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(hĕrät`), city (1984 est. pop. 161,000), capital of Herat prov., NW Afghanistan, on the Hari Rud. The fertile river valley is renowned for its fruits, especially grapes. Herat has textile weaving and carpet industries and is a market for wool, carpets, dried fruits, and nuts. The city walls are gone, but the citadel remains, has been restored, and houses a national museum. Other landmarks include the Great Mosque (first built 12th cent.) and several exquisite minarets. Herat, whose inhabitants are mainly Tajiks, is also noted for its bazaars and its highly decorated gharries (horse-drawn cabs). Paved roads lead to the Turkmenistan border.

Herat, an ancient city, is identified with the Haroyu of the Vendidad (Zoroastrian priestly code), the Haraiva of Achaemenian inscriptions, and the Aria of the Greeks. Its strategic location on the trade route from Persia to India and on the caravan road from China and central Asia to Europe has long made Herat an object of contention among the powers of the day. Although taken by various conquerors, it remained under the Persian empire for several centuries. The Mongols under Jenghiz Khan devastated Herat in 1221. TimurTimur
or Tamerlane
, c.1336–1405, Mongol conqueror, b. Kesh, near Samarkand. He is also called Timur Leng [Timur the lame]. He was the son of a tribal leader, and he claimed (apparently for the first time in 1370) to be a descendant of Jenghiz Khan.
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 took the city in 1383; under his later successors, Shah Rukh and Husayn, it enjoyed prosperity, and its court was a center of art and learning. The Uzbeks took Herat in the early 16th cent.; later it was disputed between the Persians and the rulers of an emerging Afghanistan. In the mid-19th cent., British pressure checked Persian claims to Herat, which in 1881 was taken by Abd ar-Rahman KhanAbd ar-Rahman Khan
, 1844?–1901, emir of Afghanistan (1880–1901); grandson of Dost Muhammad. He opposed his uncle, Sher Ali, and was forced into exile in 1869.
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 and finally confirmed as part of a united Afghanistan. During the 1979–89 Soviet occupation, it was a military command center for Soviet forces.



a city in northwestern Afghanistan located in a huge oasis watered by the Hari River; the administrative center of Herat province. Population, circa 100,000.

There is a network of roads from Herat to Kushka (USSR), Mashhed (Iran), Kandahar, and northern Afghanistan. An airport is also located in the city. Herat is the economic center of western Afghanistan, and its small industries include cotton, textiles, and food (flour and rice). There are also domestic industries: woolen and silk fabrics, carpets, and rugs; and trade in karakul pelts, grain, fruit, and other agricultural produce.

Alexander of Macedon is said to have founded Herat, hence its appellation Alexandria-Aryana or Aryan Alexandria in Greek texts; the city’s present name was given to it by the Sassanids. After Alexander’s death Herat became, successively, a part of many ancient and medieval kingdoms of the Middle East. It was an important city under the Sassanids and the caliphate and became one of the major cities of Khurasan under the Samanids. Captured and destroyed in 1221 by Mongol armies, the city was rebuilt by 1236, and in the 13th and 14th centuries was the capital of the kingdom of the Kurts. In this period, trade routes from Central Asia to India and China passed through Herat. The city reached its zenith in the 15th century under the Timurids, when it became the greatest trading, craft, and cultural center of the Middle East. In the 16th century Herat was conquered by the Safawids, against whom there were several popular rebellions, one of which resulted in the formation of the Principality of Herat in 1716. The city was captured by Nadir Shah in 1732 and became part of the Durranian state in 1747. After the collapse of the latter, Herat became the center of the early 19th-century principality of Herat, over which Iran and Afghanistan fought and the so-called Herat conflicts between England and Iran took place. In 1863, Herat was finally united with Afghanistan. Ali Shir Nava’i, Jami, Mirkhond, Hafiz, Abru, Behzad, and other leading scientific and cultural figures of medieval times lived and worked in Herat.

In Herat are preserved the citadel (15th century), the Great Mosque (1201 to the 14th century; rebuilt 1498-1500 after an earthquake; restored and completed 1936-44), the Gohar Shad mausoleum, the minarets of the grand mosalla ensemble (northwest of Herat), and the mausoleum of Abdullah Ansari. The last three are all from the 15th century and were built by the architect Qavam al-Din Shirazi. Herat was an important center of medieval miniature painting (the Herat school) and decorative and applied art.


Masson, V. M., and V. A. Romodin. Istoriia Afganistana, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1964-65. (See index; there is a bibliography.)
Encyclopédie de I’Islam, vol. 3. Leiden-Paris, 1966. Pages 181-82.


a city in NW Afghanistan, on the Hari Rud River: on the site of several ancient cities; at its height as a cultural centre in the 15th century. Pop.: 344 000 (2005 est.)
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