Things you need to know before choosing gifts for Afghans

Things you need to know before choosing gifts for Afghans

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Choosing a gift for someone can be tricky at the best of times. Choosing a gift for someone from a different culture adds another layer of complexity. As someone who has Afghans in my family and friend circle, I have made my fair share of gift blunders over the years before learning what makes for good Afghan gifts.

So if you ever find yourself in a similar quandary about what gifts would delight your Afghan friends or relatives, this light-hearted guide is for you! Of course, Afghans are as diverse as any other ethnic group, so these tips just scratch the surface. But they provide a good starting point for your gift-picking adventures.

Traditional Afghan Hospitality Means Reciprocating Generously

Traditional Afghan Hospitality Means Reciprocating Generously

If an Afghan gives you a gift, be prepared to give one back that matches or even exceeds the value of theirs. And when they reciprocate your gift in turn, you should match that too. You get the gist – it can quickly spiral into an amusing gift “arms race” where no one wants to be outdone in generosity!

I made the mistake once of giving a modest gift to an Afghan friend when they had previously given me an ornate silk carpet. Suffice it to say, they ended up gifting me a small Persian rug the next time to “make up” for their earlier inadequate gift! So if you start this gift-giving cycle, be prepared to keep pace!

Sweets Never Disappoint

Sweets Never Disappoint

Few things delight Afghans more than offering them traditional sweets and desserts. Now would be a good time to brush up on your Afghan dessert vocabulary – qorma seer, firni, sheer yakh, sholezard – these sugar-drenched confections are sure to be winners.

During one Eid celebration, I turned up at my Afghan friend’s house with boxes of mixed sweets from an Iranian bakery. The exclamations of “Mashallah!” told me I had picked well! Learn a few names of popular Afghan sweets, grab some from an Afghan bakery if possible, throw in an “Eid Mubarak!” and watch their faces light up with delighted surprise!

Nuts and Dried Fruits Check the Boxes

Nuts and Dried Fruits Check the Boxes

Apart from having a legendary sweet tooth, Afghans also love snacking on nuts, dried fruits and berry mixtures. So you can seldom go wrong gifting a nicely packaged selection of pistachios, almonds, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, mulberries or even just simple roasted chickpeas.

As a self-confessed snacker, I once received an impressive hand-decorated tin packed with all kinds of dried fruits and nuts from an Afghan friend. That elaborately ornate container still occupies a coveted spot in my home to store my incessantly nibbled on snacks!

Fabrics Symbolize Tradition of  Afghans

Fabrics Symbolize Tradition

Traditional Afghan fabrics and embroidered shawls make for treasured gifts. Intricately woven Afghan carpets would make lavish gifts. As would the vibrant flowing garments called chapan worn by men or the elegant headscarves worn by women.

I was especially touched when an Afghan friend gifted my daughter exquisite hand-embroidered dresses on her first birthday. That personal handcrafted touch of a traditional Afghan gift amplified its significance.

So do ask around in Afghan popping stores or specialty boutiques that sell garments, fabrics and carpets native to the region. And pick a luxurious fabric-based gift that spotlights painstaking Afghan craftmanship.

Don’t Forget the Importance of Cash

This might sound counterintuitive. But cash gifts or tastefully presented envelopes filled with money are common and welcome gifts in Afghan culture for everything from weddings to graduations to births. Even for simple everyday hosting, never show up empty-handed at an Afghan friend’s place – even a small box of pastries or bouquet would suffice.

Once my Afghan uncle insisted on stuffing my coat pocket with Afghan currency worth almost $100 when I was leaving his house after dinner! Despite my embarrassed protestations, he wouldn’t let me leave without that cash-filled parting gift. So I have learned to just graciously accept their lavish Afghan generosity.

So there you have it – my humble guide to choosing gifts that will genuinely delight your Afghan recipient. People and cultures differ, but the tips here will serve you well when starting your gift selection journey! Let me know if you try any of these and if they pass muster with your Afghan friends and family!

And now, brace yourself as you admire that ornate carpet they gifted you..because you can bet there will be an even bigger one headed your way soon! That’s just the Afghan way!


Gifting someone is an art and it requires thoughtfulness. Understanding cultural norms is key when choosing gifts for ethnically diverse friends. With Afghans, weight cultural elements like hospitality, food, attire, crafts and currency when deciding on a gift. Keep it luxurious yet traditional. Reciprocate generously to match their lavish Afghan spirit. Most importantly, gift from the heart, elevating moments big or small with your personal touch. That sincerity will outshine any elaborate gift. After all, it’s the friendship, not the present itself, that has true value.


What are some examples of popular sweets enjoyed by Afghans?

Some classic Afghan sweets include qorma seer (a creamy fudge-like square), firni (an aromatic rice pudding), sholezard (a saffron and rose water mousse), and sheer yakh (cold milk with rose water). Staples like baklava, burma (fried dough balls in syrup), and koloocheh (cookie variations) are also beloved.

What makes carpets a popular gift choice?

Intricately handwoven wool carpets are a hallmark of traditional Afghan craftsmanship. A carpet takes months to make and Afghans consider it an heirloom. Gift one to honour this labor of love and your bond.

How much cash should you gift?

Cash gifts depend on occasion – graduation gifts could be $100+, birthdays $50-100, hosting gift $20-50. Weddings call for $100-500 amounts tucked in cards. Adjust as per your relationship.

What does an Afghan host do to welcome guests?

Lavish hospitality is quintessential. They cook feasts featuring rice dishes, kebabs, stews, breads. Guest rooms get ready, gifts or cash envelopes await you. Saying “Tashakkur!” (Thank You) shows gratitude.

If gifted something small, what can you reciprocate with?

Give back thoughtfully – defend based on your bond. Pastries, nuts, flowers work for casual hosting as does reciprocating invites. With closer bonds, up the ante bit by bit. But sincerity trumps expense.

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