Afghanistan is situated at the crossroads of Asia, a strategically important location that connects the Middle East with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Down the ages it has been subjected to continuous foreign invasion and intervention—from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan, and as a pawn in the struggle between the British and Russian Empires—making its people wary of outsiders. That history is being repeated in the twenty-first century.
Afghanistan has always been seen from the outside as a realm of much intrigue and many myths. The Afghans tried to keep their distance from the outside world—especially from the Europeans who, whether in pursuit of imperial goals or simply as explorer–travelers, attempted to enter and traverse the land. Their very elusiveness attracted Westerners to this landlocked country of high mountains and breathtaking beauty, where age-old customs and traditions were zealously guarded, sometimes at the cost of many lives.
The Afghan people are a tapestry of ethnicities woven over time—Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and many smaller ones. Society is organized mainly along ethnic and tribal lines, but ethnic identity becomes irrelevant when a common enemy threatens to take control of the country. There are also many shared values and unwritten codes of conduct that govern interpersonal relations, which are not taken lightly. Visitors are struck by the simplicity, hospitability, dignity, and generosity of the Afghan people, and often confounded by customs that they find hard to understand.
Culture Smart! Afghanistan is a unique introduction to the background, habits, traditions, idiosyncrasies, suspicions about foreigners, and patterns of behavior of the Afghan people. It offers visitors invaluable information and insights that will help them to interact with Afghans, to interpret their behavior, and to behave appropriately in their company, whether in personal or business exchanges. Once the ice is broken, the rewards will be great.
About the Author
Nazes Afroz is from India. He was a newspaper journalist based in Calcutta for seventeen years before moving to London to work for the BBC World Service, most recently as a senior executive. He has traveled extensively in India, reporting on politics, social conflicts, the environment, and human rights, and has undertaken assignments to South and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Nazes has been visiting Afghanistan regularly for the last ten years for the BBC and has come to know the country and its people, history, and culture. An experienced photographer, documenting communities and people during his travels, his work has appeared in various publications and on BBC Web sites. The authors are currently working together on photography and research projects involving Afghanistan and India. Moska Najib was born in Afghanistan and educated in India and Switzerland, where she graduated in International Communications with distinction. A journalist by profession, she joined the BBC Bureau in Delhi as a researcher and went on to become a producer and reporter. In the past five years her work with the BBC has taken her all over India to produce, and sometimes report on, news and social features for BBC television channels and World Service radio. She is a keen traveler and photographer and her photo-features have appeared on the BBC News Web site. Although Moska has lived most of her life outside Afghanistan, she is deeply rooted in Afghan history, culture, and traditions.