Introduction to Balkh
[ دری ]
Why study Balkh?
Historical Balkh is an important place to study for three main reasons. First, it has survived over more than four millennia; secondly, it has the untarnished reputation as a city of great scholarship and mysticism; and thirdly, it is noted for an exceptional level of mercantile achievement. Balkh is a major historical site, but about the place itself we know very little. This is why the Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project was established in 2011 (see Our research Section for details).
Where is Balkh?
Historical Balkh is located in the northwestern part of Afghanistan. The region is at the fringe of Afghanistan, and as fringes go, it is not easily accommodated in one or another of the major areas of the present or the past. One scholar, Richard Foltz, clearly situates Balkh (together with Mawara' al-nahr, 'the land across the river', i.e. the Oxus, but not the rest of Afghanistan) within Central Asia.According to the Fada'il-i Balkh written in the late 12th century AD, Balkh came into direct or indirect contact with places, such as Badakhshan (shared today between Afghanistan and Tajikistan and bordering the Pamir Mountains); China (chin wa ma-chin); Tirmidh, Bukhara and Samarqand (in today's Uzbekistan); the generic area of 'Turkistan' which includes places like Ferghana (in today's Kazakhstan); the Bamiyan Valley and al-hind/hindustan; and to a lesser extent with Kuhistan (in today's Iran) and Merv (Turkmenistan). Seen in this light, early Islamic Balkh can be securely placed within a Central Asian context, with significant links to South Asia.