Things To Do In Kabul
Kabul was very devastated when the Taliban forces left it after their 9/11 campaign. A large portion of the city was attacked by outside forces and almost everything was reduced to rubble. It was a city of chaos and people with broken hopes and dreams.
Today, Kabul is slowly moving toward its goal of fully recovering from the horrors of war and improving its affected economy and tourism. Most of the rubble has been cleared and new restaurants and shopping malls stand alongside renovated old bazaars and buildings. Modern technology has also made its way to the city of Kabul. Shopping malls are now made bomb-proof and the city center is on its way to becoming a safe cosmopolitan city that every tourist can explore. However, much of the problem now is assuring the continuous delivery of the basic supplies of power, water, internet, and livelihood.
At the moment, the city presents an interesting preview of what the future holds: it is a city that has its eyes set on making progress and helping its people rise again from the ashes.
Note: This travel guide is aimed for travelers who are adventurous and brave enough to ignore the travel advisories for Afghanistan and its capital city -- Kabul. We do not intend to encourage everyone to risk their lives by going to a very uncertain place but rather to provide tourism information and material for the purpose of research about the beauty of a war-torn country. In case you have future plans to visit Kabul please monitor the LATEST travel warning advisory issued by your country for your own safety and protection.
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When To Go:
If the political atmosphere permits you to enjoy a tour or holiday in this city, the ideal time to explore Afghanistan is spring or fall, specifically around the months of April to June and September through October. In spring, the northern part of the city turns from a humid and arid place to brilliant green, as the desert and slopes spring into life and are covered in lush vegetation and colorful flowers. Harvest time is also one of the joys of the late summer season with abundant harvests of melons, pomegranates, and grapes from the Shomali Plains and Kandahar getting delivered to the city market of Kabul. Winter is much less tolerable, with temperatures ranging below zero -- and it produces an overwhelming snow in the city and all over Afghanistan. The spring melt can bring inconvenience of its own, with regular floods washing out poorly kept roads.
Summers could be blisteringly hot at lower heights, with urban areas like Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad and Kandahar sweltering in hot temperatures that reach up to 104. The mountains alleviate this heatwave, and Kabul, Bamiyan and Faizabad are all more reasonable; their elevation also favors them with delightfully cooler evenings. The months of June to September are the best time to head to the higher mountains – much of Badakhshan (counting the Wakhan Corridor) is difficult for whatever remains of the year because of snow.
At the end of the winter season, everybody anticipates the celebration of the Nauroz feast (March). This could be a perfect time to visit the city. It is also in these months when the youth spend more time playing the national game called the Buzkashi. Then again, the month-long celebration of Ramadan could be a challenging time to risk making a tour of the city because most of the business establishments, attractions, and museums are closed during the day and some places even choose to close shop for the whole month.
These are the top things to do and places to see when in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan:
The Kabul Museum was at one time one of the best historical centers of the world. One of its interesting exhibits shows Hellenistic gold coins, old Buddhist statues and antique bronzes -- demonstrating the city's important role in Islam’s history and also in Asia. After years of neglect amid the common war, assistance from global groups and the unmatched commitment of its staff is enabling the historical center to recover slowly from the effects of civil war. This gallery opened in 1919, and is just about completely loaded with things unearthed in Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan. As the fall of socialist Kabul became evident with the Soviet withdrawal, a considerable lot of the most significant pieces were moved into a secured storage room; still today the larger part of the exhibit consists mostly of photographs of the actual artifact. The staff is doing it this way to protect the treasures kept in their guarded vault in case of any political uprising or any threats of terrorist or military attacks.
Shockingly the exhibition hall rapidly ended up on the bleeding edge of the Mujahidin’s frightful battle for Kabul. Somewhere around 1992 and '94 the historical center was utilized as a Mujahidin base. During this period the historical center was hugely plundered, robbed, and stripped – and subjected to violence as the rebels took the most valuable pieces for resale on the illegal antique black market (the gallery's library and stock likewise disappeared at this point, to hamper efforts to follow the provenance of stolen products). Among the inestimable fortunes lost were a significant number of precious ivories, the collection of old coins and notes, and the extraordinary Gandharan statues of Buddha. During this war, the gallery was further harmed by a rocket assault that devastated its upper floor.
Bala Hisar & City Walls
The former threshold of royal power is a fortification that has remained on the site of the Bala Hisar & City Walls since the fifth century A.D. or even way ahead of this time. It is located at the bottom part of the Koh-e Shir Darwaza Mountains that are now guarding the southwestern access roads to the city of Kabul. The fortress or the castle as it appears today was designed and constructed this way towards the end of the 19th century. The British Armed Forces at the end of the 2nd English - Afghan War, devastated the former stronghold. Presently, it is utilized by the armed forces and closed to the public’s view. On the other hand, the old city walls can be seen from the Bilal Hissar towers and you can take long walks, to have some stunning perspectives of the capital.
The beginning stage of this site can be found at the entrance of the colossal cemetery of Shohada-ye Salehin. Most of the access points will take you past Jad-e Maiwand and the demolished Shor Bazaar, a conventional place for Kabul's musical performers, and the spot where "Bukhara" Burnes was murdered by the crowd in 1841.The street brings you along the southern foot of Bala Hissar, with great perspectives up to its bulwarks. To have a better appreciation of the place, begin the stroll just over half a mile after the fortification. The walking trail ought to take three or four hours altogether. Wear a wide brimmed hat and carry a lot of drinking water if you plan to visit during the summer season.
Babur’s Gardens is where the late Mughal ruler Babur was finally laid to rest in the late 16th century. Aside from being the official site of his tomb, the landscape of its lovely garden is one of the reasons why visitors frequent this historic site. Measuring at a fair size of 27 acres, this is likewise the biggest open green park of the city. Although it suffered so much during the last war, the area has been been fantastically restored by the Aga Khan’s Trust for Culture Foundation (AKTC). Initially, the garden was designed or patterned after the charbagh style (4 gardens), with an arrangement of quartered climbing patios and a main watercourse. The wonderful garden first served its purpose as a relaxation area for the past Mughal rulers but was left un-maintained after the fall of the city.
The late Abdur Rahman Khan restored a significant part of the grounds at the start of the twentieth century. After the full restoration work it was opened to the public in the 1930s, however, the gardens were destroyed and numerous trees were cut for firewood by the community, in order for families to survive during the course of the last civil war. The garden is now surrounded by a tall concrete wall that was successfully installed and rehabilitated by the foundation. It has been constantly renovated and upgraded since.
This gallery was established in 2004 by Ahmad Shah Sultani, a well-known gold and antique merchant who spent a significant amount of time in London while the nation suffered an ugly war. Here at the Sultani Museum, he gathered an expansive accumulation of Afghan ancient pieces, expecting to protect them for the sake of the nation. Many of his collections are of plundered or smuggled things, yet those unmistakably from the Kabul Museum were immediately returned. His accumulation has yet to be appropriately indexed, however it is thought to contain in excess of 3000 pieces.
Sultani's main intention was to give all of his accumulation to the state. The exhibition hall is intensely secured, and upon issuing your ticket the caretaker undertakes the meticulous process of disabling all of the installed security systems to permit seeing all of the collections. The main room is brimming with Islamic-time original copies and some excellent Qurans that were pretty much presented in every possible calligraphic script. The accompanying rooms highlight a great portion of Afghan history, with relics from all periods competing for space on the exhibition walls. The wooden stamps used for decorative art in mosques sit beside a fragile and staggering gold coronet, conceivably of Kushan source. There is also an extensive showcase of old coins and forms of monetary notes that were used earlier during the troubled eras.
Omar Land Mine Museum
The Omar Land Museum is a historical center that is one of the most visited museums in the city. It is cared for and operated by the Organization for Mine Leeway and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR). It serves as a preparation and learning school for land mine areas and the clearance releasing office (UXO). The exhibition hall displays more than 60 kinds of mines that still litter the outskirts of Kabul city. There are mines made by just about any nation you want to consider, with the exception of Afghanistan itself.
The most disguised mines are the Russian "butterfly" mines that are regularly spotted by youngsters and mistakenly assumed to be toys. While most mines are deliberately disguised, these arrive in an array of brilliant or pastel colored versions. OMAR is the nation's lead demining association, with about 500 Afghans working for mine clearing alone. Training is an imperative second feature to their work. Wall paintings and notices delineating various mines and UXOs might be discovered all around in Afghanistan – visual instruction supports the campaign, especially in areas where low literacy level is evident.
Mausoleum of Nadir Shah
An assassin’s bullets felled the late Lord Nadir Shah in 1933, the brutal way that most Afghan leaders usually meet their fate. His monumental tomb, the Mausoleum of Nadir Shah sits overlooking the eastern part of Kabul at Teppe Maranjan. It has suffered so much during the recent wars that plagued the country. Even if the facade weren't cracked and remained intact and the dome portion was not punctured, the building gives the distinct impression that this was a man who would rather have been feared than loved. The plinth in the central part of the mausoleum is symbolic; the royal graves are in a locked chamber beneath the building (you can look through the gate).
Teppe Maranjan (Maranjan Hill)
Teppe Maranjan (Maranjan Hill) is thought to be the oldest and most inhabited part of the city with lots of archaeological work and uncovered items dating as far back as the 5th century. An excavated statue from this period revealed a Bodhisattva who is in deep meditation, and is now on display in the Kabul Museum.
It is a clear manifestation that highlights the fusion of Greek and Indian art. The Taliban recently bombed this hill and its small restoration project is ongoing. Flying a kite is a popular pastime at the Teppe Maranjan.
The European Cemetery was constructed in 1879 by the British armed forces to house all of the dead soldiers and people during the bloody Second Anglo-Afghan War. It is composed of more than 150 graves. Most of the deceased were part of Kabul's universal group from before the war. Right now, only a few British Army tombstones have remained intact and are now located along the southern section of the cemetery.
There are lots of prominent personalities in Afghanistan who lie buried inside its sacred grounds. The cemetery has been maintained since the 1980s by Rahimullah and also with the help of the British Embassy.
Ka Faroshi Bird Market
Entering the Ka Faroshi Bird Market is like going back in time, to when the city was still untouched by any signs of modernization. This market is also popularly known as the alley of straw sellers. It can be easily accessed by the thin path behind the Pul-e Khishti Mosque that is lined with stalls and corners offering birds by the dozen. The best-selling bird around here is called the kowk, a type of wild partridge. These are valued by their managers who lavish extraordinary care on them by keeping them inside finely handcrafted wicker baskets that are made by the locals of Kabul. You can also purchase; kandaharis, kaftar, budanas, and other animals like rabbits.
The Kabul Zoo is a well-known spot for Kabulis and travelers who are in need of amusement. A bronze statue of Marjan the lion, the zoo’s most revered creature, welcomes guests. This statue was a present from West Germany in the 1960’s.
The famous lion survived life on the cutting edge and a Taliban projectile assault, just to die not long after Kabul's 2001 liberation. There are still lions here, and a few bears kept in a cage and pacing back and forth from their den to the pool. There are also wolves, macaques and a few snake collections to amuse every visitor.
Kabul National Archive
The Kabul National Archive is located inside a beautiful castle and keeps more than 14,000 important public documents under its care. The 19th century castle is always filled with curious visitors because of its antiquity and history (it was built as a gift by Abdur Rahaman to his family). Essential records are showcased here, including the one about the official settlement with the British Empire in 1919 that at long last gave Afghanistan its full freedom.
Going hand in hand with this is a group, dating back as far as the Durrani period, still proudly displayed here.
Shah-e Doh Shamshira Mosque
The Shah-e Doh Shamshira Mosque along the Kabul river is one of the most visited mosques of the city. It was built in the 1920’s as one of the examples of then-ruler Amanullah’s aim to modernize the city. It might look more appropriate in the city of Versailles or Vienna because the work on the exterior is all European-inspired, including the most intricate details displayed on its stucco walls and ceiling.
That it has two stories is much more unconventional. The two minarets continue to serve their main purpose -- to call all of the faithful Islam followers in Kabul City to prayers.