PESHAWAR: Little-known fact: Peshawar is the largest market for several items supplied in bulk to the entire world. These things, which are easily considered luxuries in other parts of the country and the world, can be bought at bargain prices in the city -- if you know where to look.
Here’s a shopper's guide on what to buy in what has been called the ‘oldest living city’:
1. Afghan carpets
In the past two decades, Peshawar has emerged as the largest producer of handmade Afghan carpets in the world. Even carpets woven in Afghanistan are finding their way to Peshawar.
A handmade Afghan carpet could cost as low as Rs1,500 per four square metre but it could also go up to Rs6,000 per square metre or higher depending on the quality.
Shuba Chowk is the main market where Afghan nationals deal in these carpets and the best place to buy it at a bargain. A four-square-meter piece could cost you up to Rs24,000, and could last you decades.
Tips: Try to stay clear of imported Chinese handmade silk carpets and Iranian rugs or their Afghan copies at Shuba Market as they are costly. Avoid buying cheap handmade carpets at Rs1,500 per meter as they are woven from the lowest quality wool. Always check with three or four dealers for the price and don’t go for expensive ones if you don’t know anything about carpets. There are dozens of types of carpets but the traditional red color carpets are in high demand as the color doesn’t need frequent wash. As far as washing your carpet is concerned, don’t opt for dry cleaning, which will be heavy on the pocket. Dealers in Shuba Bazaar also provide cleaning services and it should not exceed Rs1,200 per wash. Just remember one rule: the bigger the size, the higher the price.
2. Semi-precious gems stones
Gems stones mined in the northern areas of the country, parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and most importantly in Afghanistan can be found in Peshawar.
Namak Mandi is the largest market for raw semi-precious stones. Here are a few tricks to help you get the right stone for the right right price: You don’t necessarily have to go for stones that cost a fortunate. A good stone of about 20 or 30 carats should cost you Rs2,000. There are dozens of types of stones available at the market. But some of them, such as Katlang Topaz, are not color stable or lose their color when exposed to direct sunlight. Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Kunzite and Lapizlazuli are good semi-precious stones.
Good-quality emeralds are mined in Swat but their small size make them unattractive for use in jewelry and they are mainly used in luxury Swiss watches. However, keep in mind not to buy rubies, emerald or any other precious stone unless you are an expert.
Also worth remembering is the fact that there is no resale market of gems stones in Pakistan and if you buy a stone for Rs25,000 it has no resale value. So, stick to cheap stones only. Mineral specimens are mostly bought by museums at exorbitant prices. But they are also used as decorative pieces. A tourmaline with its mother rock could be a good decoration piece for homes, while large Lapiz Lazuli pieces could be used as paper weights at offices. Namak Mandi is the place to buy them. Once again, do not go for a specimen that could break the bank. Your budget shouldn’t exceed more than Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 apiece and try not to buy too many pieces at once.
3. Berry Honey
Did you know Peshawar is the largest producer of honey in Pakistan, once again, thanks to Afghan refugees who were provided with honey bees by the Australian government in the 1980s.
Previously, every effort, including one by the British Indian Government, failed to use the local species of bees for honey farming. The Australian bees proved more than suitable for farming in the local weather condition.
Turnab Farms on the outskirts of the city on GT Road is the largest wholesale and retail market for honey. On your way to Turnab Farms from Peshawar, you will find many more markets of honey. You can buy honey for as little as Rs300 per litre and as high as Rs,1200 per litre. Berry honey is unique in taste and we recommend you try it at least once in your life.
4. Peshawari Chappal
With the passage of time, the quality of Peshawari chappals has gone down considerably but you can still find a pair for Rs500 on the Jehangir Pura market behind Qisa Khwani Bazaar. They are cheap and of acceptable quality. If you want good quality shoes, you would have to place an order in advance, which could cost you Rs1,000 a pair or a little higher at Rs1,200.