Language : Pushto
Phone Code : 0521
Peshawar is the capital of North West Frontier Province of Pakistan; NWFP
for short. Like most ancient cities, several theories abound about its
name. Babur the founding emperor of Moghul dynasty, has referred to it as
'Pushpapura', meaning the 'city of flowers'. Another theory suggests that
Peshawar has been derived from Persian words 'Pish' and 'Aawar" meaning a
place you encounter en route. Strategically located at the mouth of the
famous Khyber Pass, Peshawar has been the Northern invasion route to India
for centuries. Peshawar was founded over 2,000 years ago and became the
seat of the Kushan Kings and a cradle of Gandhara Civilization. With the
advent of Islam, the Persian influence brought in by the Moghuls, left a
lasting impression that remains till today. Surrounded by hills and
offering a mysterious charm, Peshawar has much to offer to its visitors.
The population of NWFP is primarily Pathans, with a very distinctive
language called 'Pushtu'. Pathans have handsome features, and they are
traditionally very hospitable, but fiercely independent and a race of
proud warriors, who have proved to be unconquerable. The gun totting
Pathans lend a 'Frontier Town' aura, compelling some writers to call NWFP
the Wild West of Pakistan. Yet this charismatic city has a unique capacity
for captivating its visitors, who keep returning to be mesmerized by its
charms and adventurous spirit.
Balahisar Fort :
The name Balahisar is of Persian origin and most likely given by Afghan
Ruler Taimur Shah Durrani (1773 - 1793). The origin of the fort is not
clear, but it is as old as the city itself, 2000 to 2500 years. The main
entrance faces the old route to India. A Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang,
visited Peshawar in 630 AD, and he has described it as a royal residence
of the city. According to Dr Dani, a channel of the old Bara River
surrounded it once.
Historically Peshawar has always been a city of strategic importance,
frequently mentioned as the seat of Ghandhara civilization. Subuktagin
captured Peshawar in 988 AD, Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD, Ghori in 1179
AD, and then came Babar in the 15 century and established the Mughal
empire. Afghan King Sher Shah Suri destroyed the fort after the overthrow
of Babar's son Humayun. Upon his return Humayun rebuilt the fort.
Ahmed Shah Durrani of Afghanistan finally took it from the Mughals and
made it a residential palace. His son Taimur made Peshawar his winter
capital. After his death in 1793, Shah Zaman lost it to the Sikhs in 1834,
who destroyed it. Then Sher Singh on orders from his father Ranjeet Singh,
rebuilt the fort. An inscription from the Sikh period still survives on a
The British annexed Punjab in 1849 after defeating Ranjeet Singh's son,
and extended their rule to Peshawar. At the time Balahisar was a mud fort,
the British reinforced it with bricks and gave it the present day look.
Till 1947, the fort also housed the treasury.
On 14 August 1947, the Pakistan flag hoisted over Balahisar, and the
following year it became the Headquarters of the Frontier Corps (FC). A
small museum has also been opened inside the Fort, which has a nice
display of weapons, dresses, and photographs relating to the FC.
The Balahisar Fort has been opened to tourism, however prior appointment
is a necessary convenience. It would be prudent to take a conducted tour,
preferably through Sehrai Travel & Tours details below
Mahabat Khan Mosque :
The mosque was built in mid 17th century, during the rule of the Mughal
Emperor Shah Jehan. Mahabat Khan was governor of the Peshawar region at
the time, and he financed the building of the mosque, thus the eponym.
It is a beautiful mosque in the traditional Mughal style. Set among the
gold and silversmith shops, its narrow but massive entrance leads to a
large prayer courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard is a cool blue
tiled ablution pond, with a row of rooms on either side, and a main prayer
hall towards the western side. The main hall is lavishly decorated inside
and covered by three fluted domes. Two tall minars (towers) rise on either
side of the main hall.
In 1826, the Sikhs had to fight their way to Peshawar and let loose a
reign of terror, which continued with the appointment of General Avitabile,
an Italian mercenary, as the governor of Peshawar. Every day before
breakfast, he would have a few local men hurled from the top of the minar
of the Mahabat Khan Mosque to "teach a lesson to the unruly tribesmen".
His cruelty has passed into the folklore of the walled city, for naughty
children are often warned of the wrath of Abu Tabela, a local corruption
of 'Avitabile'. The top domes of the minars were destroyed by the Sikh
rulers, and later rebuilt by British. Today it is well maintained by the
Remember to take off your shoes before entering the mosque. Ensure that
you are clothed to cover your arms and legs. Also cover your head.
The Mahabat Khan Mosque is located on the narrow street of Andarshar
Bazaar, inside the Peshawar City. To get there, either take the Kachairy
Road to Chowk Yadgar, park there and walk west 150 meters into the Bazaar;
or park diagonally across the southeast end of Balahisar Fort on Hakim
Ullah Jan Road, and walk up the alley of Andarshar Bazaar. The mosque is
at the highest point on the street.
Bab-e-Khyber & Jamrud Fort
Bab-e-Khyber. The Khyber Gate was built in 1964, at the mouth of the
Khyber Pass, where the Jamrud Fort is also located. Once way-out of the
city, today Peshawar extends through the Hayatabad bazaar, that threatens
to en-gulf the Bab-e-Khyber.
Jamrud Fort :
A well-known Sikh General Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, proposed the
construction of a big fort at Jamrud (originally Fattagarh) in 1836, in
order to strengthen the base for further advances through the formidable
defile. It is at the southern end of the Khyber Pass, where the Khyber
gate stands across the road today. Construction was approved the following
year and Hari Singh built a mud fort in an unbelievably short time of 54
days. However, Amir Muhammad Khan of Kabul (Afghanistan) sensed danger and
attacked it in early 1837, he defeated the Sikhs and returned to Kabul. In
April 1837, the local tribesmen followed suit and attacked the fort,
killing Hari Singh.
The fortress is situated on a mound covering a hundred square yards. It
has an outer wall and an inner wall and had one entrance in each wall at
the time. The route inside spirals to the top, from where one can get a
commanding view of the stony barrenness that leads into the famous Khyber
Pass. In 1924, the British took over the fort and constructed new
barracks. Today it is part of the Peshawar garrison, and prior permission
is required to visit inside.
The objects of mild interest are:
A Smadhi or shrine of Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, erected in 1892 by Babuq.
A Gurdwara or Sikh temple.
A well, which has a goryq tale.
Underground cells, once used as a prison.
The sweeping view ofq the Khyber Pass from the top.
Bab-e-Khyber & Jamrud Fort are located in FATA (Federally Administrated
Tribal Areas), and all foreigners have to seek permission from the
Peshawar administration to go to Jamrud.
Day time visits are recommended.
Peshawar Museum :
The Victorian Memorial Hall was originally the built as a center for
cultural and social activities of British military and civil officers.
However, when the archeological mission started excavations in various
parts of NWFP, the British realized the necessity for a museum and
converted this monumental building to a museum in 1906.
The red brick building of the Peshawar Museum is like a Mughal monument
from the outside and a basilica from the inside. The style is typically
Curzonian, amalgamated with oriental features. The interior consists of a
long hall with side galleries on the ground floor and galleries on the
first floor. At present there are four main galleries:
The Gandhara Gallery houses a major collection of the museum. These
artifacts come from different Buddhist sites in the Mardan District, and
all the episodes on display are related to Buddhism. At the entrance of
the Gallery is huge painting depicting the Gandharan Empire.
The Muslim Gallery contains handwritten copies of the holy Quran,
calligraphic specimens, manuscripts and Mughal miniature paintings.
The Ethnological Gallery contains the dresses, weapons, household objects,
musical instruments and dummies from different tribes of NWFP. The most
interesting collection comes from Kafaristan in Chitral, it consists of
wooden effigees of men and women.
The Coins Gallery displays the coins of Muslim rulers of India and
Indo-Greek rulers. Some specimen seals and jewels are also on display.
Shops and shopping
Peshawar offers an intensely interesting and varied shopping experience.
The bazaars offer not only a wide range of merchandise but also a
picturesque and entertaining arena to explore. These lively bazaars are
representative of the everyday life and you can find an amazing number of
people conversing in three to four languages at the same time. By far, the
most interesting tour would be that of a bazaar in Peshawar. Most of these
colorful bazaars are in the old city where you find a labyrinth of narrow
lanes, a mosaic of traders, travelers, Pathan tribesmen and Afghans. Shops
are generally open every day, except during Friday prayers between noon
and 3:00pm. A detailed tour of these bazaars would take no less than a
Khyber Bazaar :
The bus terminal for the Khyber Pass and Tribal Agencies is located here.
Kabuli Gate, one of the walled city's 16 gates is at the end of the Khyber
Bazaar. Though the gate and the walls have disappeared for the most part,
some remnants are still visible. Doctors, lawyers and dentists mostly
occupy Khyber Bazaar. There are a number of inexpensive hotels with
reasonable room service and air-conditioning.
Qissa Khawani Bazaar (the street of the story tellers) :
Derives its name from olden times when it served as the news center for
the area. It was a place where news and views were exchanged and
professional raconteurs enthralled large audiences of passers-by. A walk
down this bazaar is still an exciting experience. Although the
storytellers are long gone the street still throbs with activity. Colorful
fruit-stalls and sweetshops compete for your attention and wayside
restaurants sell a bewildering variety of kebabs, grilled meats and
freshly baked flat bread. The aroma of tea and cardamom fill the air
mingled with sandalwood, incense and tobacco. In the mid-19th century,
British Commissioner in Peshawar, Sir Edward Herbert described Qissa
Khawani Bazaar as 'the Piccadilly of Central Asia'. Towering over the
street are tall narrow buildings with intricately carved balconies and
window frames enclosing wooden shutters. Most of the cheaper hotels can
also be found here.
Brass and Copper Shops :
At the end of the Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the street takes a sharp turn left
into the bazaar of the Coppersmiths. The shops here sell a range of new
and old wares. Finely worked plates and samovars, teapots and vases
glitter in narrow recessed stalls while the craftsmen sit cross-legged on
comfortable cushions showing off their finest pieces of work. The smiths
are proud and skilled men, several of them have achieved international
acclaim. One of the most popular ones is Ali, who calls himself 'Poor
Honest Ali'. He sells both antique and modern pieces and purchases have
been reliably forwarded from here to customers all over the world. His
superb work has been presented to several heads of states including Queen
Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
Peshawar Pottery :
It is down a side street, immediately after the brass shops. Here you can
watch the potters at work from 10:00am to 4:00pm everyday except Fridays.
The wide range of ornamental and utilitarian pottery is glazed in earth
colors. The potters make china and earthenware goods to order and the
forwarding services are quite reliable.
Chowk Yadgar (the place of remembrance) :
From the bazaar of the coppersmiths, it is only a few minutes walk to the
central square of Old Peshawar, Chowk Yadgar. The monument in the middle
of the square is a memorial to those martyrs who sacrificed their lives in
Pakistan's wars with India. To the left side of the square, money changers
sit on hand knotted carpets with their safes behind them and their pocket
calculators at hand. They will exchange any currency but accept only large
notes. This chowk (square) is also the traditional site for political
rallies and public meetings of all kinds.
Bazaar of Goldsmiths and Silversmiths :
Running off Chowk Yadgar to the west is Andarshah Bazaar, a narrow street
of gold and silversmiths. The street is lined with tall old buildings on
both sides that cast the whole area in perpetual dusk. The shops sell
tribal as well as modern jewelry, antique silver, old coins and an
assortment of historic military memorabilia such as buttons, buckles,
regimental badges, powder cases and bayonets. The goods are displayed in
showrooms, dazzlingly bright inside with mirrors and powerful lights.
Jewelry can be made to order and quality is unreservedly guaranteed. The
quality of precious stones or gold however may prove to be disappointing
and is not reliably guaranteed. Antique and second hand silver items and
semi-precious stones are much more interesting and also less risky buys
for the casual shopper. While you rummage through the boxes of treasure,
the shopkeeper offers you sweet green tea brewed in huge copper samovars.
Blankets and Shawls :
Beyond the Copper Market are a number of shops selling blankets and shawls
from the Valleys of Swat and Kaghan. Made of hand-spun wool, these are
predominantly in red or black colors with brightly patterned borders. A
lane to the right leads to the Cloth Bazaar where all kinds of cloth and
dress materials are available.
Beyond the cloth bazaar is Basket Market, which is full of baskets from
Dera Ismail Khan, a city at the southern tip of the province of NWFP.
There is also a Banjara Bazaar, literally meaning ' a gipsy bazaar', that
sells all kinds of oddments: carved beads of bone and wood, real and false
hair, skin and hair colorants, traditional cosmetics like kajaal (black
kohl). You may find some unusual decorative items here such as unique
bells and hair braids. The rooms above these shops are occupied by
fortunetellers and so called magicians who administer protective tattoos
against supernatural attacks. The Pipal Mandi or the main wholesale grain
market is also close by. There is a pipal tree in the quiet square
believed to be the tree under which the Buddha preached. The Bird Market
is on the main street towards Chowk Yadgar. Songbirds are sold as pets in
small cages as in China. Partridges, quails and doves are also available
for purchase here. The Fruit Bazaar swings around the corner into Chowk
Yadgar, and offers a vast variety of dried fruits and nuts. Leather and
Skin Market has shops that sell caps and hats, which are cut and stitched
from curly coated Karakul lambskins and the cured skins can be purchased
directly from the tanners. Many shops have tailors on hand to make
Astrakhan Hats by order. Meena Bazaar is women's shopping area selling an
astonishing profusion of haberdashery: ribbon and lace, buttons and bows,
beads and braiding, hair ornaments and machine-embroidery. Meena Bazaar is
close to the Clock Tower and also near by is the Shoe Market.
Between the old city and the Cantonment area lies the Saddar Bazaar, which
is full of hotels, restaurant and shops stocked with antiques and carpets.
Wooden furniture inlaid with brass, Pakistani, Persian and Afghan rugs and
waxed cloth are the things to look for along the main street. The waxed
cloth is a traditional specialty of Peshawar. Stylized designs of birds,
chrysanthemums, goldfish and dragons in Chinese fashion are worked in
brightly colored wax on silk or satin cloth lengths. Little is known about
its origin and the technique is a closely guarded trade secret. Bara
Market, at the far end of Saddar sells foreign imports such as Italian
shoes, Japanese electrical goods and Danish china. Some contraband items
also find their way in this market. The back streets sell everything from
guns to water heaters and lawn mowers.
There is a modern shopping arcade called Shinwari Plaza that was opened in
mid-1980s, half way along the main bazaar. It has been named after one of
the Pathan tribes of the Khyber Agency. This is the place to look for
antique silver jewelry from Afghanistan set with ivory, amber, lapis
lazuli, cornelian, turquoise or malachite. The silver bangles and lockets
from Turkestan are especially fine. The shops in the upper stories of the
plaza also sell Afghan rugs, dresses and embroidery.
Food and drinks :
Peshawar has many regional specialties, which are peculiar in taste and
aroma. The most famous are Peshawari Chappli Kebabs, which are a staple
diet, made from beef, herbs and corn flour. These taste best when served
hot straight from the large frying pans. Saffron rice is another aromatic
dish that is consumed for any meal including breakfast. A variety of
grilled meats and freshly baked flat bread called 'Nan' is readily
available. The favorite beverage of NWFP is the green tea that is served
with style and ceremony. It is a sweet smelling and delicious drink of
delicate green color and carries a faint aroma of cardamom. Pakistani food
is available in all restaurants, big or small. Chicken, mutton, beef,
lentils, vegetables and a variety of freshly baked breads are on the menu.
Most big hotels also serve international cuisine besides the Pakistani and
regional dishes. There are a few Chinese Restaurants but the dishes have a
local taste instead of true Chinese flavor. Roadside food stalls serve
freshly prepared hot food but care must be taken for hygienic reasons.
There is plenty of fresh and dry fruits available almost everywhere in
Peshawar. Drinking water is not safe unless it is bottled and sealed. Many
other soft drinks are available but only the known brand names should be
considered for consumption. Most hot beverages are boiled and pose no
potential health concerns.
Peshawar is well connected by air, rail and road with the rest of the
country. Air links connect Peshawar to a dozen Pakistani towns and cities.
It is also linked by air with Europe via Dubai. On the national rail
system, Peshawar is the last stop for travelers. Bus and minibus services
run between Peshawar and Islamabad (3 to 4 hours), the valleys of Swat,
Dir and Chitral to the north. The desert towns to the south beyond Kohat
are also accessible by road from Peshawar.
For transport within the city, taxis, auto-richshaws and tongas
(horse-driven carriages) are available at varied prices. The charges are
not fixed and may vary according to the condition of the vehicle or the
distance and time.
To/From the Airport
There are many taxis available at the airport, which would cost about Rs50
to Rs100 for a trip, doubling during the night. A majority of them have
meters running in them.
Taxis are readily available in Peshawar at the airport and city itself.
For touring the Northern Areas Jeep taxis can also be hired. These jeeps
are not very comfortable or cheap, but the drivers are experts and the
timings are flexible as they do not follow a set timetable.
Buses are the cheapest but uncomfortable except a few, to travel. They go
everywhere and bus stations are mostly near railway stations.
Trains run frequently between Peshawar and other cities but they are slow
and unpunctual. Train classes are Express and Ordinary; compartment
classes are air-conditioned. First class and air-conditioned have sleeper
compartments and there are special ladies' compartments recommended for
women travelling alone. Air-conditioned class is almost as expensive as
flying and you need to book several days in advance, especially for
sleepers. Buying a ticket can be time consuming and frustrating so ask an
agency or a hotel employee to handle it for you.
Foreign tourists can get a 25 percent discount (50 percent for students)
on most rail fares. You can apply for a discount to the Divisional
Superintendent with your passport and student card at Peshawar, Karachi,
Lahore, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Sukkar or Multan railway sattion for the
necessary concession before you buy your ticket. You may also need a
tourist certificate from the local tourist office to claim your rail