What You Need To Know
Herat is the third-largest city of Afghanistan. It has a population of about 436,300, and serves as the capital of Herat Province, situated in the fertile valley of the Hari River. It is linked with Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif via Highway 1 or the ring road. It is further linked to the city of Mashhad in neighboring Iran through the border town of Islam Qala, and to Turkmenistan through the border town of Torghundi, both about 100 km (62 mi) away.
Herat dates back to the Avestan times and was traditionally known for its wine. The city has a number of historic sites, including the Herat Citadel and the Musallah Complex. During the Middle Ages Herat became one of the important cities of Khorasan, as it was known as the Pearl of Khorasan. It has been governed by various Afghan rulers since the early 18th century. In 1717, the city was invaded by the Hotaki forces until they were expelled by the Afsharids in 1729. After Nader Shah’s death and Ahmad Shah Durrani’s rise to power in 1747, Herat became part of Afghanistan. It witnessed some political disturbances and military invasions during the early half of the 19th century but the 1857 Treaty of Paris ended hostilities of the Anglo-Persian War.
Herat lies on the ancient trade routes of the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and today is a regional hub in western Afghanistan. The roads from Herat to Iran, Turkmenistan, and other parts of Afghanistan are still strategically important. As the gateway to Iran, it collects high amount of customs revenue for Afghanistan. It also has an international airport. The city has high residential density clustered around the core of the city. However, vacant plots account for a higher percentage of the city (21%) than residential land use (18%) and agricultural is the largest percentage of total land use (36%). Today the city is considered to be relatively safe.
Area: 182 km²
The afghani is the currency of Afghanistan, issued by the central bank Da Afghanistan Bank. It is nominally subdivided into 100 pul (پول), although there are no pul coins currently in circulation.
Banknotes: 1 Af, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 Afs
Herat has a cold semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk). Precipitation is very low, and mostly falls in winter. Although Herāt is approximately 240 m (790 ft) lower than Kandahar, the summer climate is more temperate, and the climate throughout the year is far from disagreeable, although winter temperatures are comparably lower. From May to September, the wind blows from the northwest with great force. The winter is tolerably mild; snow melts as it falls, and even on the mountains does not lie long. Three years out of four it does not freeze hard enough for the people to store ice. The eastern reaches of the Hari River, including the rapids, are frozen hard in the winter, and people travel on it as on a road.
The province is home to 90% of Afghanistan’s Saffron production (a $12 million industry in 2014). In 2015 the World Bank noted that saffron cultivation had provided Herat Province’s farmers a steady source of income, jobs for both men and women, and a decreased dependency on poppy cultivation.
With international borders to Iran and Turkmenistan and an international airport, trade could potentially play an important part in the economy of Herat Province. Due to the lack of urbanization in Herat Province, around 75% of the population lives in rural areas and economic activity is correspondingly heavily reliant on agriculture and horticulture production (saffron, rugs, cumin, marble, animal skins and wool) with around 82%} of economic activity coming from these fields in 2011. Marble manufacturing and light industry comprised the remaining areas of economic activity.
The overall literacy rate (6+ years of age) fell from 36% in 2005 to 25% in 2011. The overall net enrolment rate (6–13 years of age) fell from 55% in 2005 to 52% in 2011. Herat University is Afghanistan’s second largest university with over 10,000 students, 14 faculties and 45 departments in 2014.
Herat is one of the safer cities in Afghanistan. However, there are sometimes small explosions attributed to political parties which are trying to make a point or create the impression that the city is not safe. Shootings are also common during personal disputes. Gun battles between the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are not unusual.
Be quiet, respectful and dress appropriately when visiting mosques and shrines. These are holy places of worship and should not be treated as tourist attractions. Be discreet with your camera.
Herat is poorly connected by road – the highway to Kabul via Kandahar passes through a warzone and countless Taliban checkpoints, while the two-day slog to Maimana (and on to Mazar-e Sharif) passes through similarly risky territory. There are daily flights to Kabul (3500Afg, one hour) and several weekly to Mazar-e Sharif (3000Afg, 45 minutes) and Chaghcheran (3000Afg, 45 minutes) with Pamir Airways.
There are several daily buses to Mashhad in Iran.