Faryab (Persian/Pashto: فاریاب) is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, which is located in the north of the country bordering neighboring Turkmenistan. It has a population of about 948,000, which is multi-ethnic and mostly a tribal society. The province encompasses 15 districts and over 1,000 villages. The capital of Faryab province is Maymana.
Faryab is a Persian toponym meaning "lands irrigated by diversion of river water". The name Faryab takes its name from a town founded in the area by the Sassanids. It is the home town of the famed Islamic philosopher, al-Farabi (per the biographer Ibn al-Nadim). The area is part of the trans-border region of Greater Khorasan; during the colonial era, British geographers referred to the area as Afghan Turkestan.
The history of settlement in Faryab is ancient and comprises layer upon layer of occupation. At times, it was a melting pot within which a host of cultures have merged into a non-conflictual whole or at least peaceable coexistence.
Maymana and Andkhoy (Andkhui) entered written history 2,500 years ago when Jews arrived and settled in 586 BC, fleeing the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The territory was under Persian control at the time, which later gave way to Greek rule following the conquest by Alexander the Great in 326 BC.
Persian dominance was restored from the 3rd to the 7th century AD.
The pre-Islamic period ended with the conquest of northern Afghanistan by Arab Muslims (651-661 AD). The area "turned into a vast battlefield as the two great Arab and Persian cultures battled for not only political and geographical supremacy but ideological supremacy." As a result, centuries of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity and indigenous pagan cults were swept away. Various Islamic dynasties rose to power and influenced the locals. They included the Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Seljuks, and Ghurids.
The history of Faryab was greatly altered yet again in the 11th century, this time with the invasion of the Mongols, under Genghis Khan and his descendants. As they moved into the area from the north, cities and towns including Maymana were razed, populations massacred, grain, fields and livestock stolen or burnt and ancient irrigation systems obliterated. Faryab was itself destroyed by the Mongols in 1220. Control by the Mongols stemmed from the alternating capitals of Bukhara or Samarkand north of the Amu Darya River. They ruled in a decentralized manner, however, allowing local tribal chiefs in Maymana and elsewhere considerable autonomy (a legacy which was to last until the end of the 19th century).
In 1500, Uzbek princes, in the form of the Khanate of Bukhara (a Turco-Mongol state), swept across the Amu Darya, reaching Faryab and related areas around 1505. They joined a substantial and largely pastoral Arab population and ruled the area until the mid-18th century.
It was conquered by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1748 and became part of the Durrani Empire. The area was untouched by the British during the three Anglo-Afghan wars that were fought in the 19th and 20th centuries. Faryab become a province in 1964. From the administrative reforms of the 1930s until then it was known as Maymana and was a sub-province of Balkh Province, which had its headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif.
During the 1990s Afghan Civil War (early 90s and late 90s), the front line between Taliban and opposition forces often fell between Badghis and Faryab provinces in the mid-1990s. Ismail Khan also fled to Faryab to reconstitute his forces following the Taliban takeover of Herat Province, but was betrayed by Abdul Malik Pahlawan. In May 1997, Abdul Malik Pahlawan raised the Taliban flag over the capital of Maymana, switching sides and initiating a renewed Taliban offensive from the west. Following a series of changing allegiances and falling out with Malik, the Taliban withdrew from the area, but in 1998 a contingent of 8,000 Taliban fighters pressed through Faryab, seizing Abdul Rashid Dostum's headquarters in Sheberghan, in neighboring Jowzjan province.