Two of the more intriguing and beautiful customs I’ve learned about Afghanistan recently are extremely different types of activities: Kite Running and Tea Drinking. Here is some more information about these two popular past-times of this mysterious country.
1. Kite Running
Although soccer is an extremely popular recreational activity in Afghanistan, kite running is also popular, especially for young boys. (You may have heard of a popular 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini called The Kite Runner?!) Kite running and soccer were actually both banned under the Taliban regime (it was “wasteful” to spend money on kite materials and both activities wasted time) but are now permitted again. Kite running is more than just kite-flying, it is more like fighting with kites! This is a popular past-time because kites can be fairly cheap to produce and in a country with a diverse geographic landscape, kite flying is more practical at times than sports like soccer. I liked this custom because it seems that there are so many ugly facts about this beautiful country, but this custom has so much fun and beauty to it. Here is a short video that discusses kite running: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfeNUaKxufA
Here is a NY Times article about Kite Running in Afghanistan http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/world/asia/14iht-kites.4.8751433.html
2. Tea with guests
I know that having tea is certainly not an exclusively Afghan custom, but it is an integral part of their culture. For a country that does not have an “ethnic majority” and is extraordinarily diverse in most other aspects of culture, extending hospitality is probably the most predominant theme that permeates the country. Tea is a popular drink in Afghanistan, but especially when having guests. All guests should expect to be served tea and snacks, often chocolates, pistachios and almonds. Guests will be encouraged to eat and drink and be offered refills unless they turn their cup upside down or cover the top of their cup with their hand signaling they’ve had enough. (I witnessed this firsthand at my home visit!) Hospitality is so vital to Afghan culture that children’s stories integrate the theme of hospitality and hosts would be dishonored if they felt that their hospitality wasn’t accepted or wasn’t adequate for their guests. Afghans could even be compared to the British in the amount of tea they consume, except they have to import all of their tea! I found a really neat blog that shares some recipes and she has guest bloggers that discuss the importance of tea to the people of Afghanistan.