NWFP, Pakistan

Peshawar derives its name from a Sanskrit word "Pushpapura" meaning the city of flowers. Peshawar’s flowers were mentioned even in Moghal Emperor Babur’s memoirs.


Alexander’s legions and the southern wing of his army were held up here in 327 B.C. for forty days at a fort excavated recently, 27 ½ kms 17 miles) north-east of Peshawar at Pushkalavati (lotus city) near Charsadda.


The great Babur marched through historic Khyber Pass to conquer South Asia in 1526 and set up the Moghal Empire in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent.


The pass and the valley have resounded to the tramp of marching feet as successive armies hurtled down the crossroad of history, pathway of commerce, migration and invasion by Aryans, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, Bactrians, Kushans, Huns, Turks’ Mongols and Moghals.


And Peshawar is now, as always, very much a frontier town. The formalities of dress and manner give way here to a free and easy style, as men encounter men with a firm hand-clasp and a straight but friendly look. Hefty handsome men in baggy trousers and long, losse shirts, wear bullet studded bandoleers across their chests or pistols at their sides as a normal part of their dress.


There is just that little touch of excitement and drama in the air that makes for a frontier land. An occasional salvo of gun fire-no, not a tribal raid or a skirmish in the streets but a lively part of wedding celebrations. Remember, we are in the land of the Pathans - a completely male-dominated society. North and south of Peshawar spreads the vast tribal area where lives the biggest tribal society in the world, and the most well known, though much misrepresented.


Pathans are faithful Muslims. Their typical martial and religious character has been moulded by their heroes, like Khushal Khan Khattak, the warrior poet and Rehman Baba, a preacher and also a poet of Pushto language.


Today, they themselves guard the Pakistan-Afghanistan border along the great passes of the Khyber, the Tochi, the Gomal and others on Pakistan’s territory, but before independence they successfully defied mighty empires, like the British and the Moghal and others before them, keeping the border simmering with commotion, and the flame of freedom proudly burning.


Peshawar is the great Pathan city. And what a city ! Hoary with age and the passage of twenty-five centuries, redolent with the smell of luscious fruit and roasted meat and tobacco smoke, placid and relaxed but pulsating with the rhythmic sound of craftsmen’s hammers and horses’ hooves, unhurried in its pedestrian pace and horse-carriage traffic, darkened with tall houses, narrow lanes and overhanging balconies, intimate, with its freely intermingling crowd of townsmen, tribal, traders and tourists- this is old Peshawar, the journey’s end or at least a long halt, for those traveling up north or coming down from the Middle East or Central Asia, now as centuries before when caravans unloaded in the many caravan series now lying deserted outside the dismantled city walls or used as garages by the modern caravans of far-ranging buses.




Until the mid-fifties Peshawar was enclosed within a city wall and sixteen gates. Of the old city gates the most famous was the Kabuli Gate but only the name remains now. It leads out to the Khyber and on to Kabul.

You come across two-and-three storeyed houses built mostly of unbaked bricks set in wooden frames to guard against earthquakes. Many old houses have beautifully carved heavy wooden doors and almost all have highly ornamental wooden balconies. There is a tall and broad structure whose lofty portal look down upon the street. This historic building houses the police offices and the site was occupied centuries ago by a Buddhist stupa, then by a Hindu temple and then by a Moghal serai. It was, in Sikh days, the seat of General Avitable, an Italian soldier of fortune in the service of Ranjit Singh.


Here perhaps visiting travellers or the relaxing townsmen were regaled with stories by professional story tellers, in the evening, in the many tea-shops that still adorn the bazaar front with their large brass samovars and numerous hanging teapots and teacups.


As in most eastern bazaars, the shops of delicacies predominate, and here too you will find many colourful fruit shops displaying the glorious harvest of Peshawar’s orchards. You will be waylaid by the enticing smell of Peshawar’s unrivaled bread and justly celebrated "Kababs" and "tikkas" meat sizzling on hot coals, in the many wayside cafes.


Leather goods shops are the next most numerous selling that wonderful footwear, the Peshawari "chappals" or sandals, belts , holsters and bandoliers and a special variety of light but sturdy suitcases called " Yakhdaan".


The only significant remaining Moghal mosque in Peshawar was built by Mahabat Khan in 1670 A.D when he was twice Governor of Peshawar under Moghal Emperors Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb. The mosque was nearly destroyed by fire in 1898 A.D. and was only saved by the unremitting efforts of the faithful. The extensive renovation of the mosque was done by the traditional craftsman. The mosque is a fine specimen of Moghal architecture of Emperor Shah Jehan’s period. The interior of the prayer chamber has been lavishly decorated with floral work and calligraphy.


The mighty Balahisaar Fort lies on both eastern and western approaches to Peshawar city. It meets the eye when coming from Rawalpindi or from the Khyber. It is a massive frowning structure as its name implies, and the newcomer passing under the shadow of its huge battlements and ramparts cannot fail to be impressed. Originally built by Babur, the first of the Moghals in 1526-30, it was rebuilt in its present form by the Sikh Governor of Peshawar, Hari Singh Nalva, in the 1830’s under the guidance of French engineers. It houses government offices at present.


Peshawar Museum is housed in an imposing building of the British days. It was formerly the Victoria Memorial Hall built in 1905. The large hall, side galleries and the raised platform which were used for ball dances now display in chronological order finest specimens of Gandhara sculptures, tribal life, the Muslim period and ethnography.




Across the railway line was built the new modern Peshawar, the Cantonment, like the ones which the British built near every major city for their administrative offices, military barracks, residences, parks, churches and shops.


The Peshawar "Saddar" (Cantonment) is a spaciously laid out neat and clean township with avenues of tall trees, wide tarred roads, large single storeyed houses with lawns and a pervading scent of rare shrubs and flowers that is Peshawar’s own.


The heart of the Saddar is the Khalid bin Walid (Company) Bagh which is an old Moghal Garden. Its huge ancient trees and gorgeous big roses are a sight to remember. Two other splendid old gardens are the Shahi Bagh in the north-east and the Wazir Bagh in the south-east, all of which give the character of a garden city to Peshawar.


In the Saddar is the splendid modern State Bank building, Governor’s House, hotels, old missionary Edwardes College, a richly stocked Museum, a fine shopping area and right in the middle is the Tourist Information Centre at Dean’s Hotel (Phone: 279781).


The Peshawar of the hoary past is the old city, the Peshawar of the British period (1849 to 1947) is the Cantonment but the Peshawar of independent Pakistan is the vast extension of the city west and east.

Westward, on the road to the Khyber, where in the days gone by, no one was safe from tribal raids, today stretches a long line of educational and research institutions, such as the Academy of Rural Development, the Teachers Training College, the North Regional Laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and many others.


But the pride of Peshawar today is its University, a vast sprawling garden town of red brick buildings and velvet lawns, which comprises a dozen departments and Colleges of Law, Medicine, Engineering and Forestry. Special mention must be made of the Islamia College, which was the pioneer national Institution that ignited the torch of enlightenment in this region, 67 years ago.


The road stretching out east towards Rawalpindi is lined for miles upon miles with factories producing a variety of goods and also orchard producing some of the world’s finest plums, pears and peaches. Rice, sugar-cane and tobacco are rich cash-crops of the well-watered Peshawar valley through which flows the Kabul River and at the end of which the mighty Indus forms the District boundary for 48 ½ kms (30 miles). The two joining near the historic Attock Fort.



The prime attraction in this region is the Khyber Pass situated in the Sulaiman Hills which form the western barrier of Pakistan. The hills dip down here, leaving a passage sometimes as broad as 1 ½ kms (1 mile) and sometimes as narrow as 16 meters (42 feet). The Pass begins near Jamrud Fort 18 kms 11 miles) from Peshawar and extends beyond the border of Pakistan at Torkham 58 kms (36 miles) away. At Torkham PTDC has a Motel-cum-Information Centre which is closed at present due to unsettled conditions in Afghanistan.


You may travel by road from Peshawar via Jamrud fort which lies amongst low story hills capped with pickets manned by Khyber Rifles. Also on the way you will see Ali Masjid and the fort with insignia of the regiments that have served in the Khyber. On route is also the Sphola stupa of Buddhist period (2-5 centuries A-D) and Landikotal Bazaar until you reach the border post at Torkham. The other exciting way of seeing Khyber Pass is to undertake a 42 kms and 3½ hours journey to Landikotal by the equally legendary Khyber Railway.


Khyber Railway: It threads its way through 34 tunnels crossing 92 bridges and culverts and climbing 1,200 meters. The British built it in 1920 at an enormous cost of Rs. Two million. Two or three coaches are pulled and pushed by two 1920 model steam engines. At one point, the track climbs 130 meters in less than a mile by means of the famous Changai Spur, a section of track shaped like a "W" with two reversing stations.

The Khyber Pass is presently closed to visitors and the Khyber Railway is also not operative due to unsettled conditions in Afghanistan. The Railway will, however, be operative in the not too distant future.


Darra Adam Khel is 42 kms (26 miles) south of Peshawar and leads on to Kohat. Darra is the biggest centre of indigenous arms manufacture. It has been supplying arms to whole tribal belt for the last 100 years. In Darra village almost every house is a gun factory, manufacturing astonishing copies of all imported guns and pistols with the crudest of tools. Buses and taxis ply to Darra. A visit to Darra is subject to permission by the Home Secretary, Government of N.W.F.P.

(Due to uncertain situation in Afghanistan, all tribal areas including Darra Gun Factories are closed to foreign visitors. Home Secretary, NWFP is the authority to grant permissions).



This is the furthest west of Pakistan’s mountain regions and borders on Afghanistan. The highest peaks in the Hindu Kush range are to be found here, and the beautiful remote valleys leading to them are infrequently visited by trekkers. The only access to the Chitral valley is over two mountain passes which are closed by snow in the winter months. The valleys in the south of Chitral are heavily forested while those to the north are more open and arid. There is much of cultural and historical interest in this area, from the fascinating Kalash people who occupy three small valleys to the southwest of Chitral town, to the old fort in Chitral town which was the scene of a celebrated siege in 1895.

The Chitral Valley at an elevation of 1,128 meters is favourite with mountaineers, anglers, hunters, hikers, naturalists and anthropologists. The 7,705 meters Trichmir, the highest peak of the Hindukush mountain, dominates this 322 kms. long exotic valley.

Chitral district has Afghanistan on its north, south and west. A narrow strip of Afghan territory, Wakhan, separates it from Tajikistan. The tourist season in Chitral is from June to September. The maximum temperature in June is 35 C and the minimum 19 C. In September the maximum is 24 C and minimum 8C




One of the major attractions of Chitral are the Kalash valleys- the home of the Kafir-Kalash or "Wearers of the Black Robes", a primitive pagan tribe. Their ancestry is enveloped in mystery and is the subject of controversy. A legend says that five soldiers of the legions of Alexander of Macedonia settled in Chitral and are the progenitors of the Kafir-Kalash.


Over 3,000-strong Kafir-Kalash live in the valley of Birir, Bumburet and Rambur, south of Chitral. Bumburet, the largest and the most picturesque valley of the Kafir-Kalash, is 40 kms. from Chitral and is connected by a jeep-able road. Birir, 34 kms. away is accessible by a jeep-able road. Rambur is 32 kms from Chitral.

The Kalash women wear black gowns of coarse cloth in summer and hand-spun wool dyed in black in winter. Their picturesque headgear is made of woolen black material decked out with cowry shells, buttons and crowned with a large coloured feather.


The Kalash are a gay people who love music and dancing particularly on occasion of their religious festival like Joshi Chilinjusht (14th & 15th May-spring), Phool (20th – 25th September) and Chowas (18th to 21st December for a week).


Polo in Chitral is as popular as in Gilgit. Polo matches are great attractions at festive occasions. A regular Polo tournament is held every year (First week of July) at Shandur Pass.


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