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Balkh is a town in the Balkh Province of Afghanistan, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some 74km south of the Amu Darya river. It was historically an ancient centre of Buddhism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism and one of the major cities of Khorasan, since the latter's earliest history.The ancient city of Balkh was known to the Ancient Greeks as Bactra, giving its name to Bactria. It was mostly known as the centre and capital of Bactria or Tokharistan. Marco Polo described Balkh as a "noble and great city". Balkh is now for the most part a mass of ruins, situated some 12 km from the right bank of the seasonally flowing Balkh River, at an elevation of about 365 m (1,200 ft).French Buddhist Alexandra David-Néel associated Shambhala with Balkh, also offering the Persian Sham-i-Bala, "elevated candle" as an etymology of its name. In a similar vein, the Gurdjieffian J. G. Bennett published speculation that Shambalha was Shams-i-Balkh, a Bactrian sun temple.Customize your holiday with our Afghanistan sightseeing planner to create an adventure that suits you.
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