Mazar-i-Sharif mäzär´-ē-shärēf´ [key], city (1988 est. pop. 131,000), capital of Balkh prov., N Afghanistan, near the Uzbekistan border. It is held sacred as the alleged burial place of Ali, son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad; a noted mosque of Ali is in the city. Most of the inhabitants are Uzbeks. The center of Afghanistan's former rug and carpet industry, Mazar-i-Sharif also had cotton and silk industries. The surrounding agricultural area was known for its horses and Karakul lambs. Mazar-i-Sharif was a center of the Karakul fur trade. During the Afghanistan War, the city was an important link on the line of defenses guarding the strategic road between Kabul and Termez in Soviet Uzbekistan, and in the subsequent civil war it was the key to the control of N Afghanistan and the defense of Kabul.
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