Sights of Afghanistan
The Taq-e-Zafar Arch of Victory, marking the independence of Afghanistan, was built by King Amanullah Khan in 1919 in the Paghman district of Kabul. Depictions of the arch, a well-known symbol of Afghanistan’s rich history, has been used on its currency as recently as 1990s.
National Museum of Afghanistan
National Museum of Afghanistan, also known as Kabul Museum, is a museum in Darulaman outside of Kabul that includes thousands of pieces of art and artifacts related to the country’s history and heritage. Many of the museum’s treasures were stolen or destroyed amid the strife that has plagued the region, but concerted efforts have been made to preserve the collection that has helped save thousands of historic and invaluable vestiges.
Bagh-e Babur, aka the Garden of Babur, is located on the slopes of Kuh-e Sher Darwaza, southwest of Kabul. The garden is arranged in 15 terraces spanning 11 hectares. From the top terrace, visitors have a magnificent vista over the garden and its perimeter wall, across the Kabul River towards the mountains.
Bagh-e Babur is one of the earliest surviving Mughal gardens, dating back to the early 16th century. The garden is surrounded by high walls, rebuilt by the local community. Visitors are greeted by a large traditional caravanserai, showing many of the finds excavated in the archaeological dig that preceded the restoration.
Bala Hissar, the High Fort, or the castle built on top of the hill, is an ancient fortress located in the south of Kabul. Fortified from perhaps the 6th Century, the fortress reached its peak under Mughal rulers in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Its palace was rebuilt by an Afghan king in the late 18th Century and British troops were stationed in the fort during each of the 19th Century Anglo-Afghan wars. After 1880, the upper Bala Hissar was used as an arsenal and prison, the lower part became a ruin within which new military installations were later built. The site was extensively damaged during fighting in the 1990s but it remains in military use.
Darul Aman Palace
Darul Aman Palace, or the House of Peace, sits in ruins outside Kabul. Amanullah Khan, ruler of Afghanistan between 1919 and 1929, ordered the construction of the impressive structure, intending the palace to be the centerpiece of a new capital city in the country. The city was to be a gleaming settlement, rising up from the plains with the palace as the crown jewel.
But rulers who deposed Amanullah Khan scorned his plans and, leaving Darul Aman to rot. Set on fire in the 1970’s, shelled by insurgents in the 1990’s, and targeted by the Taliban in 2012, the palace, once a symbol of optimism and change, was repeatedly brutalized.
the Minaret of Jam
Built in the late 12th century, the Minaret of Jam is the second tallest ancient minaret in the world at 65 meters. Famous for its intricate brick, stucco, and glazed tile decoration, the design consists of delicate calligraphy, geometric patterns and verses from the Quran.
The Minaret of Jam is one of the few well-preserved monuments representing the exceptional artistic creativity and mastery of structural engineering of the time. In 2002, the minaret was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only two in all of Afghanistan.
The Kajaki Dam
The Kajaki Dam was built in the rugged, rural north of Helmand Province in the 1950s. From the air, the river is a narrow turquoise ribbon through the desert. The dam is a stacked concrete wall that bisects the river, creating a reservoir ringed with trees. Kajaki dam and power plant contains two hydroelectric turbines and has room for a third, which would significantly increase the construction’s energy output capacity. However, the Kajaki development project and all the growth associated with it have been riddled by long-running internal strife and crippling costs.
Band-e Amir is a chain of six incredible deep blue lakes nestled amid pink limestone canyons in the mountainous desert of central Afghanistan. They are located high in the foothills of Hindu Kush Mountains, the second highest mountain range in the world, at an altitude of 2900 meters.
The deep blue color of the lakes is due to the clarity of the air as well as the purity of the water. The high mineral content of the lakes also causes the intense and varying colors of the lake waters.
Of the six lakes, Band-e Panir is the smallest, with a diameter of approximately 100m. The largest is Band-e Zulfiqar, which measures some 6.5km in length. The most accessible of the lakes is Band-e-Haibat – the Dam of Awe.
Stretching across Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan, the Pamirs Mountains are connected with some of the other highest mountain ranges in the world, such as the Tian-Shan, Karakorum, Hindu Kush, and Himalayas. The Pamir Mountains differ because of their severity and high elevations. There are many glaciers, lakes and rivers to be found among the mountains. The environment is tough, though there are places for alpine deserts with a polar climate. The elevated lands of Pamirs have always represented peace and serenity even the gravest times in Afghanistan’s history.
Shah-do-Shamshira Mosque -- the Mosque of the King with Two Swords – is a yellow two-story mosque in Kabul, just off the Kabul River in the center of the city. It was built in the 1920s on the order of King Amanullah’s mother on the site of one of Kabul’s first mosques named in honor of an early Muslim king who died fighting foreign invaders.
The mosque's name is derived from a far older story than Amanullah's architectural tastes. In the 7th century Kabul was a Hindu city, besieged by an Arab army. The Arab king was beheaded, but was so inspired by Allah that he continued fighting, leading his men to victory at the point of his two blades.