes, and spices of Afghan food are a rather tasteful blend of the regions that surround Afghanistan. Unlike food from its neighbors to the east, the spices used in Afghan dishes, are neither too hot nor pungent, and in contrast to its western neighbors, Afghan food is not bland. In fact, many western travelers find the foods of Afghanistan a perfect blend of exoticness and good taste.

Cooking and food have a very important role in Afghan culture. Unexpected guests might be seen as rude or an imposition in western culture, but not in Afghan culture. Guests are revered and even in families, people often just drop in with little or no notice, and to not have food for them would be unheard of even in the most spur of the moment situations. Coming away from an Afghan table hungry is simply never happens, no matter how little preparation time the host has.

The types of food served are also symbolic, for example, Qaabuli Pallow is the crown of Afghan cooking and served to special guests or on special occasions such as weddings. Leeti (Leetee) is served to new mothers because of its easiness on the stomach, yet high nutritive value. Dogh, a type of yogurt drink, is best enjoyed on a hot summer’s day, and Haft Mewa and Mahi (fish) are served during Nowroz (New Year). Even eggs are prepared in a special way so that a guest is well nourished when they wake up. Afghans also believe that food is elemental in nature, and can produce hot or cold, or be neutral in the body. Food is well appreciated and even has special meaning, for example, stepping on a piece of dropped bread or naan is considered sinful.

Afghans take great pride in their cooking and are very happy to see everyone full and satisfied. Afghan cooking is not about exact measurements, and many of the ingredients can be substituted to achieve a similar taste. The amount of all of the spices can be adjusted to suit your individual taste. No two Afghans prepare the same dish exactly the same. Creativity is another element that contributes to the wonderful medley of flavors that make up Afghan cooking. Prepare these recipes with love and Nosh-e- Jaan, or good eating.

Photo courtesy of zarinas.com

Women typically wear a dress with loose-fitting pants, called a tunbaan, underneath that goes down to the ankles. A chador (headscarf) is worn to cover the hair.  The use of a hijab, typically worn by women in Iran and other Islamic countries, is also a common way Afghan women cover their hair today. Only very conservative women wear an all covering burqa. During the Taliban rule, all women were forced to wear a burqa when going out of the house. Today, one can find some women, even in Kabul,  still wearing a burqa as they claim it makes them feel safer, and prevents them from being harassed by men. On formal occasions, women wear fancier dresses that have intricate embroidery on it – sometimes small mirrors are sown on the dress. Each region has it’s own style.

Traditional clothing for men consists of a peraahan tunbaan (shirt/pants)outfitThe tunbaan is made so that the waist is adjustable, and it is adjusted and held up using a cloth cord (azaarband). Men also like to wear some sort of head wear, especially  during formal occasions. The head wear differs according to the the region the person is from. The most common form of head wear is a lungee (turban). There are numerous variations on how the turban is wrapped, each region has its own style. Among the Pashtuns, tribal leaders will wear turbans from fancier cloths and tie them differently in order to signify their status in the community. Hats made from wool are common among the Tajik and the Turkic people of northern Afghanistan. A triangular shaped karakul hat, made from the fur of the karakul (qaraqul) sheep can also be seen. It is past, it was common to see Afghan royalty wearing this hat.  The hat became more widely known to westerners after Hamid Karzai became president. On formal occasions, men will wear a vest, sometimes embroidered, over their peraahan, or some sort of chapan (coat). Both the karakul hat and chapan originated from northern Afghanistan.

Today, in the major cities, such as Kabul, more and more young Afghans are wearing western clothes, and reserve their traditional Afghan clothing for special occasions, such as weddings or to celebrate major holidays like Nowroz or Eid.

  • Chapli Kabob
  • Qaabuli Pallow (with Lamb)
  • Uzbeki style Qaabuli Pallow
  • Mash Palao
  • Kofta Challow
  • Kecheree
  • Shorba (Afghan soup)
  • Do Pyaza
  • Quruti
  • Shola
  • Badenjan Burani (Borani Banjan) – eggplant with yogurt sauce
  • Afghan Fried Fish (Mahi Surkh Karda)
  • Aashak
  • Mantu
  • Aash
  • Burani Kachalo (potatoes with yogurt sauce)
  • Qorma Sabzi
  • Eggs – Afghan Style Breakfast
  • Qaimaq – clotted cream
  • Masska
  • panirr(cheese)
  • Sheer Yakh (Afghan ice cream)
  • Kishmish Panir (cheese with raisins)
  • Firnee
  • Rote (Afghan sweet bread)
  • Afghan Cream Rolls
  • Sheer Payra (type of milk fudge)
  • Afghan Eid cookies
  • Khajoor – Afghan fried cookies
  • Gosh-e Feel
  • Jalebi








Musical Instruments

Traditional Instruments Used In Afghanistan







Important holidays/occasions/festivities celebrated in Afghanistan

The religious holidays in Afghanistan are celebrated according to the lunar calendar, and other holidays such as Independence day, and New Year’s day are celebrated based on the solar calendar. During many holidays, Afghans usually visit friends and families, prepare lavish meals, and attend special prayers.


Day: After a month of Fasting (Ramadan).
Many start out the day by wearing new clothes, and going to prayer. Afterwards, people visit or entertain their friends and families. Children usually receive gifts or money called “Eidi”.


Day: Tenth day of the twelfth month of the Islamic (Hijra) calendar.
The day commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s devotion to God. He was willing to slay his son Ismael as a sacrifice. Ismael was never killed, instead, Allah provided a lamb for the sacrifice. Muslims performing the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca) sacrifice a lamb, and the meat is given out to the poor. This holiday is celebrated in the same fashion as Eid al-Fitr, people visit friends and families, gifts are exchanged, etc.


Day: Tenth day of the month Muharram in the Islamic calendar. This is a day of mourning. It commemorates the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussain and his followers at the battle of Kerbala.


Day: The 12th day of the month Rabi al-Awal in the Islamic calendar. On this day, people celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. They attend prayers, remember Muhammad, and entertain/visit friends and familiy.


Day: March 21
This is the first day of spring (New Year’s Day for the solar calendar).


Day: August 19
August 19 marks Afghan independence day. Even though, Afghanistan was never a British colony, the British did have control of its foreign policy due to an agreement signed by a former Afghan King. The Third Anglo-Afghan War ended this agreement.


  • Labor Day
  • Remembrance Day for Maryrs and Disabled

Afghan Calendar

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s official calendar is the Solar Hijiri calendar. National holidays like Independence day, and cultural holidays like Nowroz (New Year’s Day) are based on the Solar Hijiri calendar. However, religious Islamic holidays like Eid Al-Fitr are celebrated according to the Lunar Hijiri calendar. Both calendars start with 622 A.D (Gregorian calendar), the year Prophet Mohammad made his Hijrah (migration) from Mecca to Medina.

The names of the months in the Solar Hijiri calendar correspond to the signs of the Zodiac. The first day of the year (Nowroz) starts on March 21st of the Gregorian calendar.




Afghan Months                                  

  1. Hamal – Aries (March 21)
  2.  Sowr – Taurus (April 21)
  3. Jowzaa – Gemini  (May 22)
  4. Sarataan – Cancer (June 22)
  5. Asad – Leo (July 23)
  6. Sumbula – Virgo (August 23)
  7. Meezaan – Libra (September 23)
  8. Aqrab – Scorpio (October 23)
  9. Qows – Sagittarius (November 22)
  10. Jadee – Capricorn (December 22)
  11. Dalwa – Aquarius (January 21)
  12. Hoot – Pisces (February 20)


Islamic Months

  1. Muharram (1st month)
  2. Safar
  3. Rabi’ ul-Awal
  4. Rabi ul-Akher
  5. Jamadi ul-Awal
  6. Jamadi ul-Akher
  7. Rajab
  8. Sha’ban
  9. Ramadan (month of fasting)
  10. Shawwal
  11. Zu ‘l-Qa’da
  12. Zu ‘l-Hijia (last month – Muslims go on the hajj – pilgrimage to Mecca)



A Real Friend Is One Who Takes The Hand Of His Friend In Times Of Distress And Helplessness.

Meaning: A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed.


The First Day You Meet, You Are Friends.  The Next Day You Meet, You Are Brothers.

Meaning: Friendship Grows Into Brotherhood.


There Is A Way From Heart To Heart.

Meaning: Love Finds A Way To Another’s Heart.


Don’t Stop A Donkey That Is Not Yours.

Meaning: Mind Your Own Business.


Community Is Not Created By Force.


Hasty Work Doesn’t Succeed.

Meaning: Haste Makes Waste Or A Watch Pot Never Boils.


Little Talk, More Action.

Meaning: Actions Speak Louder Than Words.


That Which Thunders Does Not Rain.

Meaning: Barking Dogs Seldom Bite.


He Who Can Be Killed By Sugar Should Not Be Killed By Poison.

Meaning: Subtlety Is Better Than Force.


He Who Is Cornered Will Fight.

Meaning: Tread On Worm And It Will Turn; Or A Cornered Rat Will Fight.


I’ve Never Seen Anyone Go Astray Who Followed Along The Right.

Meaning: You’ll Never Go Wrong By Doing Right.


A Liar Is Forgetful.

Meaning: A Dishonest Person Can’t Remember To Be Consistent.


One Who Calls Himself Khan Is Not A Khan.

Meaning: Self-Praise Is No Praise.


What You See In Yourself Is What You See In The World.

Meaning: The Soul Is The Mirror Of The World.


What Is A Trumpeters Job? To Blow.

Meaning: An Adviser, Teacher Or Preacher Can Only Instruct, It Is Up To The Listener To Act.


Blood Cannot Be Washed Out With Blood.

Meaning: Two Wrongs Do Not Make A Right.


Even The Five Fingers Of The Hand Are Not Alike.

Meaning: All People Differ: Usually Greatly.


There Is Blessing In Action.

Meaning: Nothing Venture, Nothing Won.  Help Yourself, And Heaven Will Help You.


When Man Is Perplexed God Is Beneficent.

Meaning: God Comes At Last When We Think He Is Furthest Off.


He Has Soaked A Hundred Heads (Preparing Them For Shaving), But Hasn’t Shaved One.

Meaning: Used Of A Person Who Starts A Lot But Does Not Finish And So Has Many Monuments To Unfinished Business.


A Cheap Thing Doesn’t Lack Defect, Nor An Expensive Thing Quality.

Meaning: You Get What You Pay For.


Vinegar That Is Free, Is Sweeter Than Honey.

Meaning: People Love Getting Something For Nothing.


Debt Severs (Is The Scissors Of) Love.

Meaning: Lend Money To A Friend, And He’ll Become An Enemy.


Where Your Heart Goes There Your Feet Will Go.

Meaning: Home Is Where The Heart Is.


No One Says His Own Buttermilk Is Sour.

Meaning: No One Advertises His Own Faults.


Good Perfume Is Known By Its Own Scent Rather Than By The Perfumer’s Advertisement.

Meaning: A Good Tree Is Known By Its Fruit; Or, The Proof Of The Pudding Is In The Eating.


Poor Iron Won’t Make A Sharp Sword.

Meaning: You Can’t Get Quality Out Of Inferior Raw Material.


Where There Is Discipline There Is Social Order.

Meaning: Spare The Rod And Spoil The Child; Or, A Pet Lamb Makes A Cross Ram.


Don’t Dig Wells For Others For You Will Fall Into One Yourself.

Meaning: Evil Begets Evil.


Without Investigating The Water, Don’t Take Off Your Shoes (To Walk Through It).

Meaning: Look Before You Leap.


He Ran Out From Under A Leaking Roof And Sat In The Rain.

Meaning: Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire.


Five Fingers Are Brothers But Are Not Equals.

Meaning: Although People May Be Related By Family Or Nationality Each Person Nevertheless Is Different.


Mullah Nasruddin Jokes

Vengeance – Nasruddin style

One day, Mullah Nasruddin heard a knock on his door. He opened the door and found his daughter standing there crying with a bruise on her eye. “What happened?” Nasruddin asked. She said that she got into a fight with her husband and he beat her.  To his, Nasruddin responded by slapping his daughter in the face. He closed the door and quickly called her husband. When he picked up the phone, he told his daughter’s husband, “I heard about what you did, but  I’ve had my vengeance –  because you hit my daughter, I slapped your wife, take that!”.

Deductive reasoning

– “How old are you, Mullah?”, a boy asked.
– Mullah Nasruddin responded, “3 years older than my brother”.
– “How do you know that?” the boy asked.
-“Reasoning!”, said Mullah Nasruddin. “Last year, I heard my brother tell someone that I was 2 years older than him. A year has passed. Now, I am older by one year. I shall soon be old enough to be his grandfather!”

Tit for tat

Mullah Nasruddin went into a shop to buy a pair of trousers. Once inside, he changed his mind an chose a cloak instead, which was at the same price. Picking up the cloak, he left the shop. “Wait! You have not paid!”, shouted the merchant. The Mullah responded, “I left you the trousers, which is the same value as the cloak”. “But you did not pay for the trousers either”, the confused merchant said. “Of course not”, said Mullah Nasruddin. “Why should I pay for something that I did not want to buy?”.

More useful

One day Mullah Nasruddin entered his favorite teahouse and declared, “The moon is more useful than the sun”. An old man asked, “Why Mullah?” Mullah Nasruddin replied, “Because we need the light more during the night than during the day”.

Standing by his word

A friend asked Mullah Nasruddin how old he was. “Forty”, replied the Mullah.  The friend said, “but you said the same thing two years ago!”.  “Yes”, replied the Mullah, “I always stand by what I have said”.

Replace my donkey

“You may have lost your donkey, but you don’t have to grieve over it more than you did about the loss of your first wife”, a villager told a sad Mullah Nasruddin.  “Ah”, said Mullah Nasruddin, “but if you remember, when I lost my wife, all the villagers said we will find you someone else, so far, nobody has offered to replace my donkey”.

Wet Nasruddin

Mullah Nasruddin nearly fell into a pool one day. A man whom he know was nearby, and saved him from falling in. Every time, this man met Nasruddin, he would remind him of the event and how he saved him. After several times, Nasruddin took him to the water, and jumped in. He stood with his head just above the water, and shouted, “Now I am as wet as I would have been if you had not saved me, so leave me alone!”

Superstitions and Popular Myths
  • If your foot touches or hits another person’s foot, you will get into a fight with that person, unless you shake hands right away.
  • It is bad luck to cut your nails at night.  Some say hunger and poverty will enter a house if someone cuts their nails at night. Also, it is bad luck to cut your toe nails and finger nails on the same day.  Others say that it is bad luck to cut your nails at night, as well as cutting both finger and toe nails right after each other because you will always have all happy events in your life happen at the same time that sad things happen to you…In other words your life will always be bittersweet.
  • If a boy chews gum, his beard will grow uneven.
  • It’s not good to let someone compliment your child or other loved one too much, because they may become jinxed and bad luck may fall on them ( This is called “Nazar”-ing a child). For example, if you say a child is beautiful, the child may become sick. You can ward this off by either saying “Nazar Nakona”, or by reciting a surah from the Quran.
  • If your cross under a rainbow, a sex change will occur. A boy will turn to a girl and a girl will turn into a boy.
  • Jingling your keys will cause a fight to occur.
  • If the palm of your hands itch, you will soon receive money.
  • If the soles of your feet itch, you will soon travel.
  • If you draw lines on the ground you will be in debt.
  • If a bowl of water spills out with a sound, it means that you will soon receive guests.
  • If flour spills, it means you will soon receive guests.
  • Water is thrown on the floor where the person just walked, when a person leaves the front door ( While also walking under the Quran) to go on a long trip.  This is done so the person will have a safe and pleasant trip, and return unharmed.
  • If you bite your tongue, someone must be talking bad about you (backbiting).
  • If your ears itch, someone is talking (gossiping) about you.
  • Spotting a sitting magpie bird means you will soon receive a message.
  • If your eye twitches, it means good luck will come soon.
  • If you drink water and it goes down the wrong tube, causing you to cough, this means that either someone is  thinking of you or someone is talking about you.
  • After praying, you should fold a side of the prayer matt or the devil will come and pray on it.
  • After reading the Quran, you should close it immediately, or the devil will come and read from it.
  • You will be falsely accused of something if you feet touches a broom.
  • On new year’s eve, you should be at home, or for the rest of the year, you will not be at home.
  • Don’t look in the mirror at night, because someone will tell a lie about you.
  • Bad luck will come if you open and close scissors without a reason.
  • The smoke from burning incense (called span) will keep bad luck and bad spirits away.
  • During an eclipse if pregnant woman scratches herself, a black mark will appear on her baby.
  • If your baby is born with a belly button that is an “outie”, place a clean coin on top of it and secure it around the waist for three days and it will become an “innie”.
  • If a baby has jaundice, let it lick on cleaned gold and the jaundice will go away.
  • If a male child is circumcised, fasten a piece of feroza (pure turquoise) jewelry to it’s bedding above the head and his cut will heal faster and nicely.
  • When a new born is brought into the house and placed into his or her bed, hanging  something (jewelry etc..) with the name of Allah on it will help keep the baby safe from harm when they sleep.
  • Marriage between the two holidays Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha is prohibited.
  • Shaving a baby’s hair will make their hair grow thicker.