Society and norms – Housing: Traditional and Modern

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Traditional Afghan homes are very private by American standards. The conventional Afghan home is a mud-brick structure.  It generally has one entrance, with a greeting room just inside the door.  Nearby is a large visiting area, used particularly when male guests are present.  Females will typically meet in the women’s quarters, away from the males.  The kitchen contains an underground oven, where bread is commonly baked, and heat is used for warmth during cold weather.  Good housekeeping is considered imperative and integral to hospitality.  Shoes are not worn in the home.

In rural areas of Afghanistan, life is centered on the Qalla [KHA-lah], a walled compound where the extended family – parents, wife (or wives), young children, grown sons, their families and unmarried female relatives will all live together in the compound.  These houses are largely of mud brick and frequently grouped together. Walled compounds enhance family privacy as well as security.  The walled nature of the compound is, again, tied to protecting women and family honor.  As a gesture of good will, it will serve a group or individual well to request permission to enter a qalla or any village, when possible.  This gives the residents time to sequester the women and prepare to receive visitors.

Even in urban areas, family privacy is maintained. Older individual houses are behind high walls, totally sheltered from passers-by. Inside the home, there is usually a room, like a formal parlor, in which the men of the family can receive male visitors without violating the privacy of the family. Soviet-era apartment construction did not typically allow for extended families to live together, nor did they have separate women's quarters.



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