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Mazar-i-Sharif

Administration
Full nameMazāri Sharīf
Native nameمزارِ شریف
Settlement typeCity
CountryAfghanistan
ProvinceBalkh Province
DistrictMazar-e Sharif District
Geography
Elevation1171.3 ft (357 m)
Demography
Total Population375181 (2006)
Other information
Time zoneAfghanistan Standard Time (UTC+4:30)

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Mazār-i-Sharīf or Mazār-e Sharīf (Persian/Pashto: مزارِ شریف, ˌmæˈzɒːr ˌi ʃæˈriːf) is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 375,181 as of 2006. It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by roads to Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the south-east, Herat to the west and Uzbekistan to the north. The city is a major tourist attraction because of its famous shrines as well as the Muslim and Hellenistic archeological sites. In 2006, the discovery of new Hellenistic remains was announced.

The region around Mazar-e-Sharif has been historically part of Greater Khorasan and was controlled by the Tahirids followed by the Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Ilkhanates, Timurids, and Khanate of Bukhara until the mid-18th century when it became part of the Durrani Empire after an agreement was signed between Amir Murad Beg and Amir Ahmad Shah Durrani. The Mazari Sharif Airport in the city has been heavily used during the 1980s Soviet war and the latest 2001-present war in Afghanistan.

Mazari Sharif means "Noble Shrine", a reference to the large, blue-tiled sanctuary and mosque in the center of the city known as the Shrine of Hazrat Ali or the Blue Mosque. Some Muslims believe that the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, is at this mosque in Mazari Sharif. Twelver Shi'as however, believe that the real grave of Ali is found within Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq, as was disclosed by the Sixth Twelver Shi'a Imam, Ja'far as-Sadiq. On the other hand, some believe that it is possible that the shrine in Mazari Sharif is of Zoroaster (Zarathushtra), the founder of the first universally monotheistic religion. As a common theme in the Iranian lands falling into the hands of the advancing Muslims, the true identity of many holy and sacred sites were hidden to prevent their sacrilege and destruction.


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