Saturday, 22 June, 2024

Located in Central Asia with Iran to the west and Pakistan to the east, Afghanistan sits at the crossroads of Asia and the Middle East. That’s made it a hot spot for invaders from all directions for millennia. From Darius I of Babylonia and Alexander the Great to Great Britain, Russia, and the United States, superpowers in every century have tried — and failed — to tame the tribal warriors of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s terrain is rugged — and in some places, stunningly beautiful — with deep gorges and river valleys, deserts, snow-topped mountains, and irrigated land used for farming. It’s best known for pomegranates — some say Afghan pomegranates are the best in the world. And poppies. Heroin made from opium grown in Afghanistan makes up 95% of the market in Europe.

Afghanistan is a culturally conservative and religious nation. Reputation is the most valuable social commodity, which forces both men and women to comply with a web of strict social rules. An estimated 99.7% of the Afghan population is Muslim. And that faith plays out in dress, dietary codes, regular prayer, language, and social interactions.

our podcast

In this episode, we get curious about Afghanistan’s violent history, its tribal and social customs, and the rise of the Taliban. Then we discuss five books that gave us a better understanding of the whole situation. From reportage to history to a literary crime novel, these books illuminate a vivid picture of this remarkable, challenging country. (show notes / transcript)

recommended books

The Underground Girls of Kabul

buy | read review

Games Without Rules

buy | read review

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

buy | read review

The Taliban Shuffle

buy | read review

The Taliban Shuffle

buy | read review

The Opium Prince

buy | read review

Top image courtesy of Basir Ahmad Salehi/Shutterstock.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

featured posts

We usually focus our show on destinations you'd like to visit. Afghanistan is likely not one of those places. But with the withdrawal of the US military, now is a good time to be empathetic and curious about Afghans.
This work by Afghan poet Roya cuts to the bone with sharp imagery and four simple words: Not an Afghan woman. It's a plea and a protest and — most of all — an assertion of self-worth that shouts in quiet phrases.
Bread is often more than food. Yes, it's physical sustenance. But it can also be a symbol of comfort, prosperity, or warm hospitality — we literally break bread with others to connect and form bonds of friendship.
Afghanistan is most likely not at the top of your travel list, but it's a fascinating country that deserves our attention and empathy. Dive into its rich history, stunningly beautiful terrain, and warrior heart.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.