Pakistan / Places We Go

Visiting Peshawar – Scenes And Pictures Of Pakistan

With Peshawar in the news so much lately for everything from being the front lines in the struggle with militant Islam to suicide bombings to Blackwater operatives allegedly working out of the Pearl Continental for the Frontier Corps and for JSOC, I realized it was time to run a post on my experiences there.

Peshawar has a real “Wild West” feel and it really is a frontier city where you can do or buy anything and see all manner of people. Perhaps that’s why it is one of my favorite cities…

And in case you forget even for a minute inside your hotel that you’re in an exciting place, you’ll be reminded as soon as you step outside by your friendly, but professional, AK-47-toting guard(s) protecting the hotel:

green's-hotel-peshawar

While in Peshawar, one of the first places we headed to was the Qasim Ali Khan Mosque. Known for fire and brimstone sermons and rhetoric, anti-British riots have spun out across the city on more than one occasion after inspirational speeches from this mosque. So, our guide/fixer was shocked when we were greeted with friendly, open arms and invited inside to look around:

qasim ali khan mosque peshawar

Qasim-Ali-Khan-Mosque-peshawar

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Qasim Ali Khan Mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan

Following our visit to the Qasim Ali Khan Mosque, we broke up and wandered about the city. The site pictured below is Mohallah Sethian – a wealthy merchant’s house. You’ll notice the bridge connecting the two buildings. Well, one side housed the offices and residential quarters of the merchant and the other side (the right) contained his personal harem. Clever, huh?

mohalla-sethian-peshawar

This is the entrance to the offices/residential section:

Mohalla Sethian - A wealthy merchant's home in Peshawar, Pakistan

I snapped this picture of these girls outside Mohallah Sethian.  After showing them the picture, they delightedly followed us for blocks begging me to take more pictures of them (which I indulged them with) before they were driven off with sticks by some old men in an alleyway:

peshawar pakistan

One area we stumbled across that surprised me was the Cathedral Church of St John. Now, I’ve never been entirely clear on the difference between a church and a cathedral. However, I guess these guys weren’t either and decided to cover all of their bases by naming it both. Either way, it is a Christian religious institution and school right in the heart of Peshawar.  I’m not religious, but it was interesting to look around.

And, of course, it was protected by the ubiquitous gun-toting guards.  This one is utilizing a 12 gauge, pump action, pistol grip shotgun:

armed-guard-peshawar-pakistan

The complex is surrounded by a high wall and so it is sort of like an oasis of tranquility inside because the city noises are more or less blocked out and greenery is everywhere:

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St. John's Church or Cathedral in Peshawar, Pakistan

The below is not your image of Pakistan, is it?  I found it interesting to go inside and read some of the memorial plaques to various British officers that had been killed in this area when the British still ran things here.  I recall there were a lot of murders of British officers via throat-slitting at night, frequently described using the words “dastardly” and “cowardly.”

Cathedral-Church-of-St-John-peshawar

The entrance to the school on the site:

st-johns-peshawar

Across the street is a large cemetery.  This is the caretaker of the cemetery:

cemetery peshawar pakistan

And this bed on the path leading into the heart of the cemetery is where he lives and, therefore, sleeps at night:

cemetery peshawar pakistan

One of the graves in the cemetery…  Not just Christians are buried here – it just so happens that this photograph was taken in the Christian section:

A cemetery in Peshawar, Pakistan

Grave diggers hard at work to make room for fresh arrivals:

grave diggers peshawar

And here as well:

grave-diggers-pakistan

digging grave peshawar pakistan

Pictures of random street scenes taken as I continued my wanderings across Peshawar:

peshawar-pakistan

peshawar-pakistan

peshawar

This carpet provides a fine map of Afghanistan:

Afghan carpet map in Peshawar, Pakistan

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Pretty much says it all… Pakistanis take decorating their vehicles very seriously:

Death game motorcycle in Peshawar, Pakistan

peshawar pakistan

peshawar pakistan old market

vegetable-seller-peshawar-pakistan

These were some kind of exotic birds for sale… Probably endangered and illegal to sell:

bird-market-peshawar

Peshawar, Pakistan

One of many, many informal money changers one can find across the region:

money-changer-peshawar-pakistan

As I would find across Pakistan and Afghanistan, the kids will always love you if you take their picture:

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children-peshawar-pakistan

This is the entrance to one of the souks where many fine antiques can be purchased. Someone with a knowledge of such things could do quite well here. You see, dealers of antiques in the West are too afraid to come here, even though many items on sale in these Peshawar markets could be sold for orders of magnitude more in the West:

peshawar pakistan

Some of the wares on display:

lapis-dealer-peshawar-pakistan

Peshawar, Pakistan

Peshawar, Pakistan

This was one of the most pathetic scenes I have ever observed.  This woman was begging outside the souk and had just collapsed into the muddy street.  She was sobbing for some money, some food, some pity – anything – as the rain beat down on her and a sea of people walked past her, completely ignoring her:

beggar peshawar pakistan

This landmark is near the downtown section of the old city.  Admire it.  It was subsequently heavily damaged, if not destroyed in a suicide bomb attack:

peshawar pakistan

This is a building of the Pakistani central bank in Peshawar. It too was subsequently damaged in a bomb attack:

central-bank-peshawar

This section is around one of the many gates to the old city, reflecting some of the British and Indian influences on Peshawar:

Peshawar, Pakistan

old-city-peshawar-pakistan

The grand gate:

Gates of the city in Peshawar, Pakistan

old-city-peshawar

“New” Peshawar encircles “old” Peshawar like a filthy cloak on a beautiful woman, but it is where the majority of the population of the city of Peshawar is found.  Below are some pictures of “new Peshawar”:

peshawar

poverty-peshawar-pakistan

street-vendor-peshawar-pakistan

You’d think I would automatically endorse any place featuring a goat market, but these goats are headed for the butcher’s block and not to a life of pampered luxury in Oregon House:

goats-peshawar-pakistan

butcher-peshawar-pakistan

Below is a picture of the headquarters of the Frontier Corps in Peshawar, also known as the Balahisar which is placed on the highest ground in the city.  I apologize for the poor quality, but the taking of this picture was very forbidden and so I had to move swiftly.

The fort is reflective of the chaotic history of Peshawar.  The name Balahisar is of Persian origin and was most likely given by the 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 old).  The main entrance faces the old route to India. A Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang, visited Peshawar in 630 AD, and he described it as a royal residence of the city.  And, supposedly, a channel of the old Bara River surrounded it at one time.

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 15th century who established the Mughal empire. Afghan King Sher Shah Suri destroyed the fort after the overthrow of Babar’s son Humayun. However, 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 gate.

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. Until 1947, the fort also housed the treasury.

On 14 August 1947, the Pakistani flag was hoisted over Balahisar, and the following year it became the Headquarters of the Frontier Corps (FC).  Good luck getting inside to take a look around…

Headquarters of the Frontier Corps in Peshawar, Pakistan

No matter where you go in Peshawar, new or old, you will encounter warm Pakistani hospitality – such as that which we encountered in the “Old City” below…

We were invited in for tea (or “chai” as they call it) by this group:

tea-peshawar-pakistan

drinking-tea-pakistan

…and serenaded by this old boy with Pakistani songs…

singing-peshawar-pakistan

…before they pulled out the hashish and the hash pipe to pass around.  Recreational drugs are surprisingly common in this Muslim country.

Below, one of the old men is rolling hashish up in cigarette paper…

hashish-peshawar-pakistan

…and having a go before passing it around:

smoking-hashish-pakistan

Here our guide and fixer, Prince, is demonstrating how to use the old-fashioned hash pipe on the scene:

hash-pipe-peshawar-pakistan

This is one of Prince’s homes he took us to:

One of Prince's homes in Peshawar, Pakistan

Prince inside the home… Prince really is a prince which is why everyone, understandably, calls him “Prince”.

Prince

While we were at Prince’s, this student from a nearby madrassa came by seeking donations… I gave him the equivalent of a dollar and got a photograph out of it. Not normally the type of cause I support, but whatever it takes to improve American/Pakistani relations, right?

madrassa-student-pakistan

I don’t casually throw out “favorite city” designations. So, for me to proclaim Peshawar as one of my favorite cities really means something. However, I can think of few cities that are full of such energy and life, leaving one in a permanent state of sensory overload (in a good way). Hopefully, the pictures above did something to convey that wonderful feeling.

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31 thoughts on “Visiting Peshawar – Scenes And Pictures Of Pakistan

    • dear sister, do come to pakistan, never ever fear of any thing, its only media showing dark side of peshawar, these pictures are very less for exposing pakistan.

  1. Interesting post. I’d love to go to Pakistan. Never been. That’s the confirmation that we should never believe everything the news say. It reminds me of Sudan.

  2. hi dear!
    i m aasher from peshawar , i have seen these wounderfull snaps which have been caught by u, U really done hard work, i apperictae u………

  3. The beauty of Pakistan particularly NWFP is more than that depicted above. A peice of land where people, leaving with prosparity and tranquality always welcome the world to see thier hospitality.

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  5. I would proudly like to say that the mohallah sethian belongs to my grandfather…
    its sad i ve been once to peshawar loong timeback but the pics u ve captured r really nice n i wish there were more of the sethi house…

  6. Awesome depiction. Tho there’s much much more to Peshawar than these few places you have visited and enjoyed. You gotta see Peshawar through the eyes of some local people, and you’d know what this majestic city is hiding.

    The city is majestic in its very form, every stone of it has history. The valley surrounded by closely grouped hills, upon which the worlds of historic events took place. The valley, which was the dream of emperors, the pride of inhabitants and they love of folklore, is where I belong.

    The food is simply amazing. There are no words to describe the taste. The brilliant Afghan cuisines to hot Peshawari recipies to extravagant Pashtuns Tikka Art, is beyond imagination of the word “best taste”, as it’s unique to the land and will never be found anywhere else in the world.

    One can easily find continental foods in Peshawar. From Persian to Chinese and Italian to American, everything is available there. Tho we still lack a lot of “hip” joints but whatever is available there is good enough to leave a unique taste in a visitors mouth.

    For shoppers, you can find anything in the world in the humongous markets of Peshawar spread over miles and miles of plazas. Since it’s a frontier town, connecting Central Asia and Europe with Indo-Pak and China, you get everything you want in the massive outlets on the outskirts of Peshawar City.

    For Tourism, we offer lots of historic places, thousands of years old architecture leaves one stunned. There is a museum that speaks for itself if you are a history lover. Then there’s an Airport runway, only one in the world, that has a train track going through it. :p. A tour in the old city would brings joys of ancient times and a stroll in Khyber Pass will alight the memories.

    Not to miss the walled university is in Peshawar, called Peshawar University, most probably the largest ever institution in the world within walled premises.

    It has several colleges, Medical University, Engineering University, Agriculture University, and about 60+ departments offering specializations in almost every subjects ranging from Law, Arts, Sciences and Social Sciences, within a walled premises. It’s so massive, if you want to take a non stop walking tour of the university, it will take you a couple of days to see everything. And everything is within the same walled premises, giving it a unique look. A walk on Road #2 of the University, in the evening, under the shadows of thousands of lined treed on both sides of the roads, is a walk in the cloud.

    Currently Peshawar is going from tough times due to its significance in the geopolitics, but its still a city to visit, as it will carve a memory on your heart for never to forget.

    • I have traveled a lot and I’ve lived in a lot of different cities, but I can tell you without hesitation that Pakistan is my favorite country of those I have visited and Peshawar is my favorite city of those I have visited. Nowhere else have I felt the vibrancy and energy in a city that one can experience in Peshawar… You gave a far more eloquent and articulate description of the city below and I agree with everything you wrote. My Pakistani friends are always skeptical when I rave about how much I loved Pakistan and Peshawar, but it’s true. I think they expect me to say my favorite city is Paris or some boring answer like that…

      • Yes, I am from Peshawar. Tho originally I am from Charsadda (an agricultural district adjacent to Peshawar), but born and raised in Peshawar.

        I am glad you felt Peshawar. That’s the sign of a “well traveled” person. As you know everybody travels around the world, but traveling well is what very few people do. Anybody else would certainly expect others to speak great of Paris or New York type of cities, because in their mind, beauty is all about infrastructure, lit sky scrappers and facilities. Tho mind that, they are not any less prettier or vibrant, but they hold different significance altogether than something as old as 2000 years (Peshawar) with all the world’s empires and their histories attached to it, even tho Peshawar has no infrastructure like Paris or any other famous metropolis, but such things are materialistic, and can be built even in the deserts, but the natural attraction and the very taste of the city comes integrated with the land and its people and that is what Peshawar offers.

        In the end I guess It’s just a matter of taste. I enjoyed Rome more than I did bride like Paris or sumptuous big apple, where I was moved by crime stricken South Africa than dazzling London or steady Toronto.

  7. Well who ever you are, a simple visitor or a spy or Blackwater corp, who could say anything… But good work from you to post some glimps of Great Peshawar! I am not Pathan, but we are proud of our great Pathan brothers. Might you will not allow my post to publish, but i don’t care. I speak the truth whatever the price might be.
    First thing enough usage of our brothers and conspiracy in Pakistan,. Pathan nations always stood like an iron wall in front of whole Pakistan. Now they know that they were being used by enemies of Pakistan, so putting all their interests behind they sacrificed again for sovereignty of Pakistan. Because they know what Quaid told them, they know that Quaid told them that whatever we sacrificed for getting our freedom is just not enough. We have to sacrifice more for maintaining this prosperity. Now what are the interest of USA in Afghanistan, Iraq or NWFP, well the whole world know. We are not fool! REMEMBER! US used Pathan nation of Pakistan against Russians? Now the rule of world, “Time repeat itself” Russians are using Afghans to knee down US in Afghanistan. So what are you looking in Peshawar! Go and safe your country less it will be too late. Its not a threat brother, but its evident if you look on international politics….! Who is responsible for Imam Bargah suicide bombs, attacks on Shia mosques, etc etc …well WE KNOW WHO THE HELL THOSE PEOPLE ARE….! Don’t try to destabilize Pakistan or interfere in brave people’s soil PESHAWAR! They are truly patriotic Muslims in spite of vomiting from western media pointing them as extremist, fundamentalists, or so on so on…WE BELIEVE IN THEM… and we believe as being rest of Pakistanis theat they are truly patriotic nation of Pakistan! You could not intrude them, could not win them, could not knee them down and could not defeat them! PEACE!

  8. Peshawar is suffering a lot these days from noise and air pollution. A person’s eyes sting while they are driving on Peshawar roads. Also the city is regularly targeted by terrorists/criminal gangs from nearby tribal areas.

    I grew up in Peshawar in 1980’s/90’s and I remember it as a normal benign place. Unfortunately the foolish polices of Pakistani govt adventures in Afghanistan have impacted the city very very badly.

      • its very interesting to know that Pakistan is your favorite country. I’m from there and well ofcourse I like it a lot and I think it has a lot of potential to be better in so many ways. The art and culture is great. The people are hard working etc. Its just surprising coming from a foreigner that he liked Pakistan. Good to know.

  9. It would be showing light to sun but i must i live in peshawar since i was born i must say that no one can say anything to peshawar untill pathans are there they are protecting it with their blood since the last 5000 years…. there is nothing in here that make others afraid… if there would i won’t be here i m a dual national passport holder. i m permanent resident of australia now but i spend 15 beautiful years of ma youth life there.

  10. Peshawar, the city where you never get bored. The city full of love, beauty, kindness and passion. Miss every single second i spent there.

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  13. thanks brother justin…for posting such beautiful pics of my city…God bless you …the one thing i am thinking that you would have not missed of the people of peshawar ,is Hospitality..

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