Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) never disappoints visitors with its iconic and historically rich settings. Peshawar has earned much some negative fame in past but now is the time to burst all the grim myths. Sharing a border with neighboring country of Afghanistan, the city inhabits a major population of Pakhtun ethnicity. Pashtu and Hindko are the native languages of extremely hospitable residents of Peshawar.
Rolling back in time, the origin of the city can be marked in 539 BCE making it one of the oldest cities in South Asia. Due to its strategic importance, the territory remained under the influence of Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, and the British. When visiting Pakistan, do not forget to add the seventh-largest city of Pakistan in your bucket list. Situated in Valley of Peshawar with captivating Hindu Kush Mountains in the backdrop, the city is all set to make you love it.
Ten Popular Must Visit Places in Peshawar, Pakistan
1.Mahabat Khan Mosque-Stamp of Mughal Era
Reminding us of the Mughal Empire, this Mosque was built in the 17th century (1630) under the regime of Shah Jahan. It is named after the Mughal Governor of that time “Nawab Mahabat Khan”. Travel to the Old Bazaar in olders part of city to pay homage to this fine architectural exhibition.
The setting includes a courtyard with a large reserve of water for ablution purpose, 2 minarets, and prayer hall covered by 3 domes. The interior of the building is adorned with tiles carved in intricate geometric patterns, designs, and calligraphic work.
The original essence of the Mosque got lost during the Sikh era when it got mishandled by authorities. It is reported that during the Sikh reign, people were hanged from Minaret as an indication of punishment of the rivalry tribesmen. During a massive fire in 1898, much of the property was destroyed. It was later in British Empire that it was restored and rebuilt.
2. Jamrud Fort-Strategic Viewpoint
Move your binoculars to the West of Peshawar to locate Jamrud Fort (17 km away) positioned beside Bab-i-Kyber (Entrance to Khyber Pass). Rolling back in history when Peshawar was under the Sikh regime, Maharaja Ranjit Singh served as the leader of the Sikh Empire. He appointed Hari Singh Nalwa to conquer the Western boundary. Nalwa laid out a plan and identified Jamrud at the entrance point to the unconquered territories (India and Afghanistan).
Nalwa sought the permission of Ranjit Singh to build a fort at the point of Jamrud in a series of strategic forts. The mound represented a good view of adjoining areas of Mohmand and Bara. Upon approval, Nalwa employed 6000 workers and got the fort erected in only 45 days. The 6 feet wide and 12 yards high Jamrud fort (named after the place) with watchtowers has been preserved even today in its original texture and is the signpost of cultural diversity.
3. Bala Hisar Fort-Defense Wall of Peshawar
The history of Bala Hisar can be located back to the Mughal Emperor Humayun who got it erected in 1526. It served as a royal residence in the Durrani Dynasty. It got partially smashed and rebuilt many times until in its present form today.
Nowadays, it serves as the headquarters of Frontier Cops of Pakistan. The entry into the fort is allowed on Saturdays (only families) and Sundays (for everyone). Entry is subjected to the provision of CNIC (Locals) and Passports (Foreigners). There is a small artillery museum attached which showcases the uniforms and weapons used by Frontier Corps at different times.
4. Peshawar Museum-History in a Nut Shell
Peshawar remained under the great influence of the Buddhist community and Gandhara civilization from 2nd to 6th centuries. Many stupas and signs indicate the ancient relations of Peshawar to Buddhism. A museum was built in 1907 to restore all this civilization. There is a great display of sculptures, coins, inscriptions, weapons, handicrafts, household items, statues of Buddha, and other remains that represent the influence of various religious settings upon Peshawar.
The remains on the display are excavated and restored from sites of Shah-Ji-Ki-Dheri, Sahr-i-Bahlol, Takht-i-Bahi (Mardan), and from Jamal Garhi. An extension of the museum done in 2002 includes a conservation lab, reserve collection sites, and few more galleries. Some sections of the museum are dedicated to the depiction of Muslims and Tribal communities. A great display of punched mark coins is there which connects the evolution of civilization from Buddhas, Indus Greeks, Kushans, White Huns, to Hindus in a row.
5. Sethi Houses-A Glimpse into the Past
Sethian Mohallay is an arranged set of houses built by Sethi Family in the 19th century. There are seven mansions containing basements, house divided into various stories, halls, and drawing rooms with a fountain in the center. The interior of the house is adorned with mirror works and woodwork. The setting is very civilized and reminds of vernacular architecture from Bukhara. It is open to visitors in the entire week (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) except on Fridays.
6. Warsak Dam-Strengthening Economy
The dam has the capacity to generate 243 MW of power. Apart from the power generation, the dam water is used to feed the orchids and crops of the irrigational areas of the Valley of Peshawar. The canal system stemming from Warsak Dam irrigates nearly 119,000 acres of land thus contributing $2.3 billion to the economy. Plan a trip to Warsak Dam and enjoy the scenic spot settled between mountains.
7. Islamic College Peshawar
The college which stands from the earliest years of 20th century and is pioneer of higher education in Pakistan. The founding stones were laid by Sir. S.A. Qayyum and Sir George Roos-Keppel back in 1913. They founded this institution to satisfy the knowledge thrust of people from KPK. Quaid-e-Azam (founder of Pakistan) paid many visits here and became a member of the Khyber Union in 1936. He had so much affiliation with the institute that he even nominated the college as a legal heir of his property in 1939.
The iconic building is spread over an area of 300 acres of land. With expansion over time, this public sector institution today offers degrees in arts, humanities, sciences, languages, and social sciences. Islamic College attained status of University in 2008. Islamic College Peshawar is open to visitors during the week except on Sundays (From 8 am-4 pm)
8. Qissa Khwani Bazaar-Celebrated History
This Bazaar stands as the most celebrated market in the history of the sub-continent. Before Indo-Pak partition, it served as the meet and greets point for all the merchants and travelers from various ethnicities. Merchants (From India & Central Asia) used to stop in tea houses of Qissa Khwani Bazaar. The trait developed into more of a tradition where people from various origins used to tell stories over a cup of tea. This led the market to get its name.
Qissa means “Story”, Khwani means “To Narrate”, and Bazaar means “Market”, summing up as “Market of Story Tellers”
Before the separation, this bazaar was known for its Paper Publishing. Many freedom movements started from it, thus it played a great role in the Freedom Movement of 1947. In alleys of this Bazaar, there are present two monuments that cast light upon massacre of 1930 inflicted by the British upon freedom fighters. Nearly 400 demonstrators were killed in this grim event. In present day, Qissa Khwani is known for its sweets, spices, dry fruits, and tea.
9. Chowk Yadgaar-Remembering Heroes
The Chowk Yadgaar is a congregating point for various roads and alleys in the old city. In Urdu, Chowk means “Square” and Yadgaar means” Remembrance”. So the individual words sum up as “The Square of Remembrance”. The history of the place can be located back to the British Empire when it was constructed (1892) in the honors of Colonel E.C Hastings. After Indo-Pak Separation, the place is dedicated to the warriors of the Pakistan-India war of 1965.
Various important places stem from this Square. If you want to see the true colors of the city, follow the road to the West which will lead you towards the internal old city. Grab the road to East to end up at Ghanta Ghar or Clock Tower. The road to the South leads towards the Cloth market. The Northern Road is a doorway to “Ashraf Road”-A busy meeting place for traders and merchants. To sum up, Chowk Yadgaar calls for the real buzz and tints of the city culture.
10. Food Street of Peshawar-Namak Mandi
Food in Peshawar is a lot meaty (lamb meat) and spicy sprinkled with dry fruits sometimes. The aroma of Tikka, Karhai (fried meat), and Dumpukht (steamed meat) will attract you toward the “Namak Mandi” or The Food Street of Peshawar. Do not miss out on Chapli Kabab (minced meat serving) and Kabuli Pulao (Rice with meat, dry fruits, and roasted carrots).
Order your food and it will be cooked right in front of your eyes. Hit upon Charsi Tikka, Islamia Restaurant, Jalil Kabas House, and Dumpukht for some traditional treats. Stop by Chowk Yadgaar Kulfi Falooda for a sweet delight. Do not worry if you are craving for Chinese or Fast food. Namak Mandi will serve you at its best.
Want to find about the markets of Peshawar? Click here and find out.