PESHAWAR: The route may have been travelled by humans for over four centuries, but until seven years ago, few would have imagined a sizzling pizza emerging from an oven at one of Landikotal’s roadside eateries. That is until Abid Afridi, who is now 32, decided to expand the gustatory experience of fellow tribesmen and tourists.
The Pak-Afghan Highway is known for its glorious views, the Khyber Pass and more recently, its pizza. The road has been used for as a trade route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and South Asian countries. And even today, a large number of Afridi and Shinwari tribesmen stop by Noor’s Pizza Hot to bite into some cheesy goodness dressed with all the ingredients one would expect from an experienced urban establishment.
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Budding taste buds
By opening a pizza shop by the roadside, Abid has set the standard for pizza in the region.
Being a footballer, Abid always dreamed of showcasing the hidden talent of the tribal youth to the rest of the world. He enrolled in Islamia College University Peshawar for an LLB, but financial constrains forced him to quit in the third semester.
The legal fraternity’s loss was initially football’s and later the food industry’s gain. He was selected for Islamian Footballer team and played with them for three years. He was unable to get more national or international coverage and left for Karachi to pursue another team with the hopes of bringing more opportunities to talented players in Fata. However, he returned home disappointed and while he was down, Abid was far from out.
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In 2008, he went to China for employment, but certain factors stopped him from staying on.
With a love for food burning inside, Abid planned to open a pizzeria for tribesmen. Many would have laughed at him for even considering introducing a staple fast food from Central Italy, but if it moved from Central Italy to the streets of London and New York, why not elsewhere?
Hot is a hit
Seven years on, locals of Landikotal have developed a taste for pizza and many see it as a pleasant change from their daily diet.
Local cricketer Majid Afridi told The Express Tribune he has been living in the area for 17 years and only sees underdevelopment, while aspiring young players like him are neglected on the national front. However, a pizza shop gives him hope that better things may lie in store.
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It is not just locals who have given this establishment their nod of approval. Taha, a Karachi resident who orders pizza on a regular basis, recently visited Landikotal and says the pizza is in no uncertain terms “amazing”. In fact, he prefers it to one of the most popular pizza joints in the metropolis. “I didn’t expect to find pizza in Khyber Agency. When you think of Fata, your thoughts don’t really go towards pizza, but it was professional; something only an expert could make.”
Donning the hat
Abid has hired two chefs and one of them was trained in the United Kingdom for two years. He also has four riders for home deliveries and to serve his patrons. He has plans to expand the eatery and provide more employment opportunities to youngsters.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2016.
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