Afghanistan: Yellow Spices and Blue Stones
Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordered by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north, a thin strip of China to the northeast, Pakistan to the east and southeast, and Iran to the west. The country enjoys a strategically important position and was known throughout history as a gateway to South Asia.
The country is largely mountainous, and with highlands and mountains accounting for four-fifths of the whole country, transport links are poor. Most of the country's rivers are inland rivers, and any water from rain and melting snow mostly flows into the inland lakes and deserts. Its continental climate is characterised by cold winters, hot summers, large temperature differences between day and night, and an overall lack of rainfall.
Afghanistan is rich in mineral resources, including about 150 billion cu.m of natural gas reserves, 100 million tons of coal reserves, 300 million tons of salt reserves, 1,300 tons of lapis lazuli, 1.7 billion tons of iron ore reserves and 500 million tons of copper ore reserves. However, in spite of its rich mineral resources, only a very small percentage of its natural gas, coal, salt and chrome resources have been exploited. Its other mineral deposits are generally undeveloped because of poor transportation and a lack of funding.
Following many years of war, Afghanistan's industrial base has almost collapsed. The industrial sector is dominated by light industry and handicrafts such as textiles, fertiliser, cement, leather, carpets, electricity, sugar and metal manufacturing, as well as agricultural and fruit processing. As the main pillars of its national economy, agriculture and animal husbandry continue to be developed at full strength. The main crops in Afghanistan are wheat, cotton, beets and fruit, and the main livestock animals include fat-tailed sheep, cattle and goats. Farmers account for 80 percent of the country's population, yet less than 10 percent of the total land area can be tilled.
In recent years, Afghanistan has been vigorously promoting the cultivation of saffron in an attempt to create a new cash crop for the country. Afghan saffron is one of the most valuable perfumes in the world, and it has become an indispensable part of the daily lives of the local people. It is used as a spice when cooking and also added to drinks, as well as being a valuable herbal medicine that increases blood circulation and relieves pain. The country's dry and sunny weather make it suitable for growing the plant, which is why production is increasing and has become known as a new economic lifeline of Afghanistan. At the third “Colourful World” event, saffron exhibited in the Afghanistan booth attracted many visitors interested in health care.
There were also antiques, gold, gemstones, exquisite carpets and lapis lazuli jewellery on display at the exhibition. The beautiful handmade lapis lazuli jewellery in particular attracted many visitors. Lapis lazuli is known as the national stone of Afghanistan, with Badakhshan province being the main source of the precious stone anywhere in the world. As a unique and rare stone, it is composed of blue minerals, contains pyrite, calcite and other minerals and appears dark blue, light blue or pure cyan. For Chinese people, accessories made from this gemstone are still relatively novel, so jewellery designers at the exhibition patiently explained the history, culture and design concepts behind their “national stone.”