Spotlight on the Bayat Foundation’s Families in Need Program

Dedicated to the education, wellbeing, and health of Afghanistan’s people, the Bayat Foundation strives to help Afghans flourish irrespective of gender, ethnicity, age, religion, or marital status. The foundation was established with the aim of unlocking the potential of every man, woman, and child through a variety of national and regional initiatives.

In this article, we look at the impact of the Bayat Foundation’s Families in Need campaign, which addresses the unique challenges of Afghan families in some of the country’s most remote communities.

The Bayat Foundation supports at-risk families

The Bayat Foundation

Through Bayat Family funds, support from partner NGOs throughout Afghanistan, and the generous support of its patrons, the Bayat Foundation has established numerous campaigns designed to improve the standards of living and prospects for tens of thousands of Afghan families.

In the winter of 2008-09, the Bayat Foundation initiated a Winter Aid program, providing life-saving aid packages containing flour, blankets, and oil to at-risk households throughout many provinces, including Kabul, Sar-e-pul, Faryab, Badakhshan, and Khost.

The Bayat Foundation provided Ramadan assistance in response to COVID-19

As part of its activities to counter the spread of the virus and reduce the negative economic and societal impact, the Bayat Foundation coordinated the distribution of food and essential items across Afghanistan throughout the month of Ramadan.

The packages provided aid to vulnerable families to numerous Afghan provinces, delivering essential items to thousands of displaced workers and their families at a time of unprecedented need.

The Bayat Foundation was founded by Dr. Ehsan Bayat and Mrs. Fatema Bayat

It was established with the mission of creating opportunities for families across Afghanistan. As the founder of the Bayat Group, a parent company of several highly profitable Afghan enterprises in the telecom, media, logistics, industrial infrastructure, and security sectors, Dr. Bayat has implemented at his companies stringent corporate social responsibility policies designed to support sustainable development throughout Afghanistan.

A holdings company, the Bayat Group has subsidiaries including the Ariana Television and Radio Network, Ariana Network Services, Afghan Wireless, and Bayat Energy. With such a large reach, the Bayat Group is uniquely placed to reach communities throughout Afghanistan today.

Through its subsidiaries, the group has helped redefine key sectors of industry, and it is credited with making a significant difference to the Afghan economy. Through its charitable initiatives, the Bayat Group has made a difference in the everyday lives of Afghan citizens.

Afghan Wireless connects millions of Afghan customers at home and abroad. The Ariana Television and Radio Network has helped showcase Afghan culture and arts, providing informative, entertaining, and enlightening programming for viewers across Afghanistan and beyond.

Building on the group’s strong reputation of corporate giving, the Bayat Foundation’s highly effective charitable outreach programs have improved the lives of thousands of Afghans, supporting the nation’s elderly and disadvantaged while simultaneously stimulating national growth via investment in frontier markets, such as gas and oil exploration, development, and production.

The Bayat Foundation is also committed to Afghan children and youth. It invests in medical facilities to ensure healthy births, helps build new schools to provide quality education, and assists in the development of world-class industries and a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure to provide the next generation of Afghans with increased career opportunities.

Among the Bayat Foundation’s considerable achievements over the last 20 years is the construction of 14 hospitals serving over 1.5 million Afghan children and mothers. During the harsh Afghan winter, the Bayat Foundation’s Winter Aid program delivers precious food supplies, warm clothing, and thousands of blankets to families living in Afghanistan’s remotest regions.

The Bayat Foundation is committed to providing continued support to communities throughout Afghanistan, helping the country regain its rightful place as a political, economic, and cultural leader in Central Asia. As Mrs. Fatema Bayat explains, serving Afghans is at the very heart of all of the Bayat Foundation’s activities.

Founded in 2006, the Bayat Foundation strives to improve the lives of millions of Afghans, providing food, clothing, entrepreneurship programs, athletics, orphan care, and much more, delivering support and inspiration to at-risk Afghans.

The Bayat Foundation launched its Family Sponsorship program in 2008

Through the initiative, donors pledge $65 per month to support Afghan families in need. The impact of this modest donation is potentially life-changing. It negates the need for children to beg on the streets, enabling them to attend school, vastly increasing their educational opportunities, and with it, their career prospects and lifetime potential.

The Bayat Foundation has helped lower Afghan maternal and infant mortality rates

Over the past few years, the Bayat Foundation has coordinated the construction of healthcare facilities throughout eight Afghan provinces, providing maternal and newborn care facilities where none existed previously. These 150-bed hospitals serve hundreds of thousands of Afghan women per year, providing life-saving maternity care—for free, in many cases.

Everything You Need to Know about Traditional Afghan Cuisine

Largely based on seasonal produce, dry goods such as wheat, rice, barley, and maize, and dairy products such as milk, whey, and yogurt, Afghan cuisine is often described as a fusion between Indian and Middle Eastern cookery. In this article, we look at a selection of revered Afghan dishes and their place in Afghan history.

Rice Dishes

Rice is the most important cultural component of most Afghan meals, and a great deal of time and effort is expended in creating rice dishes. Wealthy Afghan families typically consume one rice dish each day. In times gone by, royal Afghan households committed much time to the invention and preparation of elaborate rice dishes, as evidenced by the plethora available in Afghanistan today. Family gatherings such as weddings and holiday celebrations typically incorporate several rice dishes, with the reputations of Afghan cooks made and broken by their skill with rice preparation.

There are several different types of Afghan rice recipes. Challow rice, for instance, is traditionally served with qormah, casseroles, and stews. Challow is white rice that is boiled in saltwater before being drained and baked in an oven.

rice

Kabuli palaw, Afghanistan’s national dish, is cooked in the same way as challow, but it is prepared with meat and stock and infused with herbs and spices before being baked. This result is an elaborate dish comprising a variety of flavors, colors, and aromas. Caramelized sugar is often incorporated into the rice, lending the dish a rich brown color. Created for upper-class families of Kabul, Kabuli palaw is topped with carrots, almonds, and raisins before serving.

To make zamarod palaw, spinach is added before the dish is baked, resulting in a rich emerald hue. Meanwhile, narenj palaw is a sweet, elaborate dish, made with chicken, saffron, almonds, pistachios, and orange peel.

Shola is a traditional Afghan dish that calls for sticky, short-grain rice. It is prepared in both sweet and savory versions, with the latter becoming increasingly popular in recent years. Savory shola often features split peas or mashed mung beans, as well as meats such as lamb or beef. The dish is particularly popular during the Afghan wintertime, when it is often served with quroot (a type of dried curd), a glass of plain yogurt, and a fresh vegetable salad. There are many different versions of shola available across Afghanistan today, and the dish is also popular throughout the Middle East, particularly in Iran, where various other ingredients are commonly incorporated in its preparation.

Mastawa, another rice dish traditionally prepared in the winter, incorporates short-grain rice and sun-dried mutton simmered in an aromatic broth infused with onions, garlic, mint, turmeric, and cilantro. Bitter orange peel and hot peppers are added near the end of cooking to make this sticky rice dish fragrant, hearty, and spicy.

Meat Dishes

Qormah is a popular dish throughout Afghanistan, with more than 100 different variations, including:

  • Qormah e nadroo: A lamb or veal dish served in an onion-based sauce, incorporating lotus roots, cilantro, and yogurt.
  • Qormah e lawand: A traditional dish prepared with lamb, chicken, or beef, and cooked with onions, turmeric, yogurt, and cilantro.
  • Qormah e gosht: Translated as “meat qormah,” this dish is a commonly served accompaniment to the palaw rice that is popular at gatherings.
  • Qormah e alou-bokhara wa dalnakhod: A fruitier take on qormah featuring chicken or veal and prepared with onions, lentils, cardamom, and sour plums.
  • Qormah e sabzi: A fusion of lamb and sautéed spinach and greens.
  • Qormah e shalgham: A sweet and sour recipe prepared with lamb, turnips, onions, and sugar.

Mantu is a highly popular native dumpling dish. Since it is time consuming to prepare, it is often reserved for special occasions and large gatherings such as weddings. Dumplings are filled with onions and ground beef or lamb before being steamed. The dish is sometimes served in a tomato sauce topped with a mixture of yogurt, split chickpeas, and garlic. Ashak is another traditional dumpling dish. Originating in Kabul, it is made with leeks, sautéed tomatoes, ground meat, a garlic-yogurt sauce, and red kidney beans.

Kebabs are popular from Europe to the Middle East to India. In Afghanistan, they are served by restaurants as well as street vendors. Every Afghan restaurant has its own unique take on the dish. Traditionally made of lamb, kebabs are often served with naan bread, or sometimes rice, and customers often sprinkle sumac on the dish. The quality of a kebab is said to hinge on the quality of meat it was made from, with pieces of fat from the tail of the sheep often added to lamb skewers to improve the flavor.

Afghan Desserts

Believed to have originated in India, firnee is a traditional dish that is made from cornstarch, milk, and sugar and flavored with rosewater and aromatic spices like cardamom and saffron.

Haft mewa is sweet Afghan soup made from dried fruit and nuts that is traditionally eaten during the Afghan New Year celebrations, when it is often enjoyed at breakfast time.

Spotlight on the Precious Stones of Afghanistan

For centuries, Afghanistan has been a leading producer of lapis lazuli, a gemstone favored by the ancient Egyptians. The country is also rich in several other semi-precious stones—a recent joint study by the United States Geological Survey and the Pentagon estimating the net value of Afghanistan’s untapped minerals to be around $3 trillion.

In this article, we look at Afghanistan’s gem mining industry and the jewels it exports all over the world.

Lapis Lazuli

lapis lazuli

This royal blue metamorphic rock has been prized since antiquity for its vivid color. Mining this intense blue stone since 8000 BCE, Afghanistan has some of the oldest known lapis mines in the world.

A favorite of the pharaohs, lapis was used throughout ancient Egypt to make ornaments and amulets, such as scarabs. Lapis jewelry has also been discovered at predynastic Egyptian excavations.

Lapis was used to decorate the Pyramids of Giza, and when it was ground into a fine powder, it could be used as an eyeshadow, a favorite of the Ptolemaic ruler Cleopatra. The gem will forever be associated with ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, whose ornate gold funeral mask was inlaid with the stone.

Lapis lazuli was popular in ancient Mesopotamia, where the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Akkadians utilized the gemstone to make seals and artifacts, an abundance of which have been recovered from across the region.

In the Bronze Age, lapis was sought after by Indus Valley civilizations. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli became popular with the world’s most talented artists, who ground it into a powder, making the finest and most expensive of all blue paints: ultramarine. Renowned Renaissance and Baroque artists including Titian, Perugino, Vermeer, and Masaccio famously used the color. It was usually reserved for the clothing of a painting’s central figure, particularly the Virgin Mary.

While lapis lazuli is found in other countries, these deposits pale in insignificance when compared with the vast amounts found in Afghanistan. The stone was originally mined in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan district, where one mine has been continuously been producing lapis lazuli for the international market for more than 7,000 years.

Rubies and Sapphires

Just a few hours’ drive from Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, lies the mountainous region of Jegdalek, an area renowned for producing some of the brightest, most valuable rubies in the world.

Operational for more than 500 years, Jegdalek’s ruby mines produce high-grade stones that have been popular with royalty for centuries. Despite the region’s global reputation as a leading producer of high-grade rubies, most of the stones mined in Jegdalek today are sapphires. These come in a range of different hues, from traditional blue to semi-transparent pink.

Emeralds

emeralds

Lying due north of Kabul, the Panjshir Valley is home to more than 172 separate emerald mines. Panjshir emeralds boast a distinctive bluish-green hue. They are rapidly becoming one of Afghanistan’s most prized gemstones.

Aria Gems is a new startup established by Habib Mohebi. Speaking with CNN, the entrepreneur recounted hearing about emerald mines as a young boy growing up in Kabul. Years later, Mohebi used his knowledge to reconnect him with his homeland, opening a mining operation in Afghanistan and exporting emeralds across the world. Headquartered in New York, with a gem cutting and processing center in North Dakota, Aria Gems transforms rough stones into high-end polished emeralds.

Since the company’s incorporation in 2013, Aria Gems has grown to become a leading supplier of Panjshir emeralds, shipping more than 30,000 carats of this highly sought-after stone all over the world.

Aquamarine

This blue-green member of the beryl gemstone family is prized the world over, with colors ranging from almost transparent to vivid cerulean blue. Afghan aquamarines tend to be paler in color.

Unlike emeralds, which usually feature flaws and inclusions, many aquamarine crystals are faultless. Duller, greener stones can withstand heat treatment at extremely high temperatures to achieve striking shades of sky blue. Indeed, many of the gemstones found on the market today are enhanced through heat treatment.

Tourmaline

Tourmaline

Over the past few decades, Afghanistan has grown famous for its spectacular tourmaline finds. The stone ranges in color from green, to blue, to vibrant raspberry pink, with a variety of shades in between. Like aquamarine, many tourmalines are virtually flawless in clarity.

Bi-colored tourmalines of blue-green or pink-green are occasionally found and are greatly sought after.

Other gemstones

Other gemstones commonly found in Afghanistan include red garnet, topaz, kunzite, fluorite, and quartz. Gemstone mining throughout the country is typically an artisanal activity, with high-quality stones entering the international market and sent overseas for precision cutting.

The World Bank estimates Afghanistan’s uncut gem trade to be worth around $2.75 million. With other institutions placing its value considerably higher, the government of Afghanistan is working to formalize the industry, expanding education in gemology, stonecutting, and polishing, and creating quality standards to govern Afghanistan’s blossoming gemological industry.