Peshawar

If you’re one of the lucky few to have read my memoir you’ll know I was sent to Peshawar, in the northwest frontier region of Pakistan, to start up a new flour mill. I was a very young and still wet behind the ears engineer dropped in at the deep end. I was there for three months and it was a fascinating experience. Here’s my first trip to downtown Peshawar, it was 1970:

I was driven into downtown Peshawar by Salahuddin in the mill Land Rover. The city centre had a decrepit and rather chaotic feel to it. Many of the old buildings were of unbaked brick with intricately carved wooden window frames, doorways and balconies but it seemed as though these were being demolished to make way for characterless and poorly built modern concrete structures.

Crowds of people filled the pavements, the men in their pyjama-like loose trousers and shirts, the women uniformly anonymous, covered from head to foot in blue or black burqas, peering out at the world through mesh-covered peep holes. The dusty roads carried handcarts and donkey carts and old diesel trucks belching fumes. The shops in the bazaar sold leather goods such as Peshwari sandals, belts, holsters and bandoliers, there were colourful mountains of fruit, piles of exotic eastern spices and bolts of material in every hue.

The slight breeze carried the aroma of wood smoke from the small bakeries turning out coarse chapattis. Goat carcasses hung from steel hooks outside the butcher’s shop, the proprietor occasionally flicking a whisk to momentarily interrupt the gorging of the black flies which encased them. Men squatted in groups drinking green tea, smoking and chatting, their eyes following me as I strolled by, an alien interloper in downtown Peshawar.

(The pictures aren’t mine but they’re from that time)