Herat goes back to ancient times, but its age remains unknown. In times of the Achaemenid Empire, the surroundings of the district were known as Haraiva, and according to classical sources the region was known as Aria. In the Zoroastrian Avesta, the city is referred to as Haroiva. The name of the district and its main city derives from the main river of the region, the Hari Rud, which crosses the district and passes just to the south of the modern Herat.
Herat was for a long time a center of the Persian-Muslim culture world. The city is particularly well-known for its important art and literature tradition. One of the most famous poets of Persia, Djami, who is also considered the last important Sufi master of the Middle Ages, was from Herat. The Halveti and Cheshti Sufi Orders were also founded in Herat. Another celebrity of the city was Ustad Kamal-ud Din Behzad, the most important representative of the Persian-Muslim miniature painting. Herat is also famous for its hand-knotted Persian carpets. The Herat style (named after the city) is among the most expensive and best-known of its kind.