Afghanistan is a country in South Asia covering an area of 652,230 square kilometers, housing a population of 32,564,342 people according to 2015 figures. Kabul is both the capital and the largest city in Afghanistan. The city developed along the banks of River Kabul to become the most influential and modern city in the country. Kandahar, the Pashtun cultural center, is the second largest city of modern Afghanistan. The ethnic group dominates every sector of the Kandahar city. The Persian and the ancient town of Herat are in the western hub of Afghanistan. The trading center of Mazar-e Sharif contains the burial place of Ali bin Talib, the fourth caliph of Islam. These cities are fed by rivers and, with their fertile soils, agriculture has become the backbone of the economies in their neighboring outlying rural areas.
Kabul in the east-central region of the country had reached a population of 3,678,034 by 2015. Approximately 85% Sunni Muslims, 14% Shiites and 1% follow Hinduism and Sikhism. Dari, a form of Afghan Persian, is the formal language. As the capital city, the country’s cultural and economic activities center on Kabul. In the last decade, Kabul’s economy has tracked its way up to being the fifth fastest growing economy in the world. Kabul dates back to the 2nd Century CE. The prime city location along the trade routes of central and south Asia has contributed a great deal to its prominence. Kabul became a local seat of the government as early as the 8th Century. The Mongol invasion in the 13th Century almost ruined it. By the 16th Century, Kabul was the Capital of the Mughal Dynasty. In the 18th Century, it became the capital city of Afghanistan. Some of the city’s industries include food processing plants, furniture factory, foundry, rayon and wood mills, and marble work. Insecurity is the primary problem in the city. In 2001, with the Taliban defeated and the Karzai administration established, the local economy started growing. The healthcare of Afghanistan is inadequate, however, and the wealthy of Kabul and other areas in the country often seek treatment abroad.
Mazar-i-Sharif is the third largest city in Afghanistan. It had a population of around 693,000 in 2015. The city is multilingual and multicultural. The Dari language dominates among the city dwellers, Uzbeki and Pashto are also the largest groups. Most of the people are Sunni Muslims. According to the National Demographics in 2013, 60% are Tajiks, 10% Hazaras, 10% Pashtu, 10% Turkmen, and 10% Uzbeks. Occasion ethnic violence has been reported between the Pashtu’s and other ethnic groups. Mazar is the trading center in the northern parts of the country. Trade, agriculture, and the Karakul sheep farming dominate the local economy. There are also small-scale gas and oil companies chipping to the economy. The city's history dates back to the 12th Century, after a local mullah had a vision of the grave of Ali bin Talib, a cousin of the Prophet and the fourth caliph of Islam. The Blue mosque was constructed, and the Mazar developed around it. Mazar has a number of sights to offer visitors, including the Shrine of Hazrat Ali (also known as the Blue Mosque), Ancient Greek relics, and Balkh, often considered the safest place in the country.
Kandahar, the second largest Afghanistan city, has a population of 557,118. Pashtun make up 70% of the people there, 20% are Tajiks, 6% are Hazaras, 2% are Balochis, and 2% are Uzbeks. As a result, the city forms the major cultural center of the Pashtun people. Pashtun is the official language and Persian among government official and the educated. Alexander the Great founded the city in 329 BC around the ancient town of Arachosian. The strategic city location along the trading routes from Herat to Central Asia, to Kabul and India, has made Kandahar a prominent city. In 1747, the city became the first capital of a united Afghanistan. In the Afghan war, it became the center of the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet invasion forces. From 1994 to 2001 it served the Taliban government center and major staging areas when the Taliban were driven out. The Arghandab River running west of the city feeds the irrigation farmlands of the country. Food processing, textile factories, and wool industries are also significant. Fruits are the traditional exports mainly grapes, pomegranates, and melons. Mazar’s sights include the mosques and shrines, mausoleums, and cultural sites and parks, such as the Kandahar Park, Korakan Park, and Chilzina View.
The ancient city of Herat has a population of around 436,300. According to the National Demographics of 2003, 85% of these residents are Tajiks, 10% are Pashtu, 2% are Hazaras, 2% are Uzbeks, and 1% are Turkmen. Persian is the lingua franca, the native language, and the local dialect of Herat. Pashto is the second most widely spoken language. Sunni Muslims are the majority. Major sites include Parks including the Park-e Taraki, such monuments as the Heart Citadel and Mosallah Complex, and the foreign consulates of Iran, India, and Pakistan. The city is the economic center of the Western hemisphere of the country and has a proximity to Iraq and Turkmenistan. The Harirud River where several ancient cities developed along feeds the productive agricultural areas of Heart which account for (36%) of Heart’s land use. The city is also linked to Kandahar and Mazar cities via the ring road, and to the Mashhad in Iraq through Islam Qala, a border town. The history of Herat dates back to Avestan times as wine producing city. It became the Pearl of Khorasan in the middle ages. The Hotaki forces invaded the city in 1717, but the Afsharids drove them out in 1736. The Soviet war also had a significant impact on the city.
Life in Contemporary Afghanistan
The once ancient cities of modern-day Afghanistan now teem with the hustle and bustle of the people. The war-torn economy is slowly gaining pace and peace is somehow filling the streets of these cities once terrorized by Islamic militants. Agriculture, fed by rivers passing through or within the boundaries of the city is the primary economic activity of the people. Sunni Muslims are the majorities and Shia is the minority.
|Rank||Biggest Cities in Afghanistan||Metro Population|