After visiting the well-stocked museum of Peshawar, we head down towards the old city. We have already seen Bala Hissar, the fort dominating the old part of town, only dwarfed by several modern taller towers, which is largely military terrain now and therefor off limits to visitors. We walk straight into the utter chaos that is the old city of Peshawar. After some very busy streets full of people, shops, vehicles, noise, we walk through one of the remaining city gates to arrive in the walled city. As soon as we hit the narrower streets, were no cars fit, we feel like stepping back in time. Here, men make tea while others bring trays of small glases of tea around to nearby shopkeepers, while others push woorden carts with vegetables. Traders go to shops and negotiate. Men wear their shalwar kameez and a pakul, the local hat. Groups of men sit on stools chatting to each other. It is hard to see how these scenes would have been different hundreds of years ago.
We see a row of small dentist shops, holes in the wall, with sketchy (or scary?) devices and a display of model jaws with teeth on the counter. I hope my teeth will still hold for another week. The more we walk in the walled city of Peshawar, the more we are baffled. There are thousands of shops, thousands of alleys, thousands of people: there seems no end to it. Every turn takes us into yet another alley full of life. Most alleys are so narrow, it is difficult to appreciate the houses above. It is only when we come to a wider street, that we see what this city has to offer from an architectural viewpoint. Wooden balconies with decorations carved out, doors, elements that embellish the buildings. We walk past Cunningham tower, built in 1906 for the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria, cross a rectangular square, and walk up some stairs to have a look at the Mahabat Khan mosque just when the sun is disappearing.
The next afternoon, I am back to explore more, discover other city gates, a large square where people are flying kites, and more narrow alleys where men are sewing clothes. As everywhere, people greet me, pose for pictures, take selfies, and make me feel welcome in their old part of Peshawar. I discover old buildings even more beautiful than the ones I have seen before, with green wooden carved doors and balconies. Later, we see still more, explore new parts of the walled city of Peshawar which seems to be getting always bigger. After knocking on a door, an armed guard lets us in to the All Saints Church, a church modeled after a mosque and directed towards Mecca. We learn more about the vicious attack almost exactly 6 years before, in which 127 people were killed and 250 injured: a large part of the already tiny Christian minority in Peshawar. The inside is curious, with texts on the wall in English, Persian and Hebrew and with stained glass. Back outside its walls, we walk continue to walk, shops selling almost anything, butchers with goat heads next to vegetable shops, metal bowls, clothes, dried fruits, and virtually anything else that you can imagine. No, this must still be very similar to what Peshawar looked like many years ago, and it is hard to imagine it will be much different in decades, or centuries, to come.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Peshawar old city (Pakistan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Peshawar old city. Read more about this site.