Herat is the third largest city in Afghanistan, and serves as the capital of Herat Province. It is situated in the fertile valley of the Hari River and has a population of about 1,765,000.
Herat dates back to the Avestan times and was traditionally known for its wine. The city has a number of historic sites, including the Herat Citadel and the Musallah Complex. During the Middle Ages Herat became one of the important cities of Khorasan, and was known as the Pearl of Khorasan. The city has been governed by a procession of Afghan rulers since the early 18th century. In 1717, the city was invaded by the Hotaki forces, who remained until they were expelled by the Afsharids in 1729. Upon Ahmad Shah Durrani’s rise to power in 1747, Herat became part of Afghanistan.
As with all of Afghanistan, Herat has suffered through political disturbances and military invasions. The 1857 Treaty of Paris ended the hostilities of the Anglo-Persian War, but Herat suffered from extensive destruction during the Soviet war in the 1980s. Fortunately some sections of the city were spared. The occupation by the USA and coalition forces inflicted limited destruction upon the city because it wasn’t in a hotly contested area.
Herat lies on the ancient trade routes of the Middle East, Central and South Asia. Today the city is a regional hub in western Afghanistan being in close proximity to Iran and Turkmenistan. The roads from Herat to Iran, Turkmenistan, and other parts of Afghanistan are strategically important. As the gateway to Iran through the border town of Islam Qala, the city collects significant amounts of customs revenue for Afghanistan. Herat has an international airport, and is linked with Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif via Highway 1.
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