FĀRYĀB (also spelled Pāryāb, Bāryāb), a town in northern Afghanistan, now in the modern Afghan province of Faryāb.

i. In Pre-Modern Islamic Times.

ii. In Modern Times.


Early Islamic Fāryāb lay within the region of Gūzgān/Jūzjān (q.v.). The town was probably situated some 16 km to the east of the Āb-e Qayṣār at the spot now called Ḵayrābād, where remains of an early Islamic settlement and a citadel have been noted (Ball, no. 542).

Fāryāb almost certainly had a pre-Islamic history, although we know virtually nothing of this, for it lay beyond the eastern frontiers of the Sasanian empire. Gardīzī (ed. Ḥabībī, p. 29) attributes its foundation to Fīrōz son of Yazdegerd, the Sasanian king. It was conquered by the Arab general ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿĀmer (q.v.) in 32/652-53 during the course of fierce fighting in Gūzgān and Ṭoḵārestān; in 45/665-66 Qays b. Hayṯam was governor of Marv-al-rūd, Ṭālaqān, and Fāryāb. It nevertheless retained a local Iranian prince of its own, whose name (or title?) is corruptly written in Ṭabarī as T.r.s.l. The Hephthalite leader Ṭarḵān Nīzak brought him out in rebellion against the Arab governor of Khorasan Qotayba b. Moslem in 90/709. T.r.s.l. was pardoned by Qotayba, but again in 116/734 he was involved in the revolt of Ḥāreṯ b. Sorayj against the Omayyads (Ṭabarī, I, p. 2897, II, pp. 79, 1198, 1206, 1218, 1566; cf. Gibb, pp. 15, 36-37).

By the 10th century, Fāryāb was one of the towns of the Farighunid princes (see ĀL-E FARĪḠŪN) of Gūzgān, vassals of the Samanids, and is described by the geographers of that century. It lay on the road from Marv-al-rūd to Balḵ (q.v.), and was smaller than Ṭālaqān; it had flourishing local agriculture and artisanal activity and a congregational mosque (Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 442, tr. Kramers and Wiet, pp. 427-28; Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, ed. Sotūda, p. 97, tr. Minorsky, pp. 107, 335; Yāqūt, Boldān, Beirut, IV, p. 229; Le Strange, Lands, pp. 425, 432). Fāryāb was plundered by Čāḡrï Beg’s Turkmans in 429/1037-38 and 430/1038-39, when the Saljuqs were wresting Khorasan from the Ghaznavids (Bayhaqī, pp. 534, 537, 567). It further suffered during the devastation of northern Afghanistan by Čengīz Khan’s (q.v.) Mongols in 617/1220, but recovered enough for Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī to record it in the next century as a small but agriculturally rich town (Nozhat al-qolūb, ed. Le Strange, p. 156, tr. p. 153), although it subsequently, at some unrecorded date, fell into total ruin.


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

Balāḏorī, Fotūhá, pp. 406-7, 409.

W. Ball, Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan, 2 vols., Paris, 1982.

Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 79-80.

Idem, An Historical Geography of Iran, tr. S. Soucek, Princeton, 1984, p. 33.

Bayhaqī, Tārīḵ-e masʿūdī, ed. Q. Ḡanī and ʿA.-A. Fayyāż, Tehran, 1324 Š./1945.

Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 270, 271.

H. A. R. Gibb, The Arab Conquests in Central Asia, London, 1923.

Markwart, Ērānšahr, pp. 67, 70, 78-79.




Fāryāb (also Pāryāb), common Persian toponym meaning “lands irrigated by diversion of river water” (see ĀBĪ). It is presently borne by twenty-one villages in Persia, most of them in the south, eighteen under the form Fāryāb, three under Pāryāb (Pāpolī Yazdī, pp. 121, 385). Several medieval settlements of varying importance were also known by that name: mere villages in Sogdiana and western Khorasan (Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 138; Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, II, pp. 57, 203); a small town and district in southern Fārs (Le Strange, Lands, pp. 257 n., 296); and a much larger city in Gūzgān (northern Afghanistan), present-day Ḵayrābād, near Dawlatābād(-e Maymana; q.v.; Le Strange, Lands, p. 425; Barthold, p. 33; Ball, I, pp. 150-51). The striking fact that none of these old Fāryābs has retained its former name underlines the vulnerability and instability of settlements built along rivers and liable to destructive floods (for an example in Kermān, see Sykes, pp. 269-70). It was, however, the Mongol invasion of 617/1220 that ruined Fāryāb in Gūzgān.

The name of that once prosperous city was revived in 1344 Š./1965, when the high governorate (ḥokūmat-e ʿalā) of Maymana, which had remained an independent administrative division in Afghanistan since the annexation of the Uzbek khanate of Maymana in 1293/1876, was elevated to the rank of province (welāyat) under the name Fāryāb. The province was, however, about twice as large as the former administrative division because it also incorporated two major districts (ḥokūmat) detached from the province (nāʾeb al-ḥokūmagī) of Torkestān: Darzāb-Gorzīvān and Andḵūy-Dawlatābād. In the early 1980s the district (woloswālī) of Darzāb was again detached from Fāryāb and returned to the neighboring province Jōzjān. At present Fāryāb province covers 21,141 km2. Straddling the boundaries between several major geohistorical regions, mainly Turkestan and Khorasan, it lacks real unity. The northern part isin the western extremity of the Afghan Turkestan lowlands, on the edge of the Kara Kum desert, including the big oasis of Andḵōy /Andḵūy (q.v.) and some of the lowest elevations in Afghanistan (257 m on the border with Turkmenistan); Turkic-speaking populations (Uzbek, Turkmen) predominate. The westernmost area (Qayṣār) is an outpost of Bādḡīs (q.v.), the eastern extremity of greater Khorasan, largely repopulated by Paštūn colonists. The southern region, or Kōhestān, extends over the central Band-e Torkestān (q.v.) ridge, with elevations of more than 3,000 m and sparsely distributed Persian-speaking villages. The provincial capital, Maymana, is strategically located at the intersection of the roads linking all these regions.

Other than Maymana, the only localities with urban status in the province are Andḵūy (13,000 inhabitants in 1358 Š./1979) and Dawlatābād (q.v.). The population, recorded at 541,706 settled inhabitants in the census of 1358 Š./1979, is so unevenly distributed (Table 1, below) that the comparatively high provincial density of twenty-six inhabitants per km2 has only limited geographical significance. Furthermore, Fāryāb is among the Afghan provinces with the highest number of nomads (ca 4,000 families, or 25,000 persons, mainly Paštūn (Table 1, below).

For a summary of the most important available data about population and land use, see the following tables:

Table 1. Population of Faryāb Province, 1978-79.

Table 2. Land use in Faryāb Province, 1967.



W. Ball, Archaeological Gazetteer of Afghanistan, 2 vols., Paris, 1982.

W. Barthold, An Historical Geography of Iran, tr. S. Soucek, Princeton, N.J., 1984.

Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, Tārīḵ II. Baḵš-e joḡrāfīā-ye Ḵorāsān, tr. D. Krawulsky as Ḫorāsān zur Timuridenzeit nach dem Tārīḫ-e Ḥāfez-e Abrū, 2 vols., TAVO, Beihefte 46/1-2, Wiesbaden, 1984.

M.-Ḥ. Pāpolī Yazdī, Farhang-e ābādīhā wa makānhā-ye maḏhabī-e kešvar, Mašhad, 1367 Š./1988.

P. M. Sykes, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia or Eight Years in Iran, London, 1902.

(Daniel Balland)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: January 24, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 4, pp. 379-382