2007
12.23

5-Peshawar University

SYNOPSIS:  NO, NO, NO!  EVERYTHING IS CLOSED FOR EID.  NO MUSEUM, NO UNIVERSITY, NO KHYBER PASS.  A STROLL THROUGH TOWN , THE BAZAAR, AND THE PARK INSTEAD.  DRIVING BACK TO RAVALPINDI.

As the Eid festival went into its third day, the slaughter had stopped, but now the skins and the sculls of animals were piling up everywhere in town.  Tanners worked, butchers chopped and dogs chowed down.  The Peshawar Museum was closed and so was the famous Peshawar University which graces the 1000 Rupee note of Pakistan.   But we walked the grounds of this well-groomed college and observed of all things a cricket game.  So much for colonial heritage!

That the famous Khyber Pass would be close to civilian traffic was almost expected and had nothing to do with Eid.  But we persuaded our guide to try anyhow.  Perhaps, there was a chance to drive in just a few miles along the route so many famous people had taken in the past; from Darius the Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan.  But no luck!

This whole area was slowly deteriorating and sliding into Taliban hands.  We got what we had deemed the “Taliban Look” a lot more out here than anywhere around Islamabad.  That is the disapproving look by bearded guys we perceived presumably towards foreigners, and particularly women.  Our guys urged us more than elsewhere to cover up.  Often they would ask us to remain in the car, hidden from view as they would get food or inquire about the road.

We did not feel threatened, and the situation was not outwardly dangerous, but one could feel a tension not present in other parts of the country.  Peshawar is the center of one of the provinces that make up the NWFP – or the North-West Frontier Province.  Government control is much diminished out here due to the close proximity to Afghanistan and the ethnic make-up of the population.  Many of the locals are Pashtu and so are the people on the other side of the border.  And there is nothing new to this:  Where political borders violate ethnic regions there is trouble…

With all our touristy options scratched, we used the remainder of the day to stroll through the local bazaar, smell the spices and the food while at the same time avoiding the stench of dead animals that was still lingering in the air.  We came to a park with old Hindu-looking remains and a bunch of children who circled us like a swarm of bees.  We delighted them by taking pictures and allowing to have our picture taken with them.

Peshawar is a bustling town full of cars, animals, burqa-clad women, and most of all the colorful trucks, so unique to this region.  We had a lot to look at and the day went by fast.

And on the road back we observed the same signs of holiday:  People picnicking, praying along the river, playing in the parks.  We had an uneventful ride home.     Good night.