Genty's Asia - 2004 travel blog

Family in the bazaar

Looking up Andarshah Bazaar (housing gold and silversmiths) to the minaret of...

The route up to the Khyber Pass

A settlement in the rugged country surrounding the Khyber Pass

View down from the pass to the Afghan border and beyond

Another Khyber settlement

Cricket at Chowk Yadgar

Local horse and cart in the traffic

Rennovating the mosque

Mahabat Khan mosque

Mosque close up


Peshawar

On the bus to Peshawar the one noticeable thing was the increase in the number of women wearing burquas. In 'Pindi, as I guess in any big city, the women tended to be more liberal, whereas in the areas in which I trekked the women largely still wore the traditional dress of whatever their native group was, which again tended to be more open than the Muslim norm. Here the full on cloak of invisibility was quite frequently seen, and one of the guys from whom I bought a shalwar kameez was very keen for me to buy one to take home for my mother.

From Peshawar I went on an excursion to see the Khyber Pass. This predictably turned out to be little more than a ride in a car to the top of a hill and back down again. It was quite interesting though for the areas which we drove through. Outside Peshawar and towards the NWFP border we passed first a now sizeable and established Afghan refugee camp. Judging from the permanence of the camp, the houses were built of bricks and mud and included several shops, the camp must have originally started during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. A little further on on the other side of the road was a large graveyard for the Pakistani "martyrs" who had been killed in the Afghan - Russian war (or Jihad). We left NWFP and entered the "Tribal Areas", an area of land between NWFP and the Afghan border which does not come under the control of any government. I tried to understand how this worked from my guide, but did not really get a conclusive answer. It seems that the Pathans (the people living in the Tribal Areas fall into one of four groups of peoples, all of whom speak Pashto and are part of the Pathan "nation") do not pay any taxes and get free electricity from the Pakistani government. There is a local government who apparently pay for any schools or hospitals and so on. From what I could gather it seems that the local government's money comes from the Pakistani government. This apparent unrewarded funding of the Tribal Areas, what seems to be a similar unrewarded funding of parts of the Northern Areas, together with lining of the pockets of the Pakistani politicians must presumably account for the spending of much the foreign aid which comes into the country, and will therefore presumably never be repaid. Seems a strange state of affairs to me. Oh yes, nearly forgot all the money that must be being spent on guarding the "Line of Control" and developing Pakistan's nuclear capabilities. I read somewhere that it costs Pakistan and India about $1 million per day just to man the "Line of Control" and Siachen glacier.

Back to the Khyber Pass. The scenery was different again to anything I had seen before in Pakistan. Too low for any snow capped peaks, but rugged, barren and hilly. The local housing was different too. The same simple box shaped places, but made out of mud and stone, blending into the surrounding areas. We pretty much followed the old railway, no longer in operation, which like many of the transport links all over the parts of Pakistan that I have visited was a pretty major feat of engineering. In one place I saw the railway pass through three or four tunnels, with a pretty impressive brick embankment structure between each of the tunnels, all in the space of about 500m. The journey towards Afghanistan came to an end at the highest point of the pass, looking down towards Torkham and the Afghan border.

In Peshawar itself I treated myself to a more upmarket hotel: the Khan Klub (http://www.khanklub.com/). This was a small traditional style place, the main benefit of which was undoubtedly the air conditioning. In the town most of my time was spent wandering through the bazaars of the old town, taking in the sights and not always pleasant smells (particular around the chickens, outdoor butchers and tanneries). The streets were shared with all kinds of traffic from rikshaws to donkey drawn carts. The street on which my hotel was was lined with horse drawn carts in the morning and evening, with the horses eating out of the food bags in the mornings.



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