Peshawar’s old city is a labyrinth of colorful bazaars, full of the flavor of the East, But the cantonment and university areas are also well worth a visit, as indeed in the Khyber Pass. Everybody who is anybody has been to Peshawar at some time or another: Alexander, Marco Polo, the Mughal Emperors Babur and Akbar, Queen Elizabeth II of England (who saw Khattak sword dancing there and liked very much) and even Lawrence of Arabia, to mention just a few.
Peshawar is the largest city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its capital. Pathans just call it Shehr, The City. As the “Gateway to Central Asia”, Peshawar has always been a nodal point of travel and trade, and its destiny linked as much with events and peoples in Afghanistan and beyond as with South Asia. The city is a melting pot of local Pathans, Afghans and numerous other peoples, settled here and speaking a Babel of languages. However, Peshawar’s proximity to events in Afghanistan has tended to color perceptions of the place, and the city no longer receives the amounts of visitors it once did. But it remains a fascinating place —and friendly too.
Founded over 2,000 years ago by the Kushan kings of Gandhara, Peshawar has had almost as many names as rulers. When Babur came to Peshawar, he found a city called Begram and rebuilt the fort there, in 1530 AD. His grandson, Akbar, formally gave the city the name Peshawar which means “The Place at the Frontier” and much improved the bazaars and fortifications. Earlier it had been known as the “City of Flowers” and the “City of Grain”, names which reflect the fecundity of the great basin of land in which Peshawar is situated, all the more beautiful in contrast with the arid mountain ranges surrounding it. No wonder that in the days of the Kushan Kings it was called the Lotus Land. From about the 2nd century AD, when the dynasty relocated its capital from Charsadda to about the 7th century, Peshawar was the centre of Buddhist Gandharan civilisation and an important place of pilgrimage.
The meeting place of the subcontinent and central Asia, it is also a place where Ancient traditions rub against those of today, where the bazaar in the old city has changed little in the past hundred years. Peshawar Museum, elegant Mahabat khan mosque, Islamic college and Qissa Khawani bazaar are worth visiting places in Peshawar.
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