• Bangladesh!

    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Jordan!

    Jordan: Petra. Go Now!

    Tucked away in this Middle Eastern country, the famed city of Petra (pictured) links the past to the present culture. Explore Jordan!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Afghanistan

WARNING: Afghanistan is currently unstable, please read this travel warning before going!


Afghanistan is a fairly diverse country ethnically as their largest ethnic group is Pashtuns, but this group makes up less than half the country's population. The Pashtuns are related to the eastern Iranian or Persian groups, making their closest relatives the Balochs and more distantly related to the Persians. The next largest ethnic group is the Tajiks, who make up nearly a third of the country's population and are more closely related to the Persians. Among the numerous other ethnic groups in the country are the Hazara (Iranian people), Uzbeks (Turkic people), Balochs (Iranian people), and Turkmen (Turkic people) among many others.


The two official languages of Afghanistan are Dari (or Afghan Persian) and Pashto. Dari is an eastern Iranian language, which is nearly identical to Persian (or Farsi), which is spoken in Iran and Tajik, which is spoken in Tajikistan. Dari has some slight differences from Persian and Tajik, but is spoken by most of the ethnic Tajiks in the country. Pashto is also an Iranian language, which is primarily spoken by the ethnic Pashtuns; it is more distantly related to Dari and Persian. Both languages are written in the Arabic script using the Persian alphabet.

The next most commonly spoken languages are Uzbek and Turkmen, both Turkic languages are spoken by minority groups. In addition to these languages, there are dozens of others spoken in Afghanistan by the many minority groups in the country.


Nearly every citizen of Afghanistan is Muslim. 80% of the population is Sunni Muslim while about 19% is Shia Muslim. Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Afghanistan is fairly conservative in how they practice Islam.

Most Muslims are Sunni, which is the branch of Islam that closely follows the teachings of Muhammad and accepts Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (a ruler of an Islamic community); the Sunni Muslims are sometimes referred to Orthodox. Shia Muslims believe only God can chose who heads the Islamic community and believed it was Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law who was first chosen; Ali became the first Imam (according to Shia Muslims, this term only refers to the leaders of the faith, to Sunni Muslims Imam is often times used in reference to the prayer leader in mosques).

This page was last updated: May, 2014