Peshawar

Overview

Introduction

Peshawar is the closest major city (pop. 567,000) to the Khyber Pass, an important gateway between East and West. Since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the city has been transformed into an Afghan ministate. Three million refugees have gone to the city to escape the fighting across the border, and many still live in sprawling camps on the outskirts of town. Some have set up successful businesses and display little intention to leave—it's easy to spot their ubiquitous four-wheel-drive vehicles in the area. The Afghan war and its refugee population in turn begat a potpourri of charity workers, journalists, spies, arms dealers and drug traffickers—in other words, exactly the people Kim encountered in Rudyard Kipling's novel of the same name.

The city still has a Wild West feel to it, even though it has become extremely conservative. Foreign women are especially likely to meet with hostility. Visiting Peshawar is strongly disadvised at this time.

The legendary Khyber Pass, 34 mi/55 km west, is too dangerous for tourists to visit at this time. 100 mi/160 km west of Islamabad.

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