Fort, 18 kilometres (11 miles) from Peshawar and at
the mouth of the Khyber Pass, is as far as a visitor
can go without a permit. To proceed further, foreigners
require a permit. This permit is free of charge and
can be obtained by applying at the Political Agent?s
offices. Let alone foreigners, even Pakistanis have
to apply for this permit if they need to visit. Jamrud
Fort is visible from a distance like an old battleship.
Looking ruggedly majestic with its jumble of towers
and loop hole walls, the fort contains the grave of
its builder, the famous Sikh General Hari Singh Nalwa,
who died here in action against the forces of the Amir
of Kabul in 1837 AD. The fort; coarsely constructed
of stone daubed with mud plaster, was built by the Sikhs
in 1823 on the site of an earlier fort. The modern stone
arch spanning the road dates from 1964.
The Khyber Pass
most famous pass of the world, the Khyber Pass, is 16
km from Peshawar. It has been, throughout history, the
most important gateway to the plains of the South Asian
sub-continent both for migration and invasion. Starting
from the foot-hills of the Suleiman Range at the Jamrud;
11 miles from Peshawar, it extends beyond the border
of Pakistan at Torkham, 36 miles away and it gradually
rises to an elevation of 1,066 meters above sea level.
The pass is 1 km at its widest and only 16 meters at
It is not the view but the idea of the place that attracts
so many people to the Khyber. The Khyber isn't at the
border of Afghanistan but it stretches through the Suleiman
Hills for miles on both sides. In Peshawar, you're in
Government administered land. The area behind the Smuggler's
bazar gives way to the Khyber Agency, one of the seven
agencies which make up the Tribal areas. Signboards
appear by the roadside warning motorist snot to wander
off the main highway because in these Tribal areas,
Pakistani Law gives way to Tribal law a few metres off
the main road. Hence visitors must be accompanied with
an armed escort at all times.
The pass itself is about 25 miles long. The Tatara range
dominates the entire pass and is clearly visible from
Peshawar and its environs. The first political officer
was Major Cavagnari, appointed in 1879 and the first
Political Agent, Major G. Roos Keppell (1902).
The eastern end of the pass is wide and flat, bounded
on either side by low, stony hills. Every small hillock
in the area is capped with a picket manned by the Frontier
Force. The road zigzags up, passing two viewpoints that
look back into the Vale of Peshawar, until it reaches
Shahgai Fort, which was built by the British in the
1920s. It then starts down into a small valley in which
stand fortified Pashtun houses and the Ali Masjid. Perched
high above this mosque on a commanding spur is the Ali
Masjid Fort, which overlooks the entire length of the
pass and guards the gorge that is its narrowest point.
The road here hugs a narrow ledge beside the river bed
in the shadow of high cliffs on either side. Until the
way was widened, two laden camels could not squeeze
past each other, and even now the road is one way. The
return road and the railway follow separate ledges higher
up on the opposite cliff, affording a less exciting
view of the gorge. Throughout the way, little stone
army forts & scattered concrete "Dragon's Teeth"
act as a reminder of WWII fears by the British of a
German tank invasion of the subcontinent.
You will rarely see any women apart from the nomadic
tribeswomen, who are usually dressed in red or maroon.
The black and grey tents of the nomads bnug the snad,
while camels wander around grazing on the sparese vegetation.
You will also see children, young shepehers and shepherdesses
and their flocks of sheep and goats. Except for the
nomads, all the men appear to be literally armed to
Khyber Pass has been a silent witness to countless events
in the history of mankind. As one drives though the
Pas at a leisurely pace, imagination unfolds pages of
history, the Aryans descending upon the fertile northern
plains in 1,500 BC subjugating the indigenous Dravidian
population and settling down to open a glorious chapter
in the history of civilisation, the Persian hordes under
Darius (6th century BC) crossing into the Punjab to
annex yet another province to the Achaemenian Empire;
the armies of Alexander the Great (326 BC) marching
through the rugged Pass to fulfil the wishes of a young,
ambitious conqueror; the terror of Ghanghis Khan unwrapping
the majestic hills and turning back towards the trophies
of ancient Persia; the white Huns bringing fire and
destruction in their wake; the Scythians and the Parthians,
the Mughals and the Afghans, conquerors all, crossing
over to leave their impact and add more chapters to
the diverse history of this sub-continent.
the narrowest point of the pass, about 15 Km from Jamrud
is Ali Masjid and a large fort and a british cemetry.
The valley walls bear insignia of British regiments
that have served here. In the cemetery here are the
graves of British soldiers killed in the Second Afghan
War of 1879. This was the famous battle of Ali Masjid.
Regimental insignia are carved and painted on to the
rock faces at several places along the road, with the
Gordon Highlanders, the South Wales Borderers, and the
Royal Sussex, Cheshire and Dorset regiments standing
in one doughty group. After the gorge, the pass opens
out into a wide fertile valley dotted with Pashtun villages.
True to form, however, these villages look more like
forts, with high, crenellated mud walls running between
watch-towers pierced with narrow gun slits.
The Ali Masjid Fort is located at the narrowest portion
of the Khyber Pass, through which only a loaded mule
or Camel could pass till as late as the mid nineteenth
century. The fort was built by the British in 1890.
The ruins of a Buddhist Stupa can also be seen in the
area. There is also a mosque and a shrine in the memory
of Hazrat Ali (RA), who visited this place according
to a local tradition. There is also a huge boulder which
carries the marks of a hand believed to be that of Hazrat
Ali (RA). Even Khyber was named after the Khyber of
Arabia, where Hazrat Ali (RA) accomplished a great deed
Stupa, a Buddhist ruin dating from the second to the
fifth centuries AD, stands to the right of the road
and above the railway at the village of Zarai, 25 kilometres
(16 miles) from Jamrud. The Stupa has a high hemispherical
dome resting on a three-tiered square base. Some beautiful
Gandharan sculptures were found here when the site was
excavated at the beginning of this century. Some of
the finds are now in the Peshawar Museum. The side of
the Stupa lacing the road has been restored.
Landi Kotal, at the end of the railway line and eight
kilometres (five miles) from the border, is a smugglers
town. It is 7 km away from Ali Masjid and is situated
1200 m above sea level. Electrical goods, cloth and
drugs are the main commodities in the bazaar below the
road to the left. However, with the growth of the Smuggler's
Bazar near Peshawar, this area lost its status of contraband
city. But it is still full of shops selling weapons
along with electrical goods, etc at unbelievable low
prices. The road forks here: right to the Khyber Rifles
headquarters, left to the border. A viewpoint beyond
the town looks out across tank traps of closely packed
cement pyramids to the border post at Torkham (Also
known as the 'Dragon's Teeth'), the last oasis of green
before the barren brown of the Afghan plain.
The last point "tourists" are allowed to go
to is the Michni Checkpost where journalists and VIPs
get briefed. Just beyond Michni Checkpost at a journey
time of around half an hour is the Border at Torkham,
which leads to Afghanistan.
immigration and customs checkposts are at Torkham; the
border town here, which has shops, hotels, cafes, restaurants,
banks, bakeries and government offices, most of the
buildings are low roofed and seem to huddle together
as if for security. A barrier consisting of a waist
high barbed wire fence with an opening is now part of
the scenery in landti Kotal. There was also numerous
signs including a welcome to Pakistan sign a warning
to get to Peshawar by nightfall and a small lboard on
the afghani side with a few propaganda posters plastered
on it in urdu.
On a hilltop to the left of Torkham is the ruined Kafir
Fort, a Hindu relic of the ninth century AD. On this
ridge in 1919, the British and Afghans fought one of
the last engagements of the Third Afghan War. The top
of the hill is now Afghan territory, with a commanding
view down on Pakistani installations and forts.
The Khyber Train
rail enthusiasts, the Khyber Railway from Peshawar to
Landi Kotal is a three-star attraction. The British
built it in the l920s at the then enormous cost of more
than two million pounds. It is said that when the British
built the railway, the tribesmen used to travel free
whereas others had to pay. It passes through 34 tunnels
totaling five kilometres (three miles) and over 92 bridges
and culverts. Total length of the track is 42 km. Two
or three coaches are pulled and pushed by two oil fired
engines. At one point, the track climbs 130 meters in
little more than a kilometer (425 feet in 0.7 miles)
by means of the heart stopping Chungai Spur. This is
a W-shaped section of track with two cliff-hanging reversing
stations, at which the train wheezes desperately before
shuddering to a stop and hacking away from the brink.
The Pakistan government has dubbed it as 'The Khyber
Steam Safari Train'. Tourists in bundles apply for the
ticket which is booked by appointment only. Groups of
20 to 45 passengers can book one bogey for an all day
outing to Landi Kotal and back; a ride lasting ten to
The Khyber train currently runs only by appointment.
Groups of 20 to 45 passengers can book one bogey for
an all day outing to Landi Kotal and back, a ride lasting
ten to eleven hours, for US $ 1,000. But you can easily
see the train at rest at Peshawar Station.
The gignatic multi-purpose Warsak Dam is situated 30
kms north-west of Peshawar in the heart of tribal territory.
It has a total generating capacity of 240,000 kw and
will eventually serve to irrigate 110,000 acres of land.