Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Context and Culture

Happy Nawruz: Wishing peace and happiness to AAN readers

AAN Team 5 min

After a cold winter, spring has finally arrived. By 1 Hamal 1397, in every corner of Kabul city, greenhouses are being reopened with a variety of trees and flowers on sale. AAN team would link to wish all our readers and friends a blessed and peaceful year. We wanted to brighten up your day (further) with some beautiful photos of flowers and greenery in Kabul city.

Nurullah, a farmer selling spring flowers ahead of Nawruz in Kabul. Photo: Obaid Ali 2018Nurullah, a farmer selling spring flowers ahead of Nawruz in Kabul. Photo: Obaid Ali 2018

Read about Nawruz dishes, spring-themed poetry and arguments for and against the ‘lawfulness’ of Nawruz in Islam here.


نوی کال مو مبارک شه

دافغانستان د تحلیلګرانو شبکه ټولو هیوادوالو ته د نوی ۱۳۹۷ لمریز کال مبارکی وايی او هیله لری چي دا کال به په هیواد کی د سولي او د ملت د هوساینی کال وي.


سال نو تان مبارک

شبکه تحلیلگران افغانستان سال نو ۱۳۹۷ خورشیدی را به تمامی هموطنان تبریک و تهنیت عرض نموده و سال صلح و صفا برای افغانستان عزیز آرزو  میدارد.

The Afghanistan Analysts Network wishes happy New Year for all its Afghan readers, friends and colleagues. AAN team wishes 1397 a peaceful and a blessed year for all Afghans.

Wheat growing ready to be harvested to make samanak, a kind of sweetmeal cooked once a year to celebrate Nawruz. Some families sing this song, while stirring the mixture, usually cooked for all of a day or a night:

Samanak dar jush ma kapcha zanem

digaran dar khob ma dabcha zanem

samanak nazr-e bahar ast

samanak sal-e yak bar ast

dokhtarha gerdesh khatar ast

sal-e digar ya nassib

Samanak is boiling and we stir it with spoons

The others are sleeping, we make our ladles resound

Samanak is the offering of spring

Samanak comes once a year

The girls are sitting around it

One more year of good luck (1)

Springtime is also associated with flowers. We visited this greenhouse in Kabul which Nurullah had just re-opened. With winter ending and the soil warming up and hopefully well watered after rain and snow, it is the time for Kabulis, lucky enough to have gardens, to plant flowers and trees. Prices for plants range from 200 Afs to 5000 Afs (USD 3-70), depending on the type of flower. “I grew up with flowers,” he told AAN. “My father is a farmer and I learned how to plant flowers from him.” It is, he said, a lovely business, “These beautiful blossoms and colourful flowers give me energy.”

Some Kabulis also want to buy grass. Naser brings in turf from outside the city and sells it in the capital for 30 USD a truckload. “Hamal [the first month of the Afghan calendar, 21 March–20 April],” he said, “is the month when people buy grass for their gardens.”

Apparently, too, a seller of goldfish told us, at the beginning of the year, people refurbish their homes and some people “love to have goldfish in their homes.”

Whatever you are doing this Nawruz, we hope it is just the start of a happy and peaceful year.

(1) In 2014, we gave readers more details about this special Nawruz dish:

Samanak is made in a very special ceremony and lots of effort: ten to 15 days are required to prepare it. First, families buy some top-quality wheat (the amount depending on the size of the family) and clean it well. Then they soak it in water for a few days until it gradually germinates and white roots become visible. The wheat is taken out of the water, laid on a tray and then covered with a white, clean piece of cloth. The tray is placed in a room with normal temperature where nobody has access or can see it. One member of the family takes responsibility for watering it daily, and that person should be in a state of ritual purity when touching the wheat. It is believed that if an unclean hand touches it or if it is accessible to anyone else, it will become mildewed or spoiled.  

In ten to 15 days, the wheat grows sufficiently to produce thick white roots and above them green blades. Then all the women and girls of the household (sometimes men or boys too) and often some neighbours, gather round the tray containing the germinated wheat. Everyone makes a wish in their hearts and starts to cut the green blades with scissors. If the number of blades he or she cuts is odd, it is believed that person’s wish will come true that year.

The wheat sprouts are cut until only the roots remain. Then the roots are further cut in seven pieces and these are passed one by one through a mincer three times until they release all their water and totally dry up. Once again, the remnants of the wheat roots are soaked in water and pressed in the machine so that all of their ‘sweet water’ comes out. The roots, now dry, are set apart, but not thrown away with ordinary rubbish. The water produced by the roots is in turn put in a very big pot (in Dari, pots are listed according to their capacity as yaksira, dosira, etc. Sir is a measurement unit, usually of about seven kilogrammes).

Then flour, depending on the amount of sweet water, is added to the pot and mixed well. A fireplace is prepared and the pot – in the old days, at least – put on a fire of wood, its contents stirred continuously with a long spoon. Samanak takes a long time to cook, usually a whole day or night. In the past, the night time was preferred so that the all-family task of stirring the samanak could be accompanied by singing and dancing throughout

During the cooking of the samanak, everyone takes part in stirring and mixing until it is ready. Sometimes the dish can become so thick that people use a long wooden stick instead of a spoon to stir. While cooking, they add whole walnuts to give it a brown hue. When the colour is achieved and the samanak cooked to the consistency of a pudding, they take it off the fire and put pieces of charcoal on the pot’s lid for one or two hours. After this, the samanak is finally ready, and is distributed among all who participated in preparing it as well as to visiting neighbours, relatives and friends. Go get your bowls ready!