Kabul (Pashto/Persian: کابل Kābul), is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of over 2.5 million, and is located in the province of Greater Kabul. The exact number cannot be determined but the total provincial population of Kabul is anywhere between 3.5 to almost 5 million people. 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. The city is linked with Ghazni, 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 on, Peshawar, Pakistan. Kabul's main products include munitions, cloth, furniture and beet sugar, but, since 1978, a state of nearly continuous war has limited the economic productivity of the city. Economic productivity has improved since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 2001.
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. Since the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s until very recent, the city has been constantly a target of destruction by rebels or militants. It is also in its early phases of reconstruction.
Kabul has a semi-arid climate with precipitation concentrated in the winter (in the form of snow) and spring months. Summers run from June to September and are moderate, with highs in the low 30s and very low humidity. The autumn months of October and November have moderate temperatures and low humidity. Winters are harsh, snowy and long, lasting from December to March. Spring in Kabul starts in late March and is the wettest part of the year.
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 Kabul's sectors was increased from 11 to 18 in 2005.
Kabul has a population between 2.5 to 3 million or more.The population of the city reflects the general multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-confessional characteristics of Afghanistan. There is no official governmental data on the exact ethnic make-up of the city. However, it appears that Persian-speakers form the majority of the city's population, with Sunnite Tajiks being the largest group at approximately 45%, followed by Shi'ite Hazaras at 25%. Pashtuns, also Sunnite, form the most important minority. There is also a sizable Turkic-speaking Uzbek and Turkmen minority in the city, as well as sizable numbers of Aimak, Baloch, Pashai, and some Sikhs and Hindus.
Kabul International Airport serves the country as the 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 center to Kabul International Airport for Safi Airways passengers. There are also yellow taxicabs that can be spotted 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 due to its popularity in Asia. 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.
As of October 2007, there are approximately 16 licensed banks in Kabul: including Da Afghanistan Bank, Afghanistan International Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Punjab National Bank, Habib Bank and others. Western Union offices are also found in many locations throughout 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., DHL and others 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 threaten to ban them.
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 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 are 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) opened in 2005.