Divided by a border, united by the flourishing Board Bazaar

Published: August 4, 2019
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A sign board in persian on a dress shop owned by an Afghan refugee. PHOTO: EXPRESS

A sign board in persian on a dress shop owned by an Afghan refugee. PHOTO: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: Durand line may have divided Afghanistan and Pakistan but in the heart of Peshawar, the two countries unite in many ways at the Board Bazaar.

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With over 5,000 shops, owned and run by Afghan refugees, the Board Bazaar in Peshawar is one of the biggest assemblies of traders from Pakistan’s western neighbour.  At the Board Bazaar or Mini Kabul, as it is widely known, everything from Pakistan’s western neighbour is up for sale. From food items to ready-made outfits that promote artisans from all over Afghanistan.

The bazaar attracts buyers from all over Pakistan, who come looking for garments, food, fruits, and other daily commodities.

“We have been here for decades are having been running these small shops where you find everything you want from Kabul,” said Haji Asmat, head of traders union in the Bazaar. “This is the reason why everyone calls it Mini-Kabul.”

Initially, according to Afghan refugees, there were fewer shops that dotted the railway track. However, with the passage of time and the influx of merchants from Afghanistan, the market now stretches to the main Jamrud Road.

“The market is so famous that every cab driver in town knows where it is,” said Haji Asmat. “Everyone in Afghanistan knows about the bazaar,” he added.

Mini-Kabul is not just about Afghan traders; it is about everything that defines Afghanistan. The bazaar has display signs in languages spoken across the Durand line.

Food that unites

From Kabuli Pulao to Dam Pukht, food also unites the two nations at Mini-Kabul.

According to visitors, the bazaar serves as the best place to sample authentic Afghan cuisine.  Expert chefs, who happen to be from Afghanistan, have brought the true taste of Kabul’s  Sheer Yakh, a uniquely handmade ice-cream to the streets of Peshawar.

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Visitors claim to have sampled the best authentic Afghan Mantu, meat (usually beef or lamb) stuffed dumpling that is steamed in a multilayer steamer.

“You go around the country in search of Afghan food or any other item and if you fail to find it, visit Board Bazar and this place will have it,” said Muhammad Younas, who has been selling clothes in the market for more than a decade.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2019.

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