Geography: Herat (/hɛˈrɑːt/;Ancient Greek: Ἀλεξάνδρεια ἡ ἐν Ἀρίοις, Aleksándreia hē en Aríois; Latin: Alexandria Ariorum) is the second largest city of Afghanistan. It serves as the capital of Herat Province. It is linked with Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif via highway 1 or the ring road. It is further linked to the city of Mashhad in neighboring Iran through the border town of Islam Qala. Herat lies on the ancient trade routes of the Middle East, Central and South Asia. The roads from Herat to Iran, Turkmenistan, and other parts of Afghanistan are still strategically important.
History/ historic sites: Herat dates back to the Avestan times, but its exact age remains unknown. During the period of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 BC), the surrounding district was known as Hariva (in Old Persian), and in classical sources the region was correspondingly known as Aria (Areia). In the Zoroastrian Avesta, the district is mentioned as Haroiva. The name of the district and its main town is derived from that of the chief river of the region, the Herey River (Old Dari Hereyrud, "Silken Water").
During the history Herat has been under the control of many rulers, but during Timurid period, the city enjoyed a tremendous status. Timur took Herat in 1380 and the city reached its greatest glory under the Timurid princes, especially Sultan Husayn Bayqara who ruled Herat from 1469 to 912/1506. His chief minister, the poet and author in Persian and Turkish, Mir Ali-Shir Nava'i was a great builder and patron of the arts. Under the Timurids, Herat assumed the role of the main capital of an empire that extended in the West as far as central Persia. As the capital of the Timurid Empire, it boasted many fine religious buildings and was famous for its sumptuous court life and musical performance and its tradition of miniature paintings. On the whole, the period was one of relative stability, prosperity, and development of economy and cultural activities. It began with the nomination of Shahrokh, the youngest son of Timur, as governor of Herat in 1397. The reign of Shahrokh in Herat was marked by intense royal patronage, building activities, and promotion of manufacturing and trade, especially through the restoration and enlargement of the Herat’s bāzār. The present Mosalla Complex, and many buildings such as the madrasa of Goharshad, Ali Shir mahāl, many gardens, and others, date from this time. The village of Gazargah, or Gazur Gah, over two km northeast of Herat, contained a shrine which was enlarged and embellished under the Timurids. (Another important historic site, the spectacular Qala Iktyaruddin is located to the north of the Old City, may have been the site of the fort that Alexander the Great built in 330 B.C.E. following his conquest of the Achaemenid city known as Artacoana or Aria.)
After Ahmad Shah Durrani's rise to power in 1747, Herat became part of Afghanistan. It witnessed some political disturbances and military invasions during the early half of the 19th century but the 1857 Treaty of Paris ended hostilities of the Anglo-Persian War. Herat suffered from extensive destruction during the Soviet war in the 1980s.
Notable people: among many notable people of Herat are “Tahir ibn Husayn 9th century Abbasid Caliphate army general, and the founder of Tahirid dynasty”, “Khwājah Abdullāh Ansārī, a famous Persian poet of the 11th century”, “Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, was the emperor of the Ghurid dynasty from 1163 to 1202”, “Taftazani, a famous Muslim polymath of the 14th century”, “Nūr ud-Dīn Jāmī, a famous Persian Sufi poet of the 15th century”, “Nizām ud-Din ʿAlī Shīr Navā'ī, famous poet and politician of the Timurid era”, “Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi, famous theologian and philosopher the twelfth century”, “Ustād Kamāl ud-Dīn Behzād, the greatest of the medieval Persian painters”, “Gowharšād, wife of Shāhrūkh Mīrzā”, “Mīrzā Shāhrūkh bin Tīmur Barlas, Emperor of the Timurid dynasty of Herāt”, “Mīrzā Husseyn Bāyqarāh, Emperor of the Timurid dynasty of Herāt”, “Ali al-Qari, from 17th century, considered to be one of the masters of hadith and Imams of fiqh”, “Ismail Khan, former governor of Herat Province and Minister of Water and Energy”, “Sonita Alizadeh, International rapper.”
Contemporary Herat: As of August 2014, there were regularly scheduled direct flights form Herat International Airport to Delhi, Dubai, Mashad, and various airports in Afghanistan. In 2007, Afghanistan and neighboring Iran finalized an agreement for the establishment of a rail service between the two countries. According to Asef Rahimi , in recent years Herat enjoyed progress in varying areas including launching of the Salam dam, construction of Bypass Road of Herat (under construction), Khaf- Herat railway project (under construction), installation of renewable energy devices for the first time in Herat Industrial City, construction and launching of 13 new factories in Herat Industrial City, revising Herat’s master plan, educational progress covering nearly one million students, an increase in construction of Hotels and tourism facilities and the promise of opening of a Turkish consulate branch in Herat by Turkish ambassador which will be companied by the beginning of direct Herat- Istanbul flights. The location of Herat would promote local and international opportunities for business and integration. Among other things the city provides the opportunity for transfer of goods from Central Asia to Pakistan and transferring Turkmenistan’s gas to south Asian countries.