Balkh, one of the oldest cities in the world

In An Historical Guide to Afghanistan, it is called Umm Al-Belaad or Mother of Cities due to its antiquity. Balkh, in northern Afghanistan, was the center of Zoroastrianism. The name Zariaspa, which is either an alternate name for Balkh or a term for part of the city, may derive from the important Zoroastrian fire temple Azar-i-Asp. Balkh was regarded as the first place where Zoroaster preached his religion, as well as the place where he died. The date of Zoroaster is unknown however classical writers such as Plutarch proposed dates prior to 6000 BC. Dates proposed in scholarly literature diverge widely, between the 18th and the 6th centuries BC.

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.