Peshawar was once the city of glamour and gaiety, thrill and shrill, romance and vengeance; similarities and contrasts. Lying within a horse-shoe ring of mountains at 1,138 metres above sea level, it is one of the oldest cities of Pakistan.
For its historical monuments and archaeological wealth, varied ethnography, customs and traditions, natural beauty and pleasant environment, the enchanting city was dubbed as the ‘Paris of Pathans’ by Lowell Thomas. Open through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan, Peshawar has always enjoyed a central and strategic position as the gateway to the subcontinent. Invading hordes in pursuit of their military expeditions in India would first pull over at Peshawar. The epitome of the Pakhtoon way of life, it is always lively and joyous. However, the real significance of the city emerged when the Kushan King Kanishka (first century AD) made Peshawar his winter capital. It was the Peshawar valley where the progressive Mahayana School of Buddhism was found in the reign of Kanishka and the image of Buddha was evolved for the purpose of worship. The city was named Po-lu-sha (Purusha) by the renowned Chinese traveller, Fahyan in 400 AD and Po-lu-sha-po-lu (Purushapura) by Hiuen Tsang in 636 AD, who came here in search of sacred Buddhist scriptures.
The present name ‘Peshawar’ was coined by Abul Fazal, the court historian of Akbar the Great. Before the Kushans, the city was ruled by the Persians, Greeks, Mauryans, Indo-Greeks and Scytho-Partians. Islam became popular in the region during the beginning of the 11th century, after the invasions and conquests of Mahmud of Ghazni. Thereafter Peshawar remained under the occupation of some other Muslim dynasties. The Mughal Emperor Babar came here for his war campaigns and was greatly impressed by the beauty of Peshawar.
Since ancient times, Peshawar has been remembered as the city of flowers, city of roses, the city of fragrance, city of flowers sellers (shehr-i-gul faroshan) and the city of gardens. Besides flower gardens, the suburbs of Peshawar were replete with fruit orchards like grapes, loquat, pear, plum, peach and apricot.
Major General Herbert Edwards, who in connection with his official assignment came to Peshawar in 1854, wrote about the city, “It has a large busy and thriving population of war-like people, armed with knives and daggers and naturally inclined to think little of pointing their arguments with their swords.”
For its historic traditions, treasures, cultures and colourful life, Peshawar can appropriately be referred to as the queen of Pakistani cities and the Qissa Kahani Bazaar, aptly translated as the street of story tellers; is a glittering gem in her crown. It has been widely mentioned by historians and travellers in their accounts on Peshawar. It was the meeting place of merchants from many lands who dealt in dry fruits, rugs, carpets, postins, karakulis, chitrali chughas, wool and woollen stuff, silk dyes, gold thread and precious stones.
As indicated from its name, the place was the street of story tellers for centuries. The professional story-tellers would recite spellbound ballads of love, war and velour to throngs of traders, travellers and locals. For these allurements and other wandering entertainments, Sir H. Edwards was right to describe Qissa Kahani Bazaar as the ‘Piccadilly of Central Asia’. It is still a busy trade centre which can proudly emulate the Anarkali Bazaar of Lahore and the Bunder Road of Karachi.
Namakmandi is the traditional food street of Peshawar. There are a number of restaurants serving Pakhtoon delicacies. The entire bazaar is perfumed with the irresistible aroma of fried and broiled tikkas which lures the passers to stop for a bite or two. Chapli kebab is also a special Pakhtoon delicacy.
Besides its congested bazaars, the city is also famous for its splendid heritage. Some of the historic buildings are Mahabat Khan Mosque, Gor Khuttree Complex, Bala Hisar Fort, Peshawar Museum, Chowk Yadgar, Islamia College, Edwards College, Jinnah Park, Shahi Bagh and Wazir Bagh.
Presently, Peshawar has transformed into a battle field. The dark clouds of terror and successive bomb blasts have paralysed its life. The city is bleeding. The bazaars and streets, educational institutions and other public gathering places and parks have become places of fear and terror. A mournful silence grips the city and the historic Peshawar has lost its glamour, lustre and colours. Therefore, i heartily request you all to Pray not only for Peshawar but for our loveliest country to prove that we are a great Nation and will remain as long as alive...!!!