|Elevation||250 m (820 ft)|
|• Urban||175,599 |
|Time zone||UTC+4:30 (Afghanistan Standard Time)|
Sheberghān is located along the Sari Pul River banks, about 130 km (81 mi) west of Mazar-i-Sharif on the national primary ring road that connects Kabul, Puli Khumri, Mazar-i-Sharif, Sheberghān, Maymana, Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Maidan Shar. Sheberghān airport is situated between Sheberghān and Aqcha.
The city's name is a corruption of its classical Persian name, Shaporgân, meaning "[King] Shapur's town". Shapur was the name of two Sasanian kings, both of whom built a great number of cities. However, Shapur I was the governor of the eastern provinces of the empire, and it is more likely that he is the builder of a roadway between a few important cities. These include Nishapur and Bishapur in Iran, and Peshawar in Pakistan.
After Maymana, Sheberghan is the second most important Uzbek-dominated city in all of Afghanistan. Uzbek is the first language of a majority of its inhabitants. Large numbers of Tajiks, Hazaras, Pashtuns, and Arabs live in the city. In 1856, J. P. Ferrier wrote: "Sheberghān is a town containing 12,000 souls. Uzbeks being in the great majority."
The Sheberghan "Arabs" are all Persian-speaking, even though they claim an Arab identity. There are other such Persian and Pashto-speaking "Arabs" to the east, with pockets residing in Mazar-i Sharif, Kholm, Kunduz, and Jalalabad. Their self-identification as Arabs is largely based on their tribal identity, and may in fact point to the Arab migration of the 7th and 8th centuries migration to this and other Central Asian locales in the wake of the Islamic conquests of the region.
Sheberghān was once a flourishing settlement along the Silk Road. In 1978, Soviet archaeologists discovered the famed Bactrian Gold in the village of Tillia Tepe outside Sheberghān. In the 13th century Marco Polo visited the city and later wrote about its honey-sweet melons. Sheberghān became the capital of an independent Uzbek khanate that was allotted to Afghanistan by the 1873 Anglo-Russian border agreement.
Sheberghān has for millennia been the focal point of power in the northeast corner of Bactria. It still sits astride the main route between Balkh and Herat, and controls the direct route north to the Amu Darya, about 90 km away, as well as the important branch route south to Sar-e Pol.
In 1856, J. P. Ferrier reported:
The town has a citadel, in which the governor Rustem Khan resides, but there are no other fortifications. It is surrounded by good gardens and excellent cultivation. The population of Shibberghan has a high character for bravery, and I may safely say it is one of the finest towns in Turkistan on this side of the Oxus, enjoying, besides its other advantages, an excellent climate. It is, however, subject to one very serious inconvenience: the supply of water, on which all this prosperity depends, comes from the mountains in the Khanat of Sirpool; and as there are frequent disputes between the tribes inhabiting it and those living in the town, a complete interruption of the supply is often threatened, and a war follows, to the very great injury of the place. Shibberghan maintains permanently a force of 2000 horse and 500-foot, but, in case of necessity, the town can arm 6000 men.
The heavily fortified town of Yemshi-tepe, just five kilometres to the northeast of modern Sheberghān, on the road to Akcha, is only about 500 metres (550 yards) from the famous necropolis of Tillia Tepe, where an immense treasure was excavated from the graves of the local royal family by a joint Soviet-Afghan archaeological effort from 1969 to 1979. In 1977, a Soviet-Afghan archaeological team began excavations 5 km north of the town for relics. They uncovered mud-brick columns and a cross-shaped altar of an ancient temple dating back to at least 1000 B.C. Six royal tombs were excavated at Tillia Tepe revealing a vast amount of gold and other treasures. Several coins dated to the early 1st century C.E., with none dated later.
Sheberghān was the stronghold of local Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum while vying with his Tajik rival General Mohammed Atta for control of northern Afghanistan in the early years of the Karzai administration.
Sheberghān was the site of the Dasht-i-Leili massacre in December 2001 during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in which 250 to 3,000 (depending on sources) Taliban prisoners were shot or suffocated to death in metal truck containers, while being transferred by American and Northern Alliance soldiers from Kunduz to a Sheberghān prison.  
Sheberghān is a trading and transit hub in northern Afghanistan. Agriculture accounts for 50% of the 7,335 hectares within the municipal boundaries. 23% of the land is residential, and largely clustered in the central area, but well distributed through the four districts.
Sheberghān has a cool, semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk) with hot summers and chilly, though variable, winters. There is moderate rainfall and some snowfall from January to March, but the rest of the year is dry, especially the summer.
|Climate data for Sheberghan|
|Record high °C (°F)||22.4
|Average high °C (°F)||6.8
|Daily mean °C (°F)||2.0
|Average low °C (°F)||−1.3
|Record low °C (°F)||−20.5
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||42.3
|Average rainy days||5||6||9||6||3||0||0||0||0||2||3||4||38|
|Average snowy days||5||3||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||12|
|Average relative humidity (%)||78||76||71||65||47||34||31||32||35||46||61||74||54|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||115.3||124.1||162.3||198.2||297.9||364.3||365.9||346.1||304.6||242.9||175.8||125.7||2,823.1|
|Source: NOAA (1964-1983) |
Sheberghān is surrounded by irrigated agricultural land.
With Soviet assistance, exploitation of Afghanistan's natural gas reserves began in 1967 at the Khowaja Gogerak field, 15 kilometers east of Sheberghān in Jowzjan Province. The field's reserves were thought to be 67 billion cubic meters. In 1967, the Soviets also completed a 100-kilometer gas pipeline linking Keleft in the Soviet Union with Sheberghān.
Sheberghān is important to the energy infrastructure of Afghanistan:
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