Anyone who’s ever lived in Peshawar has fallen head over heels for this beautiful city. The streets, the people and even the sometimes tense law and order situation just grows on you. Even if you ever move away from the city you just can’t help missing this beautiful city.
Here’s everything that people who’ve ever lived in Peshawar and moved away, miss the most:
1. The absolutely erratic traffic.
Does it not feel extremely odd sitting in your seats with seat-belts confining your agility and having to mind your own lanes? This is why the feeling of liberty once you enter Peshawar is unparalleled as you drive around the roads like you own them without giving a flying duck.
2. Chief Burger
If you’ve been to Peshawar, you know that neither Burger King nor Hardee’s so much as even come close to Chief Burger. Perhaps it’s not just the taste but the emotional affiliation with that place and having only one primary burger joint as an option.
3. City Towers
I moved away from Peshawar before the era of Jawad Towers and the lot so as far as I can recall, City Towers was the premium IT spot to hang around for people not living in the Cantt area. If you lived somewhere around the university town or Hayatabad, City Towers was the primary place to showcase your newly modified Honda Civics and standing around in lots with your friends doing, well, pretty much nothing.
4. Saeed Book Bank
Not a lot of people know that the giant three floor book bank standing in the epicenter of Islamabad started off as a small bookshop in Peshawar Saddar. I still vaguely remember the day I saw a small notice hanging on the shop’s door saying it was up for sale; it was closing down. Sorry if this sounds melodramatic but it really was the end of an era. Later, it was discovered that they’d built an all new and improved branch in Jinnah Super, Islamabad.
5. Jan’s Arcade
If you belonged to the other part of the city i.e. Saddar Cantonment, Jan’s arcade was your go-to destination for all public holidays, weekends, evenings and pretty much any part of the day/week/month. Always dolled up with a sprawling weave of 100 watt bulbs in place of fairy lights, the arcade could be spotted from miles away.
6. Karkhano Market
This is literally a trove of the finest things in life. From war-diaries to daggers, canned soup to Iranian candy, smuggled branded makeup to hashish, this place has it all. Seriously. You can find laptops being sold as super-sized calculators for the price of the latter. Coming back home from Karkhano market without getting broke is a rarity. And no, you don’t buy things you need, you buy utterly bizarre shit like bulletproof jackets, creepy mickey-mouse costumes and at times, dinosaur fossils & dragon eggs.
7. The PDA Building
No this is not an acronym for public displays of affection, even though you can find plenty of it in this area. The construction is called the PDA building only because it houses the headquarters of Peshawar Development Authority. However, the compound in itself has small departmental stores and shops in abundance. A few years back in fact, a food festival was held here regularly every year offering a variety of food stalls and delicacies from all over the city.
8. Masoom’s Café/Café Crunch
We have to give it to this place for silently pioneering the café culture in the city. Before being rechristened Café Crunch, it was called Masoom’s and it used to be a massive crowd puller. It set the theme for separate eating places for the younger crowd of the city. Seeing women smoke here was the biggest talk of the town and people would rarely visit it with families. However after an untoward incident, the original owners sold it off to another interested party after which it was renamed Café Crunch. It still has the same décor, the same sitting areas, probably even the same food, but its scandalous character has pretty much fizzled out.
9. Peshawar ka paneer
One thing that brings you to outright tears as you move away from Peshawar is the absence of roadside paneer vendors. Growing up in Peshawar, you become so used to seeing paneer-walas everywhere that not being able to readily find goat cheese is an agony you have to go through every single Ramazan.
10. Peshawar’s signature kulchay
If there’s one thing the natives of KPK know how to bake to perfection, in addition to namak mandi and charsi tikkas, it’s flatbread. I’ve traveled the whole of Pakistan but I’m yet to find the perfectly baked kulcha so readily available in Peshawar; you can devour it whole without a main course or side dish. Piping hot right from the tandoor, Peshawar’s naans/kulchas/rotis practically melt in your mouth! Fluffier than clouds and lighter than air, these little slices of heaven are probably the “second” best thing about Peshawar’s rich cuisine.
11. Charsi and Namak Mandi tikkay
Because the best thing about Peshawar’s cuisine is the legendary Charsi and Namak Mandi tikkas. I can spend eons writing about these bad boys but time and space (literally in this case) have me constrained. Evidence suggests that the recipe for these tikkas lies encrypted in a vault inside a catacomb in Rome. Even though the tikka-wala might just add salt in front of you while preparing them, you know you would never be able to truly accomplish the task of preparing these succulent meat chunks at home no matter what recipe you follow.
12. Chapli kebabs
Chappal kebabs for the rest of Pakistan, and chapli kebabs for the Peshawaris, this is one thing next to impossible to find in its authentic shape anywhere else in the world. If eaten oven hot, you can pretty easily devour a whole batch in less than 10 minutes. Paul Smith was able to cleverly rip off the signature Peshawari Chappal but it might take him a lifetime or two to reproduce the chunky chapli kebabs!
13. Peshawari Qahwa
Natives of Peshawar are pure meat lovers and we usually like to keep our food simple (I also fail to understand why this article has all of a sudden turned into a food blog but food just makes everything better globally so yeah). Consuming huge amounts of meat is bound to make you take multiple trips to the loo which is why our lunches and dinners are followed by a round of the traditional Peshawari qahwa which not only digests our monstrous meat intake but also serves as a warm, sweet (or tasteless if you’re diabetic) beverage to go with late night chat sessions.
14. Fasting and celebrating Eid a day earlier
Ahead of the PST (Pakistan Standard Time), Peshawar always takes the lead in fasting (in Ramazan) and celebrating Eid a day before the rest of the country. After all, the happiness of eating siwayyian while your friends in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad are fasting and waiting for the sun to set, is unparalleled.
15. The Khyber Pass
Whether or not (most probably not) you’ve ever actually been to see it, you have an iconic landmark that has become attached to your city. Heck, it technically isn’t even in your city but who cares, it’s an iconic landmark nevertheless, so cheers!
The most conspicuous quality of Peshawar has been and always will be its hospitality. The people in general are kind, genuine and welcoming and somehow no matter how long you’ve been away for, it just always feels like coming back home.
Cover image via thepeshawar.com