Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dari Language

Libraries and Museums

For centuries, manuscript collections were in the hands of the rulers, local feudal lords, and renowned religious families. Printing came fairly late to Afghanistan, but with the shift from the handwritten manuscript to the printed book, various collections were formed. Kabul has a public library (1920) with 60,000 volumes, and the library of the University of Kabul has 250,000 volumes. There is a library at Kabul Polytechnic University with 6,000 volumes and a government library, at the ministry of education, also in Kabul, with 30,000 volumes.

Prior to the devastating civil war, the Kabul Museum (founded in 1922) possessed an unrivaled collection of stone heads, basreliefs, ivory plaques and statuettes, bronzes, mural paintings, and Buddhist material from excavations at Hadda, Bamian, Bagram, and other sites. It also contained an extensive collection of coins and a unique collection of Islamic bronzes, marble reliefs, Kusham art, and ceramics from Ghazni. In nearly a decade of warfare, however, the museum was plundered by the various armed bands, with much of its collection sold on the black market, or systematically destroyed. As of 2003, the Kabul museum is slowly beginning some restoration. Also in Kabul, is the Kabul University Science Museum, with an extensive zoological collection and a museum of pathology. There are provincial museums at Bamyan, Ghazni, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Maimana, and Kandahar. Major religious shrines have collections of valuable objects. Due to the chaotic political situation in the 1990s, it is impossible to determine the state of any of its collections.

In March 2001, the Taliban dynamited the Bamiyan Buddhas and sold the debris and the remains of the original sculpture. Small statues of the Buddhas in Foladi and Kakrak were destroyed. Most of the statues and other "non-Islamic art" works in the collections of the Kabul Museum were destroyed, including those stored for security reasons in the Ministry of Information and Culture. UNESCO has undertaken a plan to conserve the archaeological remains and the minaret at Jam, and to make it a World Heritage site. The minaret was built at the end of the 12th century and at 65 meters is the second tallest in the world after the Qutub Minar in New Delhi.

source: "Afghanistan." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. 11th ed. Vol. 4: Asia & Oceania. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 1-14. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 22 Mar. 2012.
Document URL:


source:  "So near, so Far: Kabul's Music in Exile,"  John Baily. Ethnomusicology ForumVol. 14, No. 2, Music and Identity in Central Asia (Nov., 2005), pp. 213-233 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology

Article Stable URL:

Arts & Entertainment: Afghanistan's rich classical music tradition has been influenced by other Asian countries. No longer forbidden as it was under the Taliban, music is once again a part of daily life and important ceremonies. Each region is known for its unique musical traditions, though regional differences have faded over time. Ustad M.H. Sarahang and Ustad Naim Nazary are two respected modern singers in the classical tradition.

The national instrument of Afghanistan is the rubab. Its four main strings are plucked, and the instrument can be played solo or in vocal and instrumental ensembles. Another popular string instrument is the dutar, which is often accompanied with different hand-played drums.

In a country with low literacy rates, oral narratives are important. Many of these have ancient roots, but others have been modernized according to contemporary developments in Afghanistan. Of any single book, the Koran is the most important, but it is studied in the original Arabic rather than in one of the country's indigenous languages. The national poet of Afghanistan, who wrote in Pashto, is Khushal Khan Khattak.

Afghanis have several sporting traditions. Buzkashi is a gamed played throughout Central Asia. It involves teams of horse riders who attempt to score a goal by moving a salt-filled goat carcass along the field. Kite-flying is also popular. Small or large and very colorful, the kites generally have two children to handle them. The object of the game is to cut the opponent's kite string with one's own.

Afghans excel at making durable, beautiful handcrafts. Flat or piled wool carpets made with natural fibers and dyes on a hand loom are the most famous. Other important crafts include pottery and tile-making, metal and leatherwork, and embroidery.

source: Aliprandini, Michael. 2011. "Afghanistan." Our World: Afghanistan 1. MAS Ultra - School Edition, EBSCOhost (accessed March 23, 2012).


The most important Afghan holidays are Islamic in nature. The end of the holy month of fasting, Ramadan, is marked by Eid Al-Fatr. Eid Al-Adha commemorates Abraham's subservience to God and marks the beginning of the Haj, the pilgrimage of the faithful to Mecca. Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, Mohammed's grandson, and Mawleed Al-Nabi marks Mohammed's birthday. The pre-Islamic festival of Nawruz, on March 21, is a celebration of spring and a welcoming of the new year. On these holidays, people visit their family and friends, hold feasts, attend prayers, and often exchange gifts.

National holidays include Afghan Independence Day (August 19), marking the day that the country regained control of its foreign policy from Britain; and Remembrance Day for Martyrs and Disabled (May 4).

source: Aliprandini, Michael. 2011. "Afghanistan." Our World: Afghanistan 1. MAS Ultra - School Edition, EBSCOhost (accessed March 23, 2012).


The holidays celebrated in 2012 are:

January 30**       Prophet Mohammad Birthday

March 20             Nawrooz (Afghan New Year – 1391)

April 26***          Victory Day

July 19**             First Day of Ramadan

August 16***       Indepdence Day

August 19-21**    Eid ul-Fitr

September 9***   Martyrdom of National Hero

October 25-28**   Eid-e Qurban

November 25**    10th of Muharram (Ashura)

**  Afghan holidays marked with double asterisks (**) are based on the Islamic Calendar and depend on sightings of the moon.  As a holiday approaches, adjustments to this schedule may be made based on local practice and Afghan government announcements. 

*** Afghan holidays marked with triple asterisks (***) are observed one day earlier.


Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Slavic Reference Service
Slavic Reference Service
International and Area Studies Library
Room 317
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, Illinois 61801