National Geographic : 1921 Jan
EVERY-DAY LIFE IN AFGHANISTAN age, especially in the northern parts of the country, where boys of fourteen marry girls of not more than ten or twelve years of age. Amir Habibullah Khan (who was as sassinated in 1919) had a harem of over 100oo women, and among these, strangely enough, were a few Europeans. The present Amir, Amanullah Khan, has but one wife. The women of Afghanistan are kept in more rigid seclusion and are more closely veiled than the women of any other Moslem land. The Afghan is notoriously jealous of his harem, and few indeed are the men of the outside world who have ever looked on the face of an Afghan woman of the towns. With the desert women, wives and daughters of the nomads, it is different; the Koran permits them to go unveiled. AIGIIAN WOMEN ARE NOT TAUGHT TO READ OR WRITE Like the Arab, the Afghan considers it unnecessary and even unwise that women should learn to read or write. No girls are admitted to the bazaar schools and no mullahs are employed to teach them, and Afghanistan knows nothing of women teachers. In spite of their illiteracy, however, many individual Afghan women wield no little influence in tribal affairs, and, as a rule, the wives of the upper classes lead a comfortable and apparently happy life. They are lavishly provided with every luxury of food and dress which Afghan means can afford, and they visit con stantly from one harem to another to gossip, sing, and play games. To be left childless is counted life's saddest misfor tune. About the time the little girls of the family put on their veils, the boys of the same age must begin their studies. First of all, a boy is taught to ride; then to hunt and shoot. The horse is the Afghan's constant companion. The education of middle and lower class boys is in charge of the mullahs, or teachers. Usually a shabby house or convenient nook in the bazaar is utilized as a school-room, the boys sitting on the floor and studying aloud. The pupils are often surrounded by an interested group of long-haired, wild-looking camel-driv ers or visiting nomads. The government contributes nothing to maintain public schools. Often the better families send their sons to be educated at universities in India. Few Afghans have acquired any con siderable knowledge by travel in other countries.* The late Habibullah Khan probably surpassed all his subjects in in tellectual attainments, for he had special ized in history and the sciences. Next to him, the most educated Afghan of today is the editor of the only Afghan news paper, the Saradj-ul-Akhbar. This editor, who has traveled much in India and Turkey, is at the present time also hold ing the position of Mlinister of Foreign Affairs. The longest journey any Afghan has ever undertaken was made by Nasrullah Khan, the brother of tl: murdered Amir, who traveled to England in 1895. The present Amir has never left his country; his brother, however, has been in India several times. Yet, on the whole, an eager desire for learning is innate in every Afghan, and of late years not only Indian, but also British, culture and _ustoms have begun to influence the better classes of the people. The Afghans call their language "Push too." For official matters, however, the Persian idiom is used and understood over most of the country. The Turkish and Mongolian tribes in western and central Afghanistan speak their own tongues. The ruling Amir knows Per sian, some Pushtoo, and Turkish. THE AMIR LOVES PICTURES AND IS A GOOD AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER Foreign newspapers, most of them coming from India, are most carefully read at the Amir's court, where they are translated by hired students trained in India. The Amir delights in illustrated newspapers and is himself a fairly good photographer. The Afghan works no more than is absolutely necessary to make his living. The upper classes consider it their privi *The only considerable group of Afghans who seem ever to have gotten far from home is a colony of men taken to Australia some years ago for handling camel caravans on the Australian deserts.