Spotlight on the Key Partners of the Bayat Foundation

For nearly two decades, the Bayat Foundation has been working to rebuild Afghanistan and to deliver hope and support to the country’s most vulnerable citizens. With a broad mission of improving the lives of Afghans, the foundation works across a number of different focus areas, engaging in projects that range from supporting post-secondary students to building maternity hospitals. Most recently, the Bayat Foundation has been involved in delivering food packages to families in need as part of its contribution to Afghanistan’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

In order to deliver these varied programs and services, the Bayat Foundation partners with a broad range of local and international organizations that offer focused expertise in different areas of humanitarian aid and development. Read on to learn about these important organizations.

Cordaid

A global humanitarian organization based in the Netherlands, Cordaid focuses on ending poverty and exclusion in countries such as Afghanistan. Supported by close to 300,000 private donors and connected to a worldwide partner network, Cordaid works to restore trust and cohesion in communities experiencing unrest, with the broader goal of improving essential services and stimulating inclusive economic growth. In 2019 alone, the organization reached 6.8 million people through health care interventions, facilitated access to education for 668,000 children, and offered $1.9 million in loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises to boost private sector development.

MATTER

The global nonprofit organization MATTER is driven by a vision of a world in which every person can lead a full and healthy life. A movement of people, businesses, and organizations, MATTER seeks to overcome one of the biggest modern challenges: a lack of access to health care and other resources necessary for healthy living. In pursuit of its goal of eliminating barriers to a healthier life, the organization engages in a number of activities in the US and around the world, such as redistributing medical supplies and equipment to underresourced hospitals and connecting children with healthy food options through its MATTERbox program.

Starkey Hearing Foundation

The Starkey Hearing Foundation has been one of the key partners of the Bayat Foundation since 2014, when the two organizations launched the Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission. As the philanthropic arm of Starkey Hearing Technologies, the Starkey Hearing Foundation is committed to giving the gift of hearing to those in need. To do so, the foundation collaborates with governments, NGOs, and health care leaders worldwide to facilitate access to hearing care and technology for people with hearing impairments. Since its inception in 1984, the Starkey Hearing Foundation has reached more than 1.5 million people in over 100 countries.

Muslim Aid USA

A faith-based international charity, Muslim Aid USA works to support people and communities affected by natural disasters and unrest. In addition to providing emergency relief, Muslim Aid USA implements long-term development projects with the goal of helping vulnerable communities to build sustainable livelihoods. Driven by values such as compassion and justice, respect, and accountability, the organization is particularly focused on areas such as capacity building, economic empowerment, education, and women’s and children’s health.

Feed My Starving Children

A US-based nonprofit, Feed My Starving Children believes that hope begins with food. Nearly half of the deaths of children under 5 years old are the result of hunger and malnutrition. In order to combat this statistic, Feed My Starving Children teams up with food science and nutrition professionals to develop hand-packed meals. Moreover, it works with community-based distribution partners worldwide to ensure that they continue to reach the children who need them the most.

American University of Afghanistan

The American University of Afghanistan holds the distinction of being the only nationally accredited, private, not-for-profit post-secondary institution in Afghanistan. Committed to preparing future leaders, AUAF offers a non-partisan education to a co-ed student body. As a liberal arts institution, AUAF supports critical thinking and academic freedom among students and faculty alike, and it is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and respectful learning atmosphere. AUAF first opened its doors in 2006 with a cohort of 50 students. Today, the university enrolls over 1,700 students (both full- and part-time), and it has produced 29 Fulbright Scholars. In addition, AUAF maintains partnerships with some of the most respected institutions of higher education in the nation, including Stanford University, Georgetown University, and the University of California system.

Food for Kidz

Providing food to insecure communities in the US and regions around the world affected by natural disasters, war, and famine, Food for Kidz believes that change starts with the simplicity of a meal. In order to connect children and families in need with healthy and nutritious meals, Food for Kidz has developed a unique mobile packaging system. The organization provides all the necessary tools and support so that groups of volunteers—ranging from companies and schools to churches—can put together a package of life-sustaining food. Following a packaging event, Food for Kids connects with partner organizations to assess where the need is greatest, and then it ships and delivers the packaged food to those communities.

6 Things You Might Not Know about Bamiyan

In a country bursting with historic landmarks and cultural riches, the Bamiyan Valley stands out as one of Afghanistan’s most important and impressive heritage sites. Despite its relatively remote location in Central Afghanistan, the city of Bamiyan and the surrounding area is known today as a vibrant hub of Afghan culture and creativity from both past and present. Read on for a look at some fascinating facts you might not know about this amazing site.

1. Bamiyan is the former home of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

Bamiyan Afghanistan
Image courtesy Carlos Ugarte | Flickr

Bamiyan’s original claim to fame is the historic Buddhas of Bamiyan—two monumental Buddha statues that were carved directly into the sandstone cliffs of the valley roughly 1,500 years ago. An awe-inspiring example of Afghanistan’s ancient Buddhist heritage, which had all but disappeared from the country by the 10th century, the giant sculptures were unfortunately destroyed in 2001 as a result of Afghanistan’s internal conflict. However, in response to this cultural tragedy, scholars and experts around the world have been working ever since to preserve the other significant archaeological material in the area, and to one day perhaps rebuild the Buddhas.

2. The world’s first oil paintings can be found at Bamiyan.

If you think that oil painting was first developed during the European Renaissance, it’s time to think again. In addition to the Buddha statues, the Bamiyan Valley boasts an incredible system of more than 1,000 caves that were once used as Buddhist monasteries, chapels, and sanctuaries. Inside these caves, the remains of striking wall paintings created using the world’s first oil paints can be found, along with other decorative features and small carved figures.

3. Bamiyan was an important stopping point on the Silk Road.

Although the location of Bamiyan seems somewhat isolated and remote today, the area was once a globalized and cosmopolitan center along the fabled Silk Road trading route. Linking ancient Rome with China and India, the Silk Road saw not only goods but also philosophies, religions, and ideas passed back and forth between East and West. Afghanistan, particularly Bamiyan, was at the very heart of the route. In addition, Alexander the Great himself is recorded as having passed through Bamiyan, while Mani, the mystic and philosopher who founded the Manicheans, is believed to have lived and studied there.

4. Bamiyan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley constitute one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Afghanistan (the other is the famous Minaret of Jam).

Bamiyan was added to the World Heritage list in 2003 in recognition of its outstanding universal cultural value, particularly as an example of Afghanistan’s Buddhist heritage, and of Western Buddhism in general. At the same time, the site was also included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which identifies and monitors important cultural heritage sites whose ongoing existence may be threatened by factors such as environmental damage or security risks. (In recent years, Afghanistan has been working closely with the Japanese government to fulfill the conditions necessary for removing Bamiyan from the Danger list.)

5. Bamiyan is a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

In 2004 UNESCO launched its Creative Cities Network (UCCN), an initiative developed to foster cooperation and support among global cities that prioritize creativity as part of their sustainable urban development efforts. In 2015 Bamiyan became the first urban center from Afghanistan—and all of Central Asia—to join the network.

This membership is not only a reflection of Bamiyan’s rich cultural past but also of the investments the area is making in the present-day areas of crafts and folk art (one of the seven categories of creativity covered by the UCCN). For example, Afghanistan’s Department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development has conducted local carpet weaving projects that employ some of the region’s most vulnerable people.

7. Bamiyan has been suggested as the site of the Garden of Eden.

For centuries, people have speculated about which real-world places might have been the site of the Garden of Eden, and interestingly enough, Bamiyan has been proposed as a possibility. In 1799, Captain Francis Wilford, a somewhat eccentric scholar, suggested in the journal Asiatic Researches that because four rivers flow out of the Bamiyan Valley, the site could be the location of the biblical garden.

Whether or not you believe this claim, there seems to be little question that Bamiyan is beautiful enough to be considered an earthly paradise. Poised just below the spectacular ranges of the Hindu Kush, the Bamiyan Valley is lush and fertile, full of orchards, pastures, and flowers, and its isolated location (by present-day standards) has helped protect it from much of the conflict that has troubled other parts of Afghanistan. It’s therefore perhaps not surprising to learn that Bamiyan can be translated as “land of shining light.”

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.