Unique new year festival in Mazar-e Sharif

Afghanistan recaptures its cultural position in the region, hosting international festival celebrating Nawrooz, new year, in Mazar-e Sharif. Read the translation of the article about the festival by the Afghan news agency Quqnoos below.

Updated: (3.21.2009)

By www.quqnoos.com

This year's Nawrooz-atmosphere in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif has something entirely new compared to previous celebrations.

Joint festivity with the neighboring countries Iran and Tajikistan - the two countries sharing similar culture and language with Afghanistan - sparks hope for repositioning Afghanistan's cultural entity.

Based on the previous arrangements, Iran's Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki and Tajikistan's Foreign Minister Hamrakhan Zarifi attended the fabulous celebration in Mazar-e Sharif city, the centre of the northern Balkh province.

Days before the arrival of New Year, thousands of Afghans from across the country passed long journeys to witness the festival in the shrine of the Islam fortress Caliph Hazrat-e Ali.

To protect the Nawrooz cheeriness from any security disturbance, dozens of checkpoints have been installed in the entrance gates of the city, searching every single visitor to the province.

Balkh is arelatively peaceful province in the Afghan north region, but during last year's Nawrooz festival, the insurgents planted and detonated explosive devices close to the Shrine.

At the ceremony on Saturday morning, the Afghan Minster of Information and Culture, Abdul Karim Khuram, recited a message of President Karzai wishing Afghan citizens a prosperous and peaceful new year.

In a part of the written message, President Karzai called last year "challenging merged with insecurities", but he hoped this year will mark a new chapter for the country and lead Afghanistan towards prosperity.

The remarkable number of women who appeared at the shrine top participate in the celebration has also given a different impression of the festival.

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