Afghanistan celebrates the New Year 1388
20 March 2009 - Mazar-i-Sharif is the iconic and popular host for the New Year celebrations in Afghanistan as it’s known as Umulbelad or Mother of Cities. Mazar, the capital of Balkh province, is popular because of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali (the Blue Mosque).
Mazar-i-Sharif is the iconic and popular host for the New Year celebrations in Afghanistan as it’s known as Umulbelad or Mother of Cities.
Mazar, the capital of Balkh province, is popular because of the Shrine of Hazrat Ali (the Blue Mosque). It’s believed that the fourth Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Ali, rests in this shrine.
The city is crowded with people from across the country who have come together to celebrate the Milai Gule Sorkh or Picnic of Tulips.
For the first time this year’s Nawrooz (New Year’s Day) in Mazar is being jointly celebrated by three Farsi speaking countries from the region, Tajikistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
“I am happy that we are hosting more and more guests compared to previous years. This is very good for the overall economy of the province,” said Timur Shah who is studying economics at Balkh University.
In the last few years Mazar has seen redevelopment take shape with new buildings and roads. Residents also consider the city it to be more peaceful than the capital, Kabul.
Najm, who frequently travels between Mazar and Kabul said: “When I reach Mazar I feel very secure. I don’t feel like I may witness a suicide bombing. Thank God, we don’t have that in our province.”
“If the work continues like this Mazar will look almost like Dubai in less than a decade,” said Haji Sultan a visitor who was taking pictures of the new lights at the gate of the shrine.
Nawrooz started as a celebration in Afghanistan during the rule of Jamshid, the Great King of Balkh (3000 BC). Then Nawrooz was celebrated for forty days as people lit fires to mark the occasion.
Traditionally at the beginning of the year people make a juice from seven different fruits. It is believed that good and tasty food brings you luck for the rest of the year.
The new festivities are full of traditions for families. Children will be seen wearing new clothes. An engaged man will take fish and Jelabe (special local sweets) to his future in-laws either before or on the first day of the year. Families will also ensure they have plain rice and spinach (Sabze Chalawo) for lunch on New Year’s Day.
New Year’s Day coincides with the first day of spring. As Afghanistan is a largely agricultural country it is believed that this is the season for cultivation and the main chance for people to make a living in the country.
Tree planting started as a tradition during the regime of King Amanullah Khan (1919-1929). The King would dress as a farmer and start planting trees with farmers on New Year’s Day.
Seasonal rains during the early days of spring have given hope to people in Mazar where there’s been a drought in the last few years. “Thank God! This spring is beautiful. It gives hope for good results from farming to many people like me”, said Shamsullah a farmer from the Khulm district of Balkh who’s in Mazar to see the Nawrooz celebrations.
By Nazifullah Salarzai, UNAMA