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—  City  —
Central Kabul is situated 5,900 ft (1,800 m) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains
Kabul is located in Afghanistan
Location in Afghanistan
Coordinates: 34°31′59″N 69°09′58″E Coordinates: 34°31′59″N 69°09′58″E
Country  Afghanistan
Province Kabul Province
No. of sectors 18
 • Mayor Mohammad Yunus Noandesh
 • City 275 km2 (106 sq mi)
 • Metro 425 km2 (164 sq mi)
Elevation 1,790 m (5,870 ft)
Population (2008)
 •  Metro 2,850,000
Time zone Afghanistan Standard Time ( UTC+4:30)

Kabul ( Persian: کابلKābol IPA:  [kɒːbol']; Pashto: کابلKābul IPA:  [kɑbul']; archaic Caubul), is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan, located in the Kabul Province. According to the 2008 official estimates, the population of Kabul metropolitan area is 2.8 million people.

It is an economic and cultural centre, situated 5,900 ft (1,800 m) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains along the Kabul River. The city is linked with Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif via a circular highway that stretches across the country. It is also the start of the main road to Jalalabad and further to Peshawar, Pakistan.

Kabul's main products include fresh and dried fruit, nuts, Afghan rugs, leather and sheep skin products, domestic clothes and furniture, and antique replicas, but the 1978-2001 wars have limited the economic productivity of the city. Economic productivity has improved since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Kabul is over 3,500 years old; many empires have long fought over the city for its strategic location along the trade routes of South and Central Asia. From 1504 to 1526, Kabul served as the original capital of Babur, builder of the Mughal Empire. It remained under the Delhi Sultanate until 1738, when Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces invaded the Mughal Empire. After the death of Nader Shah Afsharid in 1747, the city fell to Ahmad Shah Durrani, who quickly added it to his new Afghan Empire. In 1776, Timur Shah Durrani made it the capital of the modern state of Afghanistan. Since the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan, the city has been a target of militant groups. It is currently being re-developed but attacks by Taliban and other militants are slowing down the reconstruction process.



The Kabul valley is believed to be over 5,000 years old. The word "Kubhā" is mentioned in Rigveda and the Avesta around 3000 BC, which appears to refer to the Kabul River. The Rigveda praises it as an ideal city, a vision of paradise set in the mountains. Others suggest that the city may have been established between 2000 BC and 1500 BC. The area in which the Kabul valley sat in was part of the Median Empire before being conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire. There is a reference to a settlement called Kabura by the rulers of the Achaemenid Empire ( Darius, Darius II and Darius III of Persia), which may be the basis for the future use of the name Kabura (Κάβουρα) by Ptolemy. It became a centre of Zoroastrianism followed by Buddhism and Hinduism later. Alexander the Great explored the Kabul valley after his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BC but no record has been made of Kabul, which may have been only a small town and not worth writing about. The region became part of the Seleucid Empire before falling to the Indian Maurya Empire.

Alexander took these away from the Aryans and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus ( Chandragupta), upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange 500 elephants.
Strabo, 64 BC–24 AD

The Greco-Bactrians captured Kabul from the Mauryans in the early 2nd century BC, then lost the city to their subordinates in the Indo-Greek Kingdom around the mid-2nd century BC. The Bactrians founded the town of Paropamisadae near Kabul, but it was later ceded to the Mauryans in the 1st century BC. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BC, but lost the city to the Kushan Empire about 100 years later.

Kushano-Hephthalite Kingdoms in 565 AD

According to historians the Sanskrit name of Kabul is believed to be Kamboja (Kamboj). It is mentioned as Kophes or Kophene in some classical writings. Hsuan Tsang refers to the name as Kaofu in the 7th century AD, which is the appellation of one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi who had migrated from across the Hindu Kush into the Kabul valley around the beginning of the Christian era. It was conquered by Kushan Emperor Kujula Kadphises in about 45 AD and remained Kushan territory until at least the 3rd century AD. The Kushan were Indo-European-speaking Tocharians from the Tarim Basin.

Around 230 AD, the Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Empire and replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Indo-Sassanids. During the Sassanian period, the city was referred to as "Kapul" in Pahlavi scripts. In 420 AD the Indo-Sassanids were driven out of Afghanistan by the Xionite tribe known as the Kidarites, who were then replaced in the 460s by the Hephthalites. It became part of the surviving Turk Shahi Kingdom of Kapisa, also known as Kabul-Shahan. According to Táríkhu-l Hind by Al-Biruni, Kabul was governed by princes of Turkic lineage who's rule lasted for 60 generations.

Kábul was formerly governed by princes of Turk lineage. It is said that they were originally from Tibet. The first of them was named Barhtigín, * * * * and the kingdom continued with his children for sixty generations. * * * * * The last of them was a Katormán, and his minister was Kalar, a Bráhman. This minister was favoured by fortune, and he found in the earth treasures which augmented his power. Fortune at the same time turned her back upon his master. The Katormán's thoughts and actions were evil, so that many complaints reached the minister, who loaded him with chains, and imprisoned him for his correction. In the end the minister yielded to the temptation of becoming sole master, and he had wealth sufficient to remove all obstacles. So he established himself on the throne. After him reigned the Bráhman(s) Samand, then Kamlúa, then Bhím, then Jaipál, then Anandpál, then Narda-janpál, who was killed in A.H. 412. His son, Bhímpál, succeeded him, after the lapse of five years, and under him the sovereignty of Hind became extinct, and no descendant remained to light a fire on the hearth. These princes, notwithstanding the extent of their dominions, were endowed with excellent qualities, faithful to their engagements, and gracious towards their inferiors...
Abu Rayhan Biruni, 978-1048

The Kabul Turks and Hindus built a huge defensive wall around the city to protect it from future invaders. This wall has survived until today and is also considered a historical site.

Islamic conquest to the Mongol invasion

The Islamic conquest of Afghanistan began from Herat, which was one of the important cities of Khorasan, and made its way to Kabul in the late 7th century.

The Islamic conquest reached modern-day Afghanistan in 642, at a time when Kabul was ruled by an Indian. A number of failed expeditions were made to Islamize the region. In one of them, Abdu-r Rahmán bin Shimar invaded Kabul in the late 7th century and managed to convert 12,000 local inhabitants to Islam before abandoning the city. Muslims were a minority until Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar of Zaranj conquered Kabul in 870 and established the first Islamic dynasty in the region. It was reported in early 900 AD that the rulers of Kabul were Muslims with non-Muslims living close by.

"Kábul has a castle celebrated for its strength, accessible only by one road. In it there are Musulmáns, and it has a town, in which are infidels from Hind."
Istahkrí, 921

Over the centuries to come, the city was successively controlled by the Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, and Kartids. In the 13th century the Mongol horde passed through and caused massive destruction in the area. Report of a massacre in the close by Bamiyan is recorded around this period, where the entire population of the valley was annihilated by the Mongol troops as a revenge for the death of Genghis Khan's grandson. One of Genghis Khan's grandson is thought to be named Kabul. During the Mongol invasion, many natives of Afghanistan fled to India where some established dynasties in Delhi.

Following the era of the Khilji dynasty in 1333, a famous Moroccan travelling scholar, Ibn Battuta, was visiting Kabul and he mentioned that Kabul was inhabitated by Persian-speaking Afghan tribes:

We travelled on to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site of which is now occupied by a village inhabited by a tribe of Persians called Afghans. They hold mountains and defiles and possess considerable strength, and are mostly highwaymen. Their principle mountain is called Kuh Sulayman.
Ibn Battuta1304–1369

Timurid and Mughal era

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's sons, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Baksh.

In the 14th century, Kabul rose again as a trading centre under the kingdom of Timur (Tamerlane). By 1504, the city was revitalized by Babur and made into his headquarters, which remained one of the principle cities of the Mughal Empire for over 200 years. In 1525, he described Kabul as a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual region in his memoirs titled Baburnama.

In the country of Kābul there are many and various tribes. Its valleys and plains are inhabited by Tūrks, Aimāks, and Arabs. In the city and the greater part of the villages, the population consists of Tājiks . Many other of the villages and districts are occupied by Pashāis, Parāchis, Tājiks, Berekis, and Afghans. In the hill-country to the west, reside the Hazāras and Nukderis. Among the Hazāra and Nukderi tribes, there are some who speak the Moghul language. In the hill-country to the north-east lies Kaferistān, such as Kattor and Gebrek. To the south is Afghanistān... There are eleven or twelve different languages spoken in Kābul: Arabic, Persian, Tūrki, Moghuli, Hindi, Afghani, Pashāi, Parāchi, Geberi, Bereki, and Lamghāni...

Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat, a poet from India who visited at the time wrote: "Dine and drink in Kabul: it is mountain, desert, city, river and all else." It was from here that Babur began his 1526 conquest of India. Babur wished to be buried in Kabul, a city he had always loved, but at first he was buried in Agra, India. Roughly nine years later his remains were dug back up and re-buried at Bagh-e Babur (Babur Gardens) in Kabul by Sher Shah Suri on orders by Babur's wife. The inscription on his tomb contains Persian words penned which states:"اگر پردیس روی زمین است همین است و همین است و همین است" (If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this!)

The city was often contested by Babur's sons, especially Kamran Mirza and Humayun. Humayun was chased away from Hindustan by Sher Shah Suri but was able to return in November 1545 with Persian aid, where he is believed to have taken Kabul without any blood-spills. Kamran managed to retake Kabul twice but he remained a hated figure to the residents of the city, as his periods of rule involved atrocities against large numbers of them. Following his third and final ejection from Kabul in 1552, Kamran fled and was captured in Punjab by a general of Islam Shah Suri, ruler of the Sur Empire in northern India. Kamran was handed over to Humayun in Kabul, who made him blind.

Durrani Empire and the Afghan nation-state

Shah Shuja, the last Durrani King, sitting at his court inside the Bala Hissar before it was destroyed by the British Army

Nader Shah Afshar invaded and occupied the city briefly in 1738 but was assassinated nine years later. Ahmad Shah Durrani, who commanded 4,000 Abdali Afghans under Nader Shah, asserted Pashtun rule in 1747 and further expanded his new Afghan Empire. His ascension to power marked the beginning of Afghanistan. His son Timur Shah Durrani, after inheriting power, transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. Timur Shah died in 1793 and was succeeded by his son Zaman Shah Durrani. The first European to visit Kabul was the 18th century English traveller George Foster, who described it as "the best and cleanest city in Asia".

In 1826, the kingdom was claimed by Dost Mohammad Khan and taken from him by the British Indian Army in 1839, who installed the unpopular Shah Shuja. An 1841 local uprising resulted in the loss of the British mission and the subsequent Massacre of Elphinstone's Army of approximately 16,000 foreign forces, which included civilians and camp followers on their retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad. In 1842 the British returned, plundering Bala Hissar in revenge before fleeing back to British India (now Pakistan). Dost Mohammed returned to the throne.

The British and Indian forces invaded in 1878 as Kabul was under Sher Ali Khan's rule, but the British residents were again massacred. The invaders again came in 1879 under General Roberts, partially destroying Bala Hissar before retreating to British India (Pakistan). Amir Abdur Rahman Khan was left in control of the country.

In the early 20th century King Amanullah Khan rose to power. His reforms included electricity for the city and schooling for girls. He drove a Rolls-Royce, and lived in the famous Darul Aman Palace. In 1919, after the Third Anglo-Afghan War, Amanullah announced Afghanistan's independence from foreign affairs at Eidgah Mosque. In 1929 Ammanullah Khan left Kabul due to a local uprising orchestrated by Habibullah Kalakani and Ammanullah's brother, Nader Khan, took control over the nation. King Nader Khan was assassinated in 1933 and the throne was left to his 19-year-old son, Zahir Shah, who became the long lasting King of Afghanistan.

Life of Kabul's people in the 1950s.

During this period between the two World Wars France and Germany worked to help develop the country in both the technical and educational spheres. Both countries maintained high schools and lycees in the capital and provided an education for the children of elite families. Kabul University opened in 1932 and soon was linked to both European and American universities, as well as universities in other Muslim countries in the field of Islamic studies. By the 1960s the majority of instructors at the university had degrees from Western universities.

When Zahir Shah took power in 1933 Kabul had the only 6 miles of rail in the country, few internal telegraph or phone lines and few roads. He turned to the Japanese, Germans and Italians for help developing a modern network of communications and roads. A radio tower built by the Germans in 1937 in Kabul allowed instant communication with outlying villages. A national bank and state cartels were organized to allow for economic modernization. Textile mills, power plants and carpet and furniture factories were also built in Kabul, providing much needed manufacturing and infrastructure.

In 1955 the Soviet Union forwarded $100 million in credit to Afghanistan, which financed public transportation, airports, a cement factory, mechanized bakery, a five-lane highway from Kabul to the Soviet border and dams.

In the 1960s, Kabul developed a cosmopolitan mood. The first Marks & Spencer store in Central Asia was built there. Kabul Zoo was inaugurated in 1967, which was maintained with the help of visiting German zoologists. Many foreigners began flocking to Kabul with the increase in global air travels around that time. The nation's tourism industry was starting to pick up rapidly for the first time. Kabul experimented with liberalization, dropping laws requiring women to wear the burka, restrictions on speech and assembly loosened which led to student politics in the capital. Socialist, Maoist and liberal factions demonstrated daily in Kabul while more traditional Islamic leaders spoke out against the failure to aid the Afghan countryside. A 1969 a religious uprising at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque protested the Soviet Union's increasing influence over Afghan politics and religion. This protest ended in the arrest of many of its organizers, including Mawlana Faizani, a popular Islamic scholar.In the early 1970s Radio Kabul began to broadcast in other languages besides Pashtun which helped to unify those minorities that often felt marginalized, however this was put to a stop with Daoud's revolution in 1973.

The day after the April 1978 Saur Revolution

In July 1973, Zahir Shah was ousted in a nonviolent coup and Kabul became the capital of a republic under Mohammed Daoud Khan, the new President. Daoud's revolution was actually supported by the communist party in the city, the PDP. The support of the PDP helped to prevent a violent clash in his coup in 1973. He named himself President of this new democracy and planned to institute reforms. Daoud was the long standing prime minister, and while he instituted a republic he had Soviet leanings in terms of political allies. He had welcomed Soviet military aid and advisors in 1956 and the nation slowly took on the appearance of what one US diplomat called a "Soviet-style police state, where there is no free press, no political parties, and where the ruthless suppression of minorities is the established pattern." Conversely, some of the people of Kabul who lived under King Zahir Shah describe the period before the April 1978 Saur Revolution as a sort of golden age. All the different ethnic groups or tribes of Afghanistan lived together harmoniously and thought of themselves first and foremost as Afghans. They intermarried and mixed socially.

In the later years of his leadership, Daoud began to shift favour from the Soviet Union to Islamic nations, expressing admiration for their wealth from oil and expecting economic aid from them to quickly surpass that of the Soviet Union. The slow speed of reforms however frustrated both the Western educated elite and the Russian trained army officers. Daoud forced many communists out of his government, which unified the various communist factions within the city.

This would ultimately lead to the Saur Revolution which occurred on April 27, 1978. The PDPA, the People's Democratic Party Army, seized the palace and killed Daoud and his family along with many of his supporters. The new communist regime moved quickly to institute reforms. Private businesses were nationalized in the Soviet manner. Education was modified into the Soviet model, with lessons focusing on teaching Russian, Leninism-Marxism and learning of other countries belonging to the Soviet bloc. Rural guerrillas and disaffected army deserters took up arms in the name of Islam, due to the communist regime's increasing rejection of it. This rebellion would eventually lead to the invasion of Afghanistan by Russian forces.

Soviet war

Tajbeg Palace in Kabul was used as the headquarters of the Soviet 40th Army

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, on December 24, 1979, the Red Army occupied the capital. They turned the city into their command centre during the 10-year conflict between the Soviet-allied government and the Mujahideen rebels. Kabul remained relatively calm during that period as fighting was mostly in the countryside and in other major cities. The American Embassy in Kabul closed on January 30, 1989.

Foreign intrusion and civil war

After the fall of the communist Najibullah-regime in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The Peshawar Accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period. Human Rights Watch writes:

"The sovereignty of Afghanistan was vested formally in "The Islamic State of Afghanistan", an entity created in April 1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government. ... With the exception of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, all of the parties ... were ostensibly unified under this government in April 1992. ... Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, for its part, refused to recognize the government for most of the period discussed in this report and launched attacks against government forces and Kabul generally. ... Hekmatyar continued to refuse to join the government. Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami forces increased their rocket and shell attacks on the city. Shells and rockets fell everywhere."

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was directed, funded and supplied by the Pakistani army. Amin Saikal concludes in his book which was chosen by The Wall Street Journal as 'One of the "Five Best" Books on Afghanistan':

"Pakistan was keen to gear up for a breakthrough in Central Asia. ... Islamabad could not possibly expect the new Islamic government leaders, especially [Ahmad Shah] Massoud (who had always maintained his independence from Pakistan), to subordinate their own nationalist objectives in order to help Pakistan realize its regional ambitions. ... Had it not been for the ISI's logistic support and supply of a large number of rockets, Hekmatyar's forces would not have been able to target and destroy half of Kabul."

In December, the last of the 86 city trolley buses came to a halt because of the conflict. A system of 800 public buses continued to provide transportation services to the city. By 1993 electricity and water in the city was completely out. Initially the factions in the city aligned to fight off Hekmatyar but diplomacy inside the capital quickly broke down. Saudi Arabia and Iran also armed and directed Afghan militias. A publication with the George Washington University describes:

"[O]utside forces saw instability in Afghanistan as an opportunity to press their own security and political agendas."

According to Human Rights Watch, numerous Iranian agents were assisting the Shia Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari, as Iran was attempting to maximize Wahdat's military power and influence in the new government. Saudi agents of some sort, private or governmental, were trying to strengthen the Wahhabi Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction to the same end. Due to the groups being mainly divided by regional loyalties and/or ethnic origins the fighting quickly took on aspects of "ethnic cleansing" between the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat and the Wahhabi Pashtun Ittihad-i Islami forces. The goal of these two militias was to "purposefully eliminate people of a different identity ... by means of large-scale slaughter, coercive relocation, extortion and other modes of intimidation, such as rape and torture." Horrific crimes were committed by individuals of different factions as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project. Tens of thousands of Kabul citizens were killed and many more fled as refugees. The United Nations estimated that 90% of the buildings in Kabul were destroyed during these years.

"Rare ceasefires, usually negotiated by representatives of Ahmad Shah Massoud, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi or Burhanuddin Rabbani (the interim government), or officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), commonly collapsed within days," writes Human Rights Watch.

In 1995 the interim government under the leadership of defense minister Ahmad Shah Massoud defeated the Hezb-i Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Hezb-i Wahdat and Dostum's Junbish militarily in Kabul. He initiated three nationwide peace conferences to discuss a political process leading towards democratic elections. At the same time the Taliban with the support of Pakistan and Arab forces established their rule in the south of Afghanistan moving towards the capital. Their initial offensive, including heavy bombardment of the already destroyed city, to conquer the capital was repelled by Massoud's forces in early 1996. Kabul was captured by the Taliban on September 26, 1996. They tortured ex-President Najibullah and his brother to death and lynched their dead corpses publicly. Massoud and his forces withdrew from Kabul to the northern regions of Afghanistan creating the United Front ( Northern Alliance).

After taking control of the capital city of Kabul on September 26, 1996, the Taliban issued edicts forbidding women to work outside the home, attend school, or to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. In public, women had to be covered from head to toe in a burqa, a body-length covering with only a mesh opening to see and breathe through. Women were not permitted to wear white (the colour of the Taliban flag) socks or white shoes, or shoes that make noise while they are walking. Also, houses and buildings had to have their windows painted over so women could not be seen inside. Women were practically banned from public life, denied access to health care, education, and work and they were not allowed to laugh in a manner they could be heard by others. The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) analyze:

"The Taliban is the first faction laying claim to power in Afghanistan that has targeted women for extreme repression and punished them brutally for infractions. To PHR’s knowledge, no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment ..."

The Taliban, without any real court or hearing, cut people's hands or arms off when accused of theft. Taliban hid-squads from the infamous "Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" watched the streets conducting arbitrary brutal and plubic beatings of people when they saw what they considered as unislamic behaviour.

The Taliban committed massacres, especially among the Shia and Hazara civilian population killing thousands of people. Many Hazaras fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud. The National Geographic concluded: "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud." Kabul remained under Taliban control until late 2001.

Recent history (2001-present)

Downtown area of Kabul

In October 2001, the United States armed forces assisted by British Armed Forces invaded the country during Operation Enduring Freedom. The Taliban abandoned Kabul in the following months due to extensive American and British bombing, while the United Front ( Afghan Northern Alliance) came to take control of the city. In late December 2001 Kabul became the capital of the Afghan Transitional Administration, which transformed to the present Government of Afghanistan that is led by President Hamid Karzai.

Since the beginning of 2003, the city of Kabul has been slowly developing with the help of foreign investment. It is also the scene of many suicide bombings and explosions where many people become casualties. Most attacks are carried out against government and military installations but the majority of the victims are civilians. From early 2002 to 2008, security was provided by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Today the newly trained Afghan National Police (ANP) and the Afghan National Army (ANA) are in charge of the area.


Climate chart ( explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm

Kabul has a semi-arid climate ( Köppen climate classification BSk) with precipitation concentrated in the winter (sometimes falling as snow) and spring months. Summer starts in May and ends in August, and has very low humidity, providing relief from the heat. Autumn, consisting September and October, is warm and dry. Winters are mildly cold, lasting from November to March. Spring in Kabul starts in late March and is the wettest time of the year.

Climate data for Kabul
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14
Average high °C (°F) 4.5
Average low °C (°F) −7.1
Record low °C (°F) −21
Precipitation mm (inches) 34.3
Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN)


Kabul City is one of the 15 districts of Greater Kabul (the province), and is divided into 18 sectors. Each sector covers several neighborhoods of the city. The number of sectors in Kabul increased from 11 to 18 in 2005.

Unlike other cities of the world, Kabul City has two independent councils or administrations at once: Prefecture and Municipality. The Prefect, who is also the Governor of Kabul Province, is appointed by the Ministry of Interior, and is responsible for the administrative and formal issues of the entire province. The Mayor of Kabul City is selected by the President of Afghanistan, who engages in the city's planning and environmental work.

The police and security forces belong to the prefecture and Ministry of Interior. The Chief of Police is selected by the Minister of Interior and is responsible for law enforcement and security of the city.


Boys and girls of Kabul dressed in local traditional clothes

The Kabul metropolitan area has a population of 2.8 million inhabitants. The wider Kabul province, which also includes rural areas, has a population of around 3.5 million people, while the Kabul city's population makes almost 80 percent of the total provincial population.

The population of the city reflects the general multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-confessional characteristics of Afghanistan. There is no official government report on the exact ethnic make-up of the city but according to a 2003 estimate by the National Geographic Society, Persian-speakers form the majority of the city's population, with Tajiks being the largest group at approximately 45% followed by Hazaras at 25%. Pashtuns form another 25%. The remaining 5% include Turkic-speaking Uzbek and Turkmen as well as Aimak, Baloch, Pashai and others. Regardless of their ethnic background, every resident of Kabul are referred to as Kabuli or Kabulai.

Nearly all the people of Kabul are Muslim, about 75% Sunnis and 25% Shias. Small number of Sikhs and Hindus are also found in the city. There is at least one Jew in Kabul, whose name is Zablon Simintov.


The domestic terminal of Kabul International Airport

Kabul International Airport, located 25 kilometres (16 mi) from the centre of Kabul, is the country's main airport. It is a hub to Ariana Afghan Airlines, which is the national airlines carrier of Afghanistan. Kam Air, Pamir Airways, and Safi Airways also have their headquarters in Kabul. Airlines from nearby nations such as Pakistan, Iran, India, and several others also make stops at Kabul Airport. A new international terminal was built by the government of Japan and began operation in 2008. The new terminal is the first of three terminals to be opened so far. The other two will open once air traffic to the city increases. Passengers coming from most foreign nations use mostly Dubai for flights to Kabul. Kabul Airport also has a military air base which serves as the main airport for Afghan National Air Corps. NATO also uses the Kabul Airport, but most military traffic is based at Bagram Air Base, just north of Kabul. The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are in charge of the airport security. For the year of 2009, the militaries of Hungary and Poland were the operators of the entire airport, paying for the upkeep and protection of the facility, under command of NATO.

Bus service to most major cities of the country is available in Kabul although they are not as safe, especially for foreigners. The city's public buses ( Milli Bus / "National Bus") take commuters on daily routes to many destinations. The service currently has approximately 800 buses but is gradually expanding and upgrading with more buses being added. The Kabul bus system has recently discovered a new source of revenue in whole-bus advertising from MTN similar to "bus wrap" advertising on public transit in more developed nations. There is also an express bus that runs from the city centre to Kabul International Airport for Safi Airways passengers. There are also yellow taxicabs just about anywhere in and around the city.

Private vehicles are on the rise in Kabul, with Toyota, Nissan, and other dealerships in the city. People are buying new cars as the roads and highways are being improved. Most drivers in Kabul prefer owning a Toyota Corolla, one of Afghanistan's most popular car. It has even been reported that up to 90% of cars in Kabul are Corollas. With the exception of motorcycles many vehicles in the city operate on LPG. Gas stations are mainly private-owned but the fuel comes from Iran. Bikes on the road are a common sight in the city.


GSM/ GPRS mobile phone services in the city are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan and MTN. In November 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a US 64.5 million dollar agreement with a company (ZTE Corporation) on the establishment of a countrywide fibre optical cable network. This will improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services not just in Kabul but throughout the country. Internet was introduced in the city in 2002 and has been expanding rapidly.

There are a number of post offices throughout the city. Package delivery services like FedEx, TNT N.V., and DHL are also available.

The city has many local-language radio stations, including Pashto and Dari, as well as some programs in the English language. The Afghan government has become increasingly intolerant of Indian channels and the un-Islamic culture they bring, and has threatened to ban them.


Public and private schools in the city have reopened since 2002 after they were shut down or destroyed during fighting in the 1980s to the late 1990s. Boys and girls are strongly encouraged to attend school under the Karzai administration but many more schools are needed not only in Kabul but throughout the country. The Afghan Ministry of Education has plans to build more schools in the coming years so that education is provided to all citizens of the country. The most well known high schools in Kabul include:

  • Habibia High School, a British-Afghan school founded in 1903 by King Habibullah Khan.
  • Lycée Esteqlal, a Franco-Afghan school founded in 1922.
  • Amani High School, a German-Afghan school for boys founded in 1924.
  • Aisha-i-Durani School, a German-Afghan school for girls.

The city's colleges and universities were renovated after 2002. Some of them have been developed recently, while others have existed since the early 1900s.

Kabul Medical University

Universities in Kabul

  • Kabul University
  • Kabul Medical University
  • Polytechnical University of Kabul (Kabul Polytechnic)
  • American University of Afghanistan
  • Higher Education Institute of Karwan
  • Rana Institute of Higher Education
  • Bakhtar Institute of Higher Education
  • Dawat University
  • National Military Academy of Afghanistan
  • Kateb Institute of Higher Education

Places of interest

The old part of Kabul is filled with bazaars nestled along its narrow, crooked streets. Cultural sites include the Afghan National Museum, notably displaying an impressive statue of Surya excavated at Khair Khana, the ruined Darul Aman Palace, the Mausoleum of Emperor Babur and Chehlstoon Park, the Minar-i-Istiqlal (Column of Independence) built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War, the mausoleum of Timur Shah Durrani, and the imposing Id Gah Mosque (founded 1893). Bala Hissar is a fort destroyed by the British in 1879, in retaliation for the death of their envoy, now restored as a military college. The Minaret of Chakari, destroyed in 1998, had Buddhist swastika and both Mahayana and Theravada qualities.

Other places of interest include Kabul City Centre, which is Kabul's first shopping mall, the shops around Flower Street and Chicken Street, Wazir Akbar Khan district, Babur Gardens, Kabul Golf Club, Kabul Zoo, Shah Do Shamshera and other famous Mosques, the Afghan National Gallery, Afghan National Archive, Afghan Royal Family Mausoleum, the OMAR Mine Museum, Bibi Mahroo Hill, Kabul Cemetery, and Paghman Gardens.

Tappe-i-Maranjan is a nearby hill where Buddhist statues and Graeco-Bactrian coins from the 2nd century BC have been found. Outside the city proper is a citadel and the royal palace. Paghman and Jalalabad are interesting valleys north and east of the city.

Babur Gardens
Bebi Mahroo Park
Shar-e Naw Park during the winter
  • Airports
    • Kabul International Airport
  • Parks
    • Bāgh-e Bābur Park (Babur Gardens)
    • Bāghi Bālā Park
    • Lake Qargha Park
    • Zarnegar Park
    • Shar-e Naw Park
    • Bagh-e Zanana
    • Chaman-e-Hozori
    • Bebi Mahroo Park
  • Mosques
    • Abdul Rahman Mosque
    • Id Gah Mosque
    • Pul-e Khishti Mosque
    • Shah-e Do Shamshera Mosque
    • Blue Mosque
  • Mausoleums
    • Mausoleum of Tamim Ansar
    • Mausoleum of Timur Shah Durrani
    • Mausoleum of Abdur Rahman Khan
    • Mausoleum of Zahir Shah and Nadir Shah
  • Museums
    • Kabul Museum
    • National Archives
    • Negaristani Milli
  • Hotels
    • Marriott (under construction)
    • Serena Hotel
    • Parwan Hotel
    • InterContinental
    • Safi Landmark Hotel
    • Golden Star Hotel
    • Heetal Plaza Hotel

Reconstruction and developments

New office building

As of October 2007, there are approximately 16 licensed banks in Kabul: including Da Afghanistan Bank, Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Afghan United Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Punjab National Bank, Habib Bank and others. Western Union offices are also found in many locations throughout the city, which are mainly used by expatriate Afghans to transfer funds to their families at home.

A small sized indoor shopping mall ( Kabul City Centre) with a 4-star (Safi Landmark) hotel on the top six floors opened in 2005. A 5-star Serena Hotel also opened in 2005. Another 5-star Marriott Hotel is under construction. The landmark InterContinental Hotel has also been refurbished and is in operation. Modern apartment buildings are also being built across Kabul, as part of the attempt to modernize the city.

An initial concept design called the City of Light Development, envisioned by Dr. Hisham N. Ashkouri, Principal of ARCADD, Inc. for the development and the implementation of a privately based investment enterprise has been proposed for multi-function commercial, historic and cultural development within the limits of the Old City of Kabul along the Southern side of the Kabul River and along Jade Meywand Avenue, revitalizing some of the most commercial and historic districts in the City of Kabul, which contains numerous historic mosques and shrines as well as viable commercial activities among war damaged buildings. Also incorporated in the design is a new complex for the Afghan National Museum. Dr. Ashkouri has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with His Excellency Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad in Washington, D.C. to undertake this project and to develop it for actual implementation over the next 20 to 25 years. Dr. Ashkouri has presented the City of Light Plan to President Karzai and has received a letter of support from the President and the Minister of Urban Development in support of this project's development.

The plan for Kabul's nine billion dollar future modern urban development project, the City of Light Development.

About 4 miles (6 km) from downtown Kabul, in Bagrami, a 22-acre (9 ha) wide industrial complex has completed with modern facilities, which will allow companies to operate businesses there. The park has professional management for the daily maintenance of public roads, internal streets, common areas, parking areas, 24 hours perimeter security, access control for vehicles and persons. Another phase with additional 27 acres (11 ha) of land will be added immediately proceeding the first phase.

A $25 million Coca-Cola bottling plant was opened in 2006. Financing was provided by a Dubai-based Afghan family. President Hamid Karzai formally opened the facility in an attempt to attract more foreign investment in the city. In late 2007 the government announced that all the residential houses situated on mountains would be removed within a year so that trees and other plants can be grown on the hills. The plan is to try to make the city greener and provide residents with a more suitable place to live, on a flat surface. Once the plan is implemented it will provide water supply and electricity to each house. All the city roads will also be paved under the plan, which will solve transportation problems.


Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs), both national and international, are based in Kabul, conducting various activities to assist development in Afghanistan and provide humanitarian relief to the many victims which 30 years of war have produced.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is the largest not-for-profit organization in Afghanistan. It has been involved in most major development projects, including the Serena Hotel, the first five-star hotel in Afghanistan, as well as the restoration of the Bagh-e Babur gardens. AKDN also launched the award-winning Roshan, Afghanistan's leading telecommunications provider. Over 93% of Roshan's staff comprises Afghan nationals, whose average age is 23; many employees only have a high school degree. Over 20% of Roshan's employees are women, and the company has shown that it is committed to promoting women in the workplace.

Afghanistan Information Management Services (AIMS) provides software development, capacity development, information management, and project management services to the Afghan Government and other NGOs, thereby supporting their on-the-ground activities.

The We Are the Future (WAF) Centre is a child care centre whose aim is to give children a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. The centre is managed under the direction of the mayor's office and the international NGO. Glocal Forum serves as the fundraiser, program planner and coordinator for the WAF centre. Launched in 2004, the program is the result of a strategic partnership between the Glocal Forum, the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation and Mr. Hani Masri, with the support of the World Bank, UN agencies and major companies.

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