History of Kabul

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The history of Kabul, the Afghan capital and the most beloved place of all by the great Babur who, after defining it as “Heaven on earth”, was buried here

The words of Ibn Battuta

“Then we went to Kabul, a once important city and now reduced to a simple village inhabited by a Persian group, the so-called Afghans, who control mountains and passes and have a strong power, but are largely brigands”

The origins of Kabul

The exact origins of Kabul still remain unknown today, however both in the Avesta, the sacred text of the Zoroastrians, and in the Ringveda, one of the sacred books of the Hindus, a city on the Kabul river called Kubha is mentioned and this suggests that it may have arisen around to 1500 BC . In any case, the settlement officially became part of history when it became the territory of the Medes, who were then conquered by the Achaemenids of Cyrus the Great, who transformed it into one of the major centers of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism in Central Asia.

Mes Aynak, about 50 km from Kabul

The Persian dominion was followed by that of Alexander the great, whose death led to a long situation of instability that saw an incredible succession of dynasties such as: the Seleucids, the Maurya Empire, the Greco-Bactrians, the Indo-Scythians, the Kushan Empire , the Sassanids, the Kidarites, the Ephthalites and the Turk Shahi.

Arabs and Mongols

The first arrival of the Arabs in these lands dates back to 642, however at the time Kabul and much of today’s Afghanistan resisted the arrival of the new rulers, who, de facto, limited themselves to bringing Islam to the region. The first Islamic dynasty that imposed itself here was that of the Saffarids who, in 861, by conquering much of today’s Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, gave birth to its potentate. However, it is good to specify that, unlike what is often told, under the Sapphires most of Kabul and its territories still followed the ancient local religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. In fact, Islam took centuries to establish itself in the region; this is testified by the great Persian geographer Istakhri, who visited the city in 921, finding himself surprised by the large number of faithful of “Indian religions”.


However, with the collapse of the Saffarids the region returned to chaos again, becoming prey to many dynasties such as: Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, the Chorasmian Empire, the Qarlughids and finally the Mongols of Genghis Khan. The latter left power in the hands of their vassals Kartidi, a dynasty of Tajik origin related to the Ghurids, which dominated much of today’s Afghanistan until the arrival of the new great Mongol lord: Timur.

Babur and the Mughals

Under the Timurid dynasty Kabul flourished like never before, becoming one of the most beautiful places in Asia and the world. As proof of this, it is absolutely necessary to testify the love for her felt by Babur, last lord of the Timurids and first lord of the Mughals. Around 1504 the Uzbeks conquered Bukhara and Samarkand, but the great ruler did everything to keep control of his beloved Kabul, transforming it into one of the most beautiful cities of his new dynasty. This love was so strong and intense that over and over in his memories he compares it to Paradise, so much so that he was buried right there, in the garden that still bears his name today.

Bāgh-e Bābur, “the Garden of Babur”

Kabul then remained in the hands of the Mughals for the next 200 years, becoming one of the richest, most strategic and important places ever. In fact, countless bazaars and gardens were built, moreover some of the greatest Mughal emperors left from here for their conquests in Central Asia. In 1738 she was captured by Nader Shah, passing, after just 9 years, to the Durrani dynasty.

The Durrani and the clashes with the British

The latter is considered among the most important and influential lineages in the entire Pashtun and Afghan history, as it was they who formed the backbone of today’s state. If Ahmad Shah, the founder of the dynasty, is the one who will conquer Kabul, the one who will bring it back to life will be the son, Timur Shah, moving the capital from Kandahar to this city. At the time, in fact, Kabul had gone from having more than 60,000 inhabitants to just 10,000, losing the status of past glory. With the arrival of Timur Shah and his son, Zaman Shah, however, everything changed and incredible public and religious offices were built here, so much so that, according to some European travelers, it was “the most beautiful and cleanest city in all of Asia”.

The First Anglo-Afghan War

With the weakening of the Durrani, the Barakzai dynasty made its way which, thanks to the ingenious ideas of its founder, Dost Mohammed Khan, managed to drive out first its ancient masters and then even the English, who had found puppets for the their “Great Game”. The clash with the perfidious Albion will however be long and demanding, so much so that only in 1919 with the treaty of Rawalpindi did Afghanistan become completely independent; the price to pay, however, will be to accept the “Durand Line” as borders, something that the Afghans never fully digested, so much so that even Hamid Karzai repeatedly declared himself against it.

From the Kingdom of Afghanistan to the Taliban’s Afghanistan

Once the British threat was definitively arrested, the Afghan sovereigns did their utmost to modernize the country and its infrastructures, often relying on countries such as France, Germany and Italy, managing in a very short time to become one of the richest and most important from all over Asia. The main architect of this transformation was without a shadow of a doubt Mohammed Zahir Shah, who ruled the country from 1933 to 1973, the year in which, while visiting Italy, he was dismissed by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan. He founded the Republic of Afghanistan, which lasted just 5 years before becoming the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, a satellite state of the Soviet Union.


This meant that the US and Pakistan gave life to the so-called “Operation Cyclone”, one of the longest and most expensive operations of the CIA, which aimed to support, with huge logistical, economic and military aid, the jihadist militants present in the area, way to make life impossible for the newly formed pro-Soviet republic. Over time this will prove to be extremely effective, so much so that in 1989 the definitive Soviet withdrawal from the country took place, however, giving rise to the Afghan Civil War, which only ended in 1992 with the foundation of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. The clash, however, was far from over and from 1992 to 1996 there will be a new civil war, which saw the Taliban as winners, who, in 1996, will enter Kabul giving life to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, destined to last. until the arrival of the Americans in 2001. However, the Taliban were only defeated, not annihilated, and this meant that, when the Yankees left the country in 2021, the capital and the country as a whole were recaptured by their militias.

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