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The People
Most of Bamyan’s people are Hazaras, although Tajiks and Pushtuns also live in the east of the province. Afghanistan’s mountainous heartland, with Bamyan at its centre, is known as the Hazarajat. It is often claimed that the Hazaras are descended from Mongol and Turkic military settlers who came to the area after the invasion of Genghis Khan in the late 13th century. This theory however finds little favour among most academics. Today’s Hazaras are most likely the descendants of Turkic and other groups who have passed through the region over the millennia. Their closest ancestors are probably people who arrived between the 13th and 15th centuries.

The Hazaras speak a dialect of Persian (Dari) known as Hazaragi, which contains some elements of Mongolian vocabulary. Most Hazaras are Shia Muslims, unlike the majority of Afghanistan’s people, who are Sunnis. Shiism is thought to have been adopted in the early 17th century.

The Hazarajat was semi-autonomous under its own tribal system until well into the 19th century. In the later 19th century the nation-building king, Abdur Rahman Khan, asserted his control over the area. At this time many Hazaras fled to Baluchistan or Iran.
The Hazara identity has survived with its own particular style of music, culture and poetry. Hazara folk poetry is still popular, sometimes as simple recitation, at other times accompanied by music. Love lyrics are often sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument. Unaccompanied poetry is sung or yodelled by herdsmen in the mountains, or at festivals. One particular lament often sung by women during times of intense grief or mourning is called the Makhta and is thought to have originated during the troubles in the late 19th century.

The local economy is based on animal husbandry, farming (mostly wheat) and small scale retailing. Because of the altitude and the arid climate, farming is marginal in much of Bamyan and it has always been a poor and difficult area to live. In the 1970s tourism brought a significant number of visitors to the area. It is hoped that a revival of tourism could bring new jobs and opportunities to the province.


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