Kabul's old section, with its narrow, crooked streets, contains extensive bazaars; the modern section has administrative and commercial buildings. An educational center, Kabul has a university (est. 1931), colleges, and a fine museum. Also in the city are Babur's tomb and gardens; the mausoleum of Nadir Shah; the Minar-i-Istiklal (column of independence), built in 1919 after the Third Afghan War; the tomb of Timur Shah (reigned 1773-93); the fort of Bala Hissar, destroyed by the British in 1879 to avenge the death of their envoy in Kabul; and several important mosques. The royal palace and an ancient citadel stand outside the present city.
Kabul's history dates back more than 3,000 years, although the city has been destroyed and rebuilt on several different sites. Conquered by Arabs in the 7th cent., it was overshadowed by Ghazni and Herat until Babur made it his capital (1504-26). It remained under Mughal rule until its capture (1738) by Nadir Shah of Persia. It succeeded Kandahar as Afghanistan's capital in 1773. During the Afghan Wars a British army took (1839) Kabul. In 1842 the withdrawing British troops were ambushed and almost annihilated after the Afghans had promised them safe conduct; in retaliation another British force partly burned Kabul. The British again occupied the city in 1879, after their resident and his staff were massacred there.
On Dec. 23, 1979, Soviet armed forces landed at Kabul airport to help bolster a Communist government. Kabul became the Soviet command center, but was little damaged by the ten-year conflict. In Feb., 1989, Soviet forces withdrew from the city. In spring of 1992 the government of Mohammad Najibullah collapsed, and Kabul fell to guerrilla armies. Destruction of the city increased as the coalition of guerrilla forces broke into rival warring factions, and much of Kabul was damaged by fighting. The capital has undergone considerable reconstruction since 2002, but many building remain in ruins.
Kābul (Persian and Pashto: کابل, IPA: [kɑː'bʊl]) is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan, with an estimated population of approximately three million. It is an economic and cultural centre, situated 5,900 feet (1,800 m) above sea level in a narrow valley, wedged between the Hindu Kush mountains along the Kabul River. Kabul is linked with Ghazni, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif via a long beltway (circular highway) that stretches across the country. It is also linked by highways with Pakistan to the east and southeast and Tajikistan to the north.
Kabul is over 3,000 years old. Many empires have long fought over the city for its strategic location along the trade routes of Southern and Central Asia. In 1504, Babur captured Kabul and used it as his headquarters until 1526, before his conquest of India. In 1776, Timur Shah Durrani made it the capital of modern Afghanistan. The population of the city is predominantly Persian-speaking.
According to many noted scholars, the Sanskrit name of Kabul is Kamboj. . It is mentioned as Kophes or Kophene in the classical writings. Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency 1904 maintains that the ancient name of Kabul was Kambojapura, which Ptolemy (160 CE) mentions as Kaboura (from Ka(m)bo(j)pura?). Hiuen Tsang refers to the name as Kaofu, which according to Dr. J. W. McCrindle , Dr Sylvain Lévi , Dr. B. C. Law , Dr. R. K. Mukkerji , N. L. Dey and many other scholars , is equivalent to Sanskrit Kamboja (Kamboj/Kambuj). Kaofu was also the appellation of one of the five tribes of the Yuechi who had migrated from across the Hindukush into Kabul valley around Christian era . According to some scholars, the fifth clan mentioned among the Tochari/Yuechi may have been a clan of the Kambojas
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom captured Kabul from the Mauryans in the early 2nd century BCE, then lost the city to their subordinates in the Indo-Greek Kingdom in the mid 2nd century BCE. Indo-Scythians expelled the Indo-Greeks by the mid 1st century BCE, but lost the city to the Kushan Empire nearly 100 years later. It was conquered by Kushan Emperor Kujula Kadphises in the early 1st century CE and remained Kushan territory until at least the 3rd century CE. Kabul was one of the two capital cities of Kushans.
Around 230 CE the Kushans were defeated by the Sassanid Empire and were replaced by Sassanid vassals known as the Kushanshas or Indo-Sassanids. In 420 CE the Kushanshahs (Kushan kings) were driven out of Afghanistan by the Chionites tribe known as the Kidarites, who were then replaced in the 460s by the Hephthalites. The Hephthalites were defeated in 565 CE by a coalition of Persian and Turkish armies, and most of the realm fell to those Empires. Kabul became part of the surviving Kushano-Hephthalite Kingdom of Kapisa, who were also known as Kabul-Shahan. The rulers of Kabul-Shahan built a huge defensive wall around the city to protect it from invaders. This wall has survived until today and is considered a historical site. Around 670 CE the Kushano-Hephthalites were replaced by the Shahi or Hindu-Shahi dynasty.
In the 13th century the Mongol horde passed through. In the 14th century, Kabul rose again as a trading center under the kingdom of Timur-Lung (Tamerlane), who married the sister of Kabul's ruler at the time. But as Timurid power waned, the city was captured in 1504 by Babur and made into his headquarters. Haidar, an Indian poet who visited at the time wrote "Dine and drink in Kabul: it is mountain, desert, city, river and all else."
In 1826, the kingdom was claimed by Dost Mohammed and taken from him by the British Indian Army in 1839 (see Afghan Wars), who installed the unpopular puppet 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 people, which included civilians and camp followers on their retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad. In 1842 the British returned, plundering Bala Hissar in revenge before retreating back to India. Dost Mohammed returned to the throne.
The British 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 India. Amir Abdur Rahman 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 interventions at Eidgah Mosque. In 1929, Ammanullah Khan left Kabul because of a local uprising and his brother Nader Khan took control. King Nader Khan was assassinated in 1933 and his 19-year-old son, Zahir Shah, became the long lasting King of Afghanistan.
Kabul University opened for classes in early 1930s, and in 1940s, the city began to grow as an industrial center. The streets of the city began being paved in the 1950s.
In the 1960s, Kabul developed a cosmopolitan mood. The first Marks and Spencer store in Central Asia was built there. Kabul Zoo was inaugurated in 1967, which was maintained with the help of visiting German Zoologists.
In 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 July 1973, Zahir Shah was ousted in a bloodless coup and Kabul became the capital of a republic under Mohammad Daoud Khan, the new President. In 1975 an east-west electric trolleybus system provided public transportation across the city. The system was built with assistance from Czechoslovakia.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, on December 24, 1979, the Red Army occupied the capital. They turned the city into their command center during the 10-year conflict between the Soviet-allied government and the Mujahideen rebels. The American Embassy in Kabul closed on January 30, 1989. The city fell into the hands of local militias after the 1992 collapse of Mohammad Najibullah's pro-communist government. As these forces divided into warring factions, the city increasingly suffered. 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. At this time, Burhannudin Rabbani's militia (Jamiat-e Islami) held power but the nominal prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami began shelling the city, which lasted until 1996. Kabul was factionalised, and fighting continued between Jamiat-e Islami, Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Hezbi Wahdat. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and many more fled as refugees. The United Nations estimated that about 90% of the buildings in Kabul were destroyed during these years.
Kabul was captured by the Taliban in September 1996, publicly lynching ex-President Najibullah and his brother. During this time, all the fighting between different militias came to an end. Burhannudin Rabbani, Gulbuddin Heckmatyar, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ahmad Shah Massoud, and the rest all fled the city.
Approximately five years later, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban abandoned Kabul in the following months because of extensive American bombing, while the Afghan Northern Alliance (former mujahideen or millias) came to retake control of the city. On December 20, 2001, Kabul became the capital of the Afghan Transitional Administration, which transformed to the present government of Afghanistan that is led by US-backed President Hamid Karzai.
Since the beginning of 2003, the city is slowly developing with the help of foreign investment. Security is also improving by the year, despite the occasional attacks on government forces.
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.
Kabul has a population between 2.5 to approximately 3 million people. The population of the city reflects the general multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-confessional characteristics of Afghanistan. According to the 2005 United Nations estimate, the population of Kabul City reached 2,994,000, while according to the 2006 estimates from the Central Statistics Office of Afghanistan, the city's population is only 2,536,300.
Persian-speakers form the majority of the city's population, with the predominately Sunnite Tajiks being the largest group, followed by Shi'ite Hazaras. There is also a sizable number of Persian-speaking Pashtuns.
Pashto-speakers, also Sunnites, form the most important minority, followed by the Turkic-speaking Uzbeks. There are also sizable numbers of Aimak, Baloch, Pashai, as well as Sikhs and Hindus who speak their native language as their mother tongue and Persian as the native language of Kabul.
Kabul International Airport serves the population of the city as a method of traveling to other cities or countries. The airport is a hub to Ariana Afghan Airlines, which is the national airlines carrier of Afghanistan. However, airlines from other nations also use the airport to arrive and depart. A new $35 million dollar terminal for international flight passengers, near the old terminal, is under construction and will be completed by 2008.
Kabul has its own public buses (Millie Bus / "National Bus") that take commuters on daily routes to many destinations throughout the city. The service currently has approximately 800 buses but is gradually expanding and upgrading with more buses being added. Plans are underway to reintroduce the modern electric buses that the city once had. Besides the buses, there are yellow taxicabs that can be spotted just about anywhere in and around the city. 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.
Private vehicles are also on the rise in Kabul, with Land Rover, BMW, Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai dealerships in the city. More people are buying new cars as the roads and highways are being improved. The average car driven in Kabul is a Toyota Corolla. With the exception of motorcycles many vehicles in the city operate on LPG.
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.
The city has many local radio stations which also have programs in the English language. Besides foreign channels, the local television channels of Afghanistan include:
All public schools in Kabul began to reopen in 2002, and ever since then they are improving every year. Many boys and girls are now attending classes. Some of the public schools are Amani High School, Durrani High School, Ghulam Haider Khan High School, Sultan Razia School, etc.
There are also several new universities and private colleges opened in the last few years.
Other places of interest include Kabul City Center, 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.
A small sized indoor shopping mall (Kabul City Center) 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.
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, DC 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.
About from downtown Kabul, in Bagrami, a 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 of land will be added immediately proceeding the first phase.
The city hosts the We Are the Future (WAF) center, a child care center giving children a chance to live their childhoods and develop a sense of hope. The center 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 center. 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.
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.