Mazar e Sharif which can be spelled Mazar-i-Sharif as well is one of the key and largest cities in north of Afghanistan with the estimated population of /300,600/ people.
Mazar e Sharif is the capital of Balkh province with existence of multi-ethnic groups such as Uzbeks, Turkmen, Tajiks and Hazaras. In literary Mazar-e-sharif means ‘Respected Shrine’ but the city is known by tourists as city of the blue mosque which is located in the center of the city known as the Shrine of Hazrat Ali.
It’s believed and respected by Muslims that inside of the tomb, Hazrat Ali Ebn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Muslim’s Prophet Mohammad (Peace Blessing Upon Him) is buried. People goes there all the time but mostly hundreds of people get together on the first day of the new year from all over the country as well as from the neighbor countries to celebrate the first day of the new year by praying to God for happiness, peace and prosperity throughout the year.
The city is linked by road to Kabul province in the south-east, Herat to the west and Uzbekistan to the north. The city is a major tourist attraction because of its famous Muslim and Hellenistic archeological sites. The spoken language in Marzar e Sharif is mostly Dari, Uzbaki and Turkmani.
According to tradition, Mazar-e-Sharif city owes its existence to a dream. At the beginning of the 1100s, a local mullah (Religious Guide) had a dream that Hazrat Ali bin Abi Talib, Our prophet's cousin and son-in-law as well as one of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs appeared to reveal that he had been secretly buried near the city of Balkh. After the research and investigation, the Sultan Sanjar Seljuki which he was the sultan of the Great Seljuq Empire from 1118 to 1153 and the ruler of most of Persia (Parsyaan) with his capital at Nishapur ordered to build a shrine on the spot, where it stood until now.
It’s worth to mention that the actual grave or shrine of Hazrat Ali is in Najaf Iraq next to Kufa where he was martyred. During the Soviet invasion, Mazar-i-Sharif city was a strategic base for the Soviet Army, as they used its airport to launch air strikes on Afghan Mujahideen in late 1980s. In the early 1990s, after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, control of Mazar was contested by the Tajik militias as (Jameyat-e Islami) or Islamic United by Ahmad Shah Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani, and the Uzbek militia (Junbesh-e Melli) or National Movement which was led by Abdul Rashid Dostum.
By that time, the city was under the control and command of Dostum, who revolted against Dr. Najibullah's regime in 1992 and established the autonomous administration of North Afghanistan with the aid and support of Ahmad Shah Massoud. From early 1990s to 1997 they city was a peaceful city under Dostum’s control or by Junbesh-e-Melli (National Movement militias, as the rest of the country was taken over by the Taliban. During that time Dostum strengthened strong political ties with central Asia such as Uzbekistan and Turkey and he has printed his own Afghan currency as well as establishment of his own airline.
In May of 1997 this peace has been broken by one of his main generals ‘Pahlawan Abdul Malik’ and he betrayed and fled from Mazar to his neighbor allies and the Taliban found the chance to get ready and take over the city. Between May and July of 1997, the Taliban attempted to take over Mazar e Sharif but it was unsuccessful attempt and approximately 3,000 Taliban fighters have been massacred by Abdul Malik and his militias.
In August 1998, in retaliation for the incident, the Taliban repeatedly returned and led a six-day killing of Hazaras and other local people of the region. Soon after, the city was occupied and taken over by the Taliban which was the last city that they captured. Soon after, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia extended official recognition to the regime of Taliban in Afghanistan. After the 9/11, on November of 2001 Mazar e Sharif was the first city that fell back into the Afghan Northern Alliance (former militias) with support of US troops.
Currently Mazar-i-Sharif province is under control of the Afghan government which is led by President Hamid Karzai. There is also existence of 'NATO' peace keeping forces in and around the city providing assistance to the new government. The German lead forces in the structure of ISAF ‘International Security Assistance Forces’ regional command is based in the north called the Marmal Camp which is near to the Mazar e sharif airport. There is also the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in they city which led by Swedish, Norwegian and Latvian forces.
Climate of Mazar e Sharif Afghanistan is very hot during the summer with daily temperature of over 50ºC in June, July and August. The winter is really cold with the temperature of below the zero. Spring and autumn are nice with moderate temperature.
The local economy is mostly dominated by agriculture and karakul (lamb skin) productions but there is a small percentage scale of oil and gas exploitations as well. The trade with Uzbekistan via the Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge over the river Darya-e- Amu is common too.
The traditional sport in Mazar e Sharif Afghanistan is ‘Buzkashi’ ( The horse riding with having a calf in hand) which is a local sport and the city is known for this famous game.
Balkh province is divided into ten districts and each district is divided into several Gozars or neighborhoods. Currently there are 157 Gozars in Balkh province of Afghanistan and many of the neighborhoods are dominated by Uzbeks. Mazari Sharif is the center of Afghanistan's former rug and carpet industry and in the past the region was the center of cotton and silk industries as well.
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The current governor of Balkh province is ‘Atta Mohamad Noor’ which was appointed by the ministry of Interior.