Herat, northwestern Afghanistan, capital of Herat Province, on the Harirud river. Herat is perhaps the most beautiful of Afghanistan's ancient cities. It has been a settlement for over 2,500 years and has been fought over by successive rulers from Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. to Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1749. In the 7th century AD the city was captured by Muslims. The Mongol conqueror Tamerlane made it his capital in 1381, and it subsequently became a center of Persian art and learning. The Afghans captured Herat in 1749. Principal architectural features of the city are the old city walls and gates, Islamic tombs, and the Friday Mosque. The city is a trading center for the grain, fruit, vegetables, and sheep of the surrounding area. Population (1988 estimate) 177,300. The city is the main city on the Herat-Kandahar road. The road has one of the busiest roads in Afghanistan with most of the exports from Afghanistan and southwest Pakistan going through this route to Turkmenistan through border city of Torghundi. Herat is the largest city in western Afghanistan and is the main trade city for exports to Iran and now Turkmenistan and Middle East.
Amongst the amazing variety of ancient buidings in Herat, many of which are in ruins, are the great Friday Mosque inside the square walls of the old town, and the Musalla - a group of religious buildings with six minarets.