KABUL, Afghanistan

Afghanistan on Sunday marked Nowruz, the spring equinox and advent of the new Solar Hijri year 1400, with thousands attending celebrations centered in the northern Mazar Sharif city.

The traditional flag hoisting at a shrine associated with Ali ibn Abi Talib, a cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, in Balkh province marked the official start of the day.

Groups of Afghans thronged to picnic spots in the countryside, which has turned lush green with the arrival of spring.

Many will pay visits to friends, neighbors, and relatives to share together the Haft-Seen – the seven items symbolizing nature, health, and prosperity, which include apples, garlic, vinegar, wheat, and pudding.

In the capital Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani led official celebrations by planting a sapling in the garden of the presidency.

The sapling, he said, represents the government’s quest for a just and sustainable peace for Afghanistan’s future generations.

“Lasting and just peace is our main goal, hope, and determination. Lasting peace is the peace that brings prosperity, peace, and welfare to the Afghan people and is in line with the will of Allah,” Ghani said.

The Gul Ghundaey, or Flower Hill, in Parwan province, next to Kabul, remains one of the most popular spots on Nowruz, with the mesmerizing view and fragrance of its magenta pink cover of wild flowers.

Special events have also been arranged for the second day of Nowruz, which is marked as Farmers’ Day in Afghanistan.

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