PESHAWAR: The centuries-old tradition of storytelling and traditional Peshawari Qehwa (green tea) along with chappli kabab continued from Iftar to Sehri during Ramazan at the historic Qissakhwani bazaar.
Being an oldest bazaar of South Asia, Qissakhwani’s food shops, hotels and Qahwa Khwanas are attracting a large number of visitors, who are enjoying the mouthwatering chappli kabab, paye, mutton karahi, fried fish, kabuli rice polao and other traditional food cuisines at Iftar parties.
“I came along with my family to my favourite Qisakhwani to enjoy its delicious chappli kabab and paye with its famous Qehwa at Iftar party arranged by my father for family members here on Sunday, “ said Engr Fahim Khan of Nowshera district while taking to APP.
He said the mouthwatering fried fish, chicken roast and kulfi-falooda along with famous qehwa were adding colours to the Iftar parties.
“It was my second Iftar of the current Ramazan here and would again come on 29th fast of Ramazan to my favourite place for a grand Iftar party with my friends and relatives,” he said.
Fazl Rehman, owner of the famous Mohmand Qehwa at Shah Wali Qatal street at Qissa Khwani told APP that centuries old culture of storytelling along with famous Qehwa still contined at the historic bazaar.
“The people in groups and families come for Iftar parties and enjoy the traditional delicious cuisines with qehwa here till sehri,” he said.
The Qissa Khwani’s primitive and archaic culture magnetize visitors’ attention during their visit to its food restaurants and Qehwa shops for Iftar parties where they swap tales of ancient culture, music, art, politics and traditional norms till sehri.
Located in the heart of Peshawar City near historical Chowk Yadgar, Ghanta Ghar and Balahisar fort, the Qissa Khwani Bazaar remained a key trade and cultural center where international merchants of subcontinent, Afghanistan and Central Asia stayed at nights and shared tales of love, culture, art and architecture, music and traditions before their departure to respective destinations.
The bazaar starts from Kabuli Gate that takes only eight to 10 minutes to reach after disembarking from BRT station of Khyber Bazaar and takes visitors to primordial age after witnessing its centuries-old architectural buildings, artisans’ shops, food restaurants and primitive Qehwa Khanas.
During its peak period, the bazaar served as a campground for trade caravans of merchants from Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore, Kabul, Dushanbe, Ashgabat and Tashkent who used to enter the city’s gates to unload their merchandise.
The bazaar has witnessed the vigor of great warriors, invaders and kings including Alexander the Great, Mehmood Ghaznvi, Zaheeruddin Babar, Nadir Shah, Ahmed Shah Durrani and his grandson Shah Zaman who marched through famous Khyber Pass during their invasions of India.
“Making Qehwa is my passion which I inherited from my father in 1970 and my son has also joined us,” Fazalur Rehman said.
He said majority of the visitors ask for green tea ‘Qahwa’ while many request for green tea with milk locally Known as ‘Sheen Da Payo’ a special iftar tea item of Qisakhwani.
Following creation of Pakistan, he said that its tea stalls were centre of political discussion where locals exchanged views about the country’s political situation, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah-Gen Ayub Khan Presidential Election, 1965 Pak-India War, OIC Lahore Summit 1974 and number of sports and cultural events during 1960-75 besides 1992 cricket world cup wins.
“Qissa Khwani’s history is believed to be as old as the history of Peshawar,” said Bakht Zada Khan, Research Officer Museums and Archeology Department while talking to APP.
“The recent archaeology excavation at ancient Gor Khatri had established the city’s historical profile declaring Peshawar as ‘Oldest Living City’ in South Asia with primitive history going back to about 539 BC.”
He said Gor Khatri excavation was the deepest and biggest in the world which revealed that the 20-layers of soil provide a complete profile of this ancient city ranging from British to pre Indo-Greek era.
Thus, the unique tradition of storytelling and drinking of Qehwa became an integral part of Qissa Khwani culture, which is still continuing despite the passage of centuries.
Foreign and domestic tourists can also take glimpses of ancestral houses of Bollywood super stars including Yousaf Khan alias Dalip Kumar at Mohallah Khudadad, Haveli of Raj Kapoor’s father Prithvi Raj and residence of Shah Rukh Khan’s family at Shah Wali Qatal at Qissa Khwani.
“Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani and Dilip Kumar sahib are inseparable,” Faud Ishaq, former President Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and nephew of the Peshawar born India’s cinema legend Dilip Kumar told APP.
He said Dilip Kumar’s love for Peshawar could be judged from his will in which he wished to use his ancestral house for welfare of Peshawarities.
The Havali of Raj Kapoor’s father Prithvi Raj, who moved to Mumbai in 1930 where he prevailed over South Asian’s film industry both as an actor and producer, thereby laying the first Bollywood dynasty spanned about four generations, were also attracting visitors at Dhaki Nalbandi near Qissa Khwani.
The house of Taj Muhammad Khan, father of Bollywood legend Shah Rukh Khan was located at Shah Wali Katal Qissa Khawani where his celebrated son had good time with his family members during his teenage visit to Pakistan, Shah Rukh’s house is also a source of attraction for tourists and his cinema fans.
Besides, the arched white marble monument erected in the middle of the bazaar to honor all those martyred in the Qissa Khwani massacre by British troops in 1930, also remained the centre of attractions for many.
British Commissioner of Peshawar, Herbert Edwards had great love for Qissa Khwani who called it the ‘Piccadilly of South Asia’. During colonial rule, Britishers used informers to know public opinion over administrative decisions by instructing them to visit city areas and bring ‘Qissa Khawani Gazzattee’.
“I am selling Chappli Kabab for the last 25 years at Qissa Khwani that attracts substantial buyers by taking its parcel to for their families at home for Iftar parties and many prefer to enjoy here at hotels during Iftar dinner,” said Ismail Ali.
He said that Qissakhwani had witnessed a sharp decrease in arrival of tourists during 2001-13 when terrorists targeted this cultural hub of Peshawar that claimed so many precious lives including Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour in 2012 and CCPO Malik Muhammad Saad Shaheed in 2007.
He said the terror attacks and later corona lockdowns had an adverse effect on Qehwa and Chappli Kabab business here.
“In spite of economic losses, we continued our business even in those days when people were afraid to visit this ancient market,” he said.
He said an increase in tourists’ arrival has been witnessed at Qissakhwani with overwhelming response of domestic travelers from Punjab, Swat, Chitral, Nowshera and Dir Upper this year.
“I came from Karak to enjoy Chapal Kabab along with traditional Qehwa at Qisa Khwani bazaar at iftar,” said Waris Khan, an employee of federal government while talking to APP.
“My visit to Peshawar remains incomplete without visiting this historic street for Chappli Kabab and Peshawari Qehwa,” he said.
“Qisa Khwani is the identity of Peshawar and solid efforts are required to preserve its cultural heritage, architecture, artwork and substantial revenue could be generated by maintaining its beauty and primitive heritage,” said Shaukat Ali Khan, Chairman Central Organization for Traders KP.
He said about Rs 50000 per 50 KG are being spent on import of green tea mostly from Vietnam and this amount could be saved by facilitating investors and farmers to cultivate green tea in upper KP especially in Malakand and Hazara division.
He urged the government to give special financial incentives to investors for purchase of machinery for tea cultivation, harvesting and face uplift of Qissakhwani.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has completed ‘Cultural Heritage Trail” project in 2018 in Peshawar under which 500 meters long trail from ancient Ghanta Ghar to Gor Khatri and outlook of 85 heritage buildings including famous Sethi House at Mohalla Sethian were renovated and preserved.
Starting at historical Ghanta Ghar, the trail passes through ancient Mohallah Sethian with a number of beautiful houses constructed by Sethi family back in the 1880s that were preserved.
A proposal is under consideration for the face uplift of Qissakhawani to restore its centuries old outlook for apprising new generations about the historical past of bazar when it remained hub of commerce between subcontinent and central asia.