Peshawar is my favorite city so far in Pakistan, known as the oldest living city in Asia. It is the capital of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, land of the Pashtuns. It is a vibrant city with a rich history. For centuries it has been a trading centre between Afghanistan and Central Asia. Back in the old days, traders from all over Central Asia would pass through and stop to park their beasts (camels) at the caravan sarai (highway motel) for the night and they would have a meal and also share stories with other traders from distant lands. Peshawar is well known for its bazaars. They have huge separate bazaars for spices, dry fruits, crockery, meat and fish, and also vegetables.
Another thing that Peshawar is known for is their green tea (kawa). They are served in little rustic teapots. These tea shops were very popular, centuries ago, with the traders. One particular tea- shop that we visited has been operating for 300 years.
While in Peshawar, we were lucky to be guided by Prince and Kausar, who are truly amazing people. They are certified tour guides and they are also very active with their charity work. Prince runs his own NGO which is called ‘World Welfare’. We had a rare opportunity to visit an Afghan refugee camp which was under their care. While our time there was short, we were warmly greeted by the elders and children of the camp. The settlement was recently rebuilt as it was all washed away during the floods in August 2010.The houses are mostly built with bricks and mud. It was quite sad as they were really living with the bare necessities. Prince has done a lot of work in the settlement. He has helped them rebuild their houses and also install water- pumps. He also runs learning centres for the children, by teaching them English and having Computer classes and for the girls it’s mostly handicraft work. The sad reality is that the children have to work in the brick factories for 10-12 hours to support their families, so the learning centers are always empty. In order to get the kids to come for classes, Prince sometimes has to fork out money for the families so that the kids can go to school.
Peshawar is also a city with the most gun shops around. I must have seen at least 25-30 gun shops. A long time ago people used to walk around town with their guns & rifles but are now forbidden.
It was too bad we didn’t have time to visit the tribal areas where they have a gun factory producing Kalashnikov (AK-47) rifles 😦