Kandahar in Photos & Travel Guide
Updated June 2021, Kandahar Travel Guide & Photos was written August 2019
I went to Kandahar as part of my ‘vacation’ in March 2019. Yup, you read that correctly.
This was my first time to the south of Afghanistan and to be totally honest Kandahar had a vastly different aura to it than any other cities and provinces I’d visited.
It felt tense, tenser than other parts of Afghanistan I’ve visited… oh yes, and much much hotter. But despite the vastly different feel to Kandahar I still felt welcomed by many to the southern city.
Kandahar Travel Guide
Getting To Kandahar
Technically you can get to Kandahar by road from Kabul (via Wardak, Ghazni, and Zabul) and from Herat (via Farah, Nimruz, and Helmand), it is not recommended for obvious reasons (meaning you’d cross through Taliban and other terrorist organizations territories and possible road control).
Where To Stay In Kandahar
There aren’t many places to stay accepting foreigners in Kandahar. Some of which that I have heard do are the Afghan Guesthouse, Armani Hotel ($22/night, double- email to reserve [email protected]), the Continental Guesthouse ($55/night, double) and the Royal Afghan Hotel.
Things To Do In Kandahar
Mosque of the Cloak of Prophet Mohammed
The Mosque of the Cloak is one of the holiest sites in all of Afghanistan. As the name insinuates, the mosque is believed to hold the cloak worn by Mohammed during his 621 AD night journey.
The cloak has been kept here for over 250 years and is only to be brought out in times of crisis to reassure a fraught public. The cloak has only been taken out three times in the last century, the first in 1929 by Amanullah, and the second was to warden off a cholera outbreak in 1935.
The last time the cloak was seen publicly was in 1996 during the rise of the Taliban. Mullah Omar appeared from the mosque with the cloak to speak to a gathering of his followers and proclaim himself the Commander of the Faithful (Amir al Momineem). It’s still debated to this day whether or not he, in fact, wore the cloak.
Mausoleum of Baba Wali Kandahari
Baba Wali was an honored tribesman and Sufi hailing from Kandahar, born in 1476. This shrine was built in his name, ordered by Gul Agha Sherzai, a former governor of Kandahar, warlord, and mujahideen.
The mausoleum is perched on a small hill where you will have views into the distance over the Arghandab River.
Mosque of the Hair of the Prophet
Located in Kandahar’s Old City, it’s believed that the hair of Mohammed is stored here inside the mosque hence its name.
Ahmed Shah Durrani Mausoleum
Ahmad Shah Durrani was the founder of the nation of Afghanistan. This tomb is his resting place, sat on the same grounds as the Mosque of the Cloak.
Chilzina (also spelled Chehelzina), or known as the ’40 Steps Monument’ is carved into a craggy mountain tower. It was originally ordered by the Mughal Emperor Zahiruddin Babur as a commemoration of his second conquest of Kandahar and as a defense lookout, as the mountain sits on the western boundary of Old Kandahar. Construction began in the 16th century.
Mausoleum of Mirwas Khan Hotak
Mirwas Khan Hotak was the founder of the Hotak Dynasty that ruled from 1709 to 1738 after the Ghilji Pashtun leader overthrew the Safavid Governor.
The building is a tomb to Hotak. Make sure to go inside as the colorfully painted interior is a sight to see.
The Kandahar Museum has an array of displays featuring artifacts from around the city. It’s a great place to learn more about the history of the city as well as the rest of the country.
For those looking to get more of a feel for regular Kandahari life the Sarposa Bazaar will allow plenty of opportunity for this.
Sra Jama, or the Red Mosque as its commonly called was frequented by Mullah Omar. In 2021 the mosque has underwent extensive restoration.
The Red Mosque is well-known because Mullah Omar frequented the holy site, especially for Friday prayer.
Zorr Shah as it’s known in Pashto, Old Kandahar is believed to have begun its construction under Alexander the Great. Zorr Shah continued to be the seat of power in southern Afghanistan for nearly 2,000 years passing hands through countless empires. Kandahar has always sat at the crossroads of many empires and controlled trading routes connecting Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and Persian Gulf with the Indian Subcontinent.
Eid Gah Mosque
Located on the north side of the city, Eid Gah is one of the largest mosques in Afghanistan. Largely funded by Mullah Omar, the mosque can house thousands of worshippers at once.
Safety For Traveling In Kandahar
Until recently Kandahar was not a place most of the handful of tourists Afghanistan does get would sanely go. Abdul Raziq (also known as the ‘Torturer in Chief’) did a lot to clean up Kandahar and rid the city of Taliban over the last few years, and as the nickname suggests by brutal means. Raziq was assassinated in fall of 2018. As of 2019 the city still remains fairly secure. I would 100% recommend only visiting through the use of local contacts as traveling in Kandahar can be quite intense and a number of the sites are on the fringes and just outside the city.
As of June 2021, the security situation in Kandahar, much like the rest of Afghanistan is getting worse. Kandahar is still secure enough to visit, but more and more ground is being lost to the Taliban.
Visiting destinations on the outskirts such as Baba Wali may not be possible, but do enquire locally. I was able to revisit in May 2021, but we got the green light that day from a police commander. That being said, you can see the front lines only two kilometers away over the Arghandab River.
As always I recommend the help of Let’s Be Friends Afghanistan to set up a visit to Afghanistan, including Kandahar.
Start planning here: The Afghanistan Travel Guide
Here are 25 of my favorite photos from Kandahar and a quick Kandahar travel guide.
Until I visited Kandahar, I honestly thought it was flat. The mountains surrounding Kandahar are completely unique from the mountains I’ve seen elsewhere in Afghanistan. These jagged, uninviting peaks appear to rise from a flat steppe.
Boys playing football out on a pitch in Kandahar.
Children playing around at a mosque near to Zorr Shah.
A boy pushes a bicycle near to Zorr Shah.
A green domed mausoleum and nearby mosque on the outskirts of Kandahar.
Women and children arriving at Baba Wali Khandahari Mausoleum.
A Malang named Sayed is pictured here holding beads, he has lived his entire life here at Baba Wali Shrine. Malangs are believed by some to be men of God. Using holy water in glasses and salt from the bowl next to him he blesses visitors to the shrine.
The Baba Wali Mausoleum sits perched above the Arghandab River and is a popular picnic spot for Kandaharis.
A couple of men chatting at Baba Wali Shine.
Boys playing on a bridge in Arghandab District, just outside Kandahar. Arghandab was the stage of the 2008 Battle of Arghandab, where the Canadian Forces and Afghan National Army attacked Taliban militants in response to the Taliban fighters who raided the Sarposa Prison releasing 900 inmates, many of whom which were tied to insurgents.
A boy carefully crosses the river.
A view of ‘The Elephant’, a mountain near Kandahar.
Babur had 40 steps built leading up the mountain top and then continued to hollow out a small enclave. At the top of the steps are two lions carved of stone guarding the entrance. Inside the enclave is a tribute to Babur’s conquests written in Persian. It took 70 men and 9 years to complete the enclave and steps of Chehilzina.
From the top of the steps, you can see out onto the dusty plain surrounding Kandahar and the jagged peaks that seem to rise from a flat surrounding.
The ceiling of the Hotak Mausoleum. In April 1709 Hotak declared the independence of Kandahar from the chaos of the Safavids and Mughals that had been warring for power in the south of Afghanistan.
Views of a nearby mountain from the Mausoleum of Mirwais Khan Hotak.
Men chatting and flicking prayer beads around outside the Mosque of the Cloak.
A woman in a lavender chadri and children walk past the Mosque of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed with Ahmad Shah Durrani’s Mausoleum towering in the background. Ahmad Shah Durrani is largely regarded as the founder and father of the modern state of Afghanistan. Durrani became the King of Afghanistan in 1747 after the assassination of the Nadar Shah Afshar. Under Durrani’s rule, the Durrani Empire at its zenith reached west to east from Khorasan to Kashmir and north to south from Amu Darya River to the Arabian Sea.
A man tends to the garden and a student of the madrasa reads at Sra Jama (Red Mosque). Mullah Omar used to come to the Red Mosque to pray every Friday.
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