Soon after a hearty breakfast at the historic Greens Hotel in the center of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtun Khwa (KPK), I am ready to embark on a day trip taking me back in the Colonial time. At the Peshawar Railway Station, I meet my old time friend, Zahoor Durrani – a tourism expert, pioneer in Train Tourism.
With his devotion and efforts, the legendary Khyber Train from Peshawar to Landikotal was put back on the tracks in the 90’s but was derailed since 2001 at the collapse of tourism in Pakistan. His passion of bringing back train tourism in Pakistan has now taken shape in the form of Tourist Train tracing a part of the Colonial time.
According to the UNWTO, the KPK province, the ancient gateway for western traders and invasions entering the East; the region is today blessed with 75% of Pakistan’s tourism products comprising spectacular lake and mountain scenery at the Galliyat (Murree, Nathiagalli), Sawat and Kaghan; astounding history of the lost glorified kingdoms dating back 5,000 years – etched at the revered Buddhist’s sites; rich cultural heritage of the Pashtoons and the ruling monarchs, who had influenced the region over a longer period of time, including the Kushan, Bactrian Greek, Mauryan and the British.
It was here at the Attock Khurd (administrative settlement), the British established the North Western Railway (NWR), located on the eastern bank of the Indus River, near the old iron girder bridge built in 1883 and not far from the strategic Grand Attock Fort, built by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great. The close proximity of Attock Khurd has remnants in the form of Begum ki Sarai (resting place of the Emperor Akbar’s wife and companions), Behram ki Baradari, tomb of an anonymous dancer, Hindu, Jain and Sikh temples, and Churchill picquet towers.
The resort was then a popular spot for fishing and hunting ground for black partridge and wild fox. On the western bank of the River stands the tall World War I Memorial dedicated to the men of the 40th Pathan Regiment that fought the Great War (1914 – 1918).
Today, there is an amusement park and wildlife sanctuary at Kund and visitors may even try a camel ride.
Currently, the Tourist Train runs from Peshawar Train station to Attock Khurd. I am on board with a group of school children on a study trip. Live commentary give us a first-hand account on the history and the significance of the place while we are entertained with refreshments onboard the well decorated train, tooting through lush fields dotted with orchards of fruit trees, which grows the country’s finest quality peaches and plums.
With the sweeping vistas of the confluence of Kabul River (muddy colored) and Indus River (blue-green colored); the train enters into the domain of Manglot mountain range and passes through the many tunnels, built during the British rule. The last of these tunnels called “Aornos”, named after the site of Alexander of Macedonia’s last siege in the Sub-Continent India, before he entered into India after crossing the turbulent waters of the Indus River.
The train crosses the great river over the old Attock Bridge and soon after, halts at the Attock Khurd Railway Station. We get off here and the young folks indulge into team building activities, archery and the sport of Tug-of-War. The station building also houses an interesting Historic Railway Museum.
Back to Peshawar before sunset, I take abode in a new hotel Shelton Rezidor – a second to none bed-down in Peshawar with friendly hosts, pleasant ambiance, spacious rooms, exciting culinary experience and the hotel is also geared with meeting and conference facility.
Sehrai Travel & Tours, Peshawar http://www.sehraitravelstours.enic.pk/
Greens Hotel Peshawar
Shelton Rezidor Peshawar