Pashto, known as Afghan in Farsi and Pathan in Punjabi (the two languages being located on either side of Pashto), is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and west of the Indus River in Pakistan. It is a member of the Eastern Iranian languages group spoken in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as by the Pashtun diaspora around the world.
Pashto belongs to the Northeastern branch of the Indo-Iranian language family, although Ethnologue lists it as Southeastern. The number of Pashtuns or Pashto-speakers is estimated 50-60 million people world wide.
In Pakistan, Pashto is the first language of about 15.42% of Pakistan’s 170 million people. It is the main language of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and northwestern Balochistan, but also spoken in parts of Mianwali and Attock districts of the Punjab province as well as by Pashtuns who are found living in different cities throughout the country. Modern Pashto-speaking communities are also found in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh. In 1984, Pashto was permitted to be used as the medium of instruction in primary schools.
Other communities of Pashto speakers are found in northeastern Iran, primarily in South Khorasan Province to the east of Qaen, near the Afghan border, and in Tajikistan. There are also communities of Pashtun communities descent in the southwestern part of Jammu and Kashmir.
Afghan traditional head jewellery
Table Manners from Afghanistan
o Hospitality is an essential aspect of Afghan culture.
o No matter who you are, if you visit a home you will be given the best the family has.
o This relates back to the idea of gaining honor.
o If you are invited for tea, which you inevitably will be, you will be offered snacks and your tea glass will be constantly filled. When you have had enough cover the glass with your hand and say “bus” (meaning ‘enough’).
- The breaking of bread, a common mealtime food
- Guests are always seated farthest from the door; when there are no guests the grandparents are seated farthest away from the door.
- Depending on the customs of the household, a prayer may be offered before and/or after the meal.
- Guests are offered food first and expected to eat the most, while the hosts begin to eat last and the least.
- Guests should refrain from eating too much, unless the hosts coax them to eat more, which he/she almost always will. A host who coaxes his/her guests is considered a good, gracious host. The host should always ask at least three times if the guest wants more food, and the guest should refuse at least three times.
- Guests are always given the best portions of the food. Refusing to eat however is considered bad manners, and guests should eat. Likewise, failure to offer food or to be attentive is considered bad manners for a host.
- Traditionally food is eaten with bare hands. However, cutlery is sometimes provided, depending on the private culture of the host. Only the right hand should be used when eating with your hands. There are proper ways of picking up rice and other loose food without spilling any, which one should learn and practice. Wasting food is frowned upon. When cutlery is provided it is usually a spoon and fork, since there is seldom need for the use of a knife when eating Afghani food. Even when cutlery is provided it is acceptable to eat with your hands as well.
- Soup may be eaten by soaking bread in it.
- Food remnants should be collected with slices of bread.
- Sometimes it is common to eat collectively from one large plate. One should always eat from one’s own side.
- If bread is dropped on the floor while eating at a table, the bread should be picked up, kissed, and put to one’s forehead before putting the bread back somewhere other than the floor. If eating on the floor, make sure that your feet do not touch the food.
- Compliments to the chef are customary; however, compliments should be acknowledged with extreme modesty.
- Traditionally, service during dinner is performed by the young ones.
- First, water is brought in a jug (afthawa) with a very large saucer (thaee-disti) to wash the hands. The jug and saucer usually are made of some sort of metal. The person bringing the jug and the saucer is apologized by the person who washes his/her hands.
- Large table cloth (Distarkho) is spread over which food is served.
- Everyone starts reciting “Bismillah-er-Rahman-er-Raheem” (In the name of Allah The Most Merciful, The Most Beneficient)
- The food is then served.
- Special prayers are recited by the eldest in the guests.
- Food may be followed by fruit and then tea.
- Tea is mustily served after dinner, with dried fruits, sweets, and sugar cubes. When tea is served, the cup of a guest must never be empty, and snacks must be offered. The guest should never be asked if he or she wants tea. The host should simply serve the tea. A guest never serves him or herself tea, nor performs a refill. The host must be attentive and refill tea cups until the guest is satiated. Afghans drink a great amount of tea and having 2–3 cups of tea at a sitting is common. Once the guest has finished drinking tea, the guest can flip their tea cup over to signal that they are done.
- Eating or talking with one’s mouth full is frowned upon.
- Even if one is extremely hungry, one should refrain from being over-zealous at the table.
- One must never sit with one’s back to anyone, especially an elder or a guest. One must never sit with feet stretched out toward anyone, especially an elder or a guest.
- After eating, the jug of water is brought out again to wash hands. A towel may be provided.