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