Cities Seeking Cities Spotlight: Herat, Afghanistan

09/22/2014

Herat, Afghanistan is seeking a sister city! With a rich cultural and demographic landscape, Herat has several programmatic areas of interest. Located in western Afghanistan, Herat city, has been an international trading city since before Alexander the Great. Herat province, with its three million inhabitants, is the second largest in Afghanistan and is a vibrant region where economy, education, and culture thrive.

In the private sector, Herat was the first in Afghanistan to establish an industrial park on land opposite the airport. More than 200 small factories produce construction materials, rebar, plastic tubing and pipes, three-wheeler taxis known locally as “Zaranj’es,” ice cream and other dairy products, and processed foods. 

More than two dozen marble workshops cut and polish the high quality, valuable white “Chesht-e Sharif marble” quarried in the province. Local marble industry entrepreneurs are trying to take their industry to the next level with foreign investment. Herat’s mineral potential is great, with deposits of copper, lithium, iron, oil, and natural gas, but not yet realized. Several IT start-up companies are flourishing in Herat, looking to export their software services outside of Afghanistan.

In terms of agriculture, Herat’s traditional export crop is wheat, while Herati grapes are famous throughout the region. Since they do not produce wine, Heratis export raisins and other dried fruits. Pomegranates, plums, apricots, peaches, apples, melons, okra, tomatoes, and cucumbers are also in bountiful supply. A new high value crop, Saffron, grows is grown and exported from the region. Additionally, Afghanistan is the world’s second largest exporter of raw cashmere and Herat province is the main collection point for cashmere traders.

Another area of interest for Herat is educational exchange. Although some areas of Afghanistan still have low school attendance rates for girls, Herat has made significant progress in expanding its public school system since the fall of the Taliban with approximately 800,000 students enrolled. Herat University, the second largest in Afghanistan, has particularly strong faculties in engineering, information technology, agriculture, fine arts, journalism, political science, and law. Women comprise about 30 per cent of the Herat University student body.  

In the past, Herat University has partnered with University of California at Davis in agriculture, San Jose State University in journalism, University of Washington in Seattle in law and political science, and the Colorado School of Mining. Several American and European professors have taught at Herat University and some Herati professors and students have studied in the U.S. Two Herati students studying at American universities returned to Herat to intern at the Lincoln Learning Center collocated with the Herat Public Library to teach English and run seminars about studying in the U.S. Herati youth are always eager to hone their English proficiency, learn management, business, leadership, and IT skills, and would welcome educational exchange opportunities with a sister city in the future.

Lastly, Heratis take great pride in their rich cultural and artistic heritage. The province possesses more than 800 historical and archaeological sites, only a few of which have been researched and excavated. Some prominent historical landmarks include Jumah Mosque, the five remaining Timurid period minarets; the Mausoleum of Golhar Shad, the Sufi shrine of Gazargah, and the Maliyan Bridge across the Harirud River. A fortress has existed on the site of the present Citadel in the old city of Herat since before Alexander the Great. In the 1970s, the Afghan government decided to turn this fortress into a cultural site. In 2011, after two preservation projects funded by the Department of State’s Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, the Citadel and its German-assisted museum reopened and were rededicated for cultural uses. The two key Afghan workers directing the preservation project were inspired by a trip to the U.S. focused on national parks and museums. 

Eager to share their culture with the U.S., Heratis hope to find a sister city that is similarly keen on engaging with a new global partner. Via digital video conferencing and social media, Heratis can start virtual exchanges and discussions about formulating programs with their new sister city and are open to new programming ideas.

For more detailed information about Herat, please visit www.heratsistercity.org. If your city is interested in partnering with Herat, please e-mail partnerships@sistercities.org.

Is your city seeking a sister city? Visit www.sistercities.org/cities-seeking-cities to put in an inquiry today.

The city of Herat

The city of Herat

Herat Ekhtiaradin Castle (Citadel of Alexander)

Herat Ekhtiaradin Castle (Citadel of Alexander)

Students at Herat University

Students at Herat University

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