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Society

Peshawar residents, tourists throng to renovated Ghanta Ghar neighbourhood

Renovations of Mughal-era structures in Peshawar have transformed the local scene.

By Javed Khan


A view of Ghanta Ghar street near Tehsil Gor Khatri after the completion of renovation work under the Heritage Trail Project. [Javed Khan]

A view of Ghanta Ghar street near Tehsil Gor Khatri after the completion of renovation work under the Heritage Trail Project. [Javed Khan]

PESHAWAR -- Tourists and residents alike are thronging to the newly renovated Ghanta Ghar neighbourhood in the Old Town of Peshawar.

The reconstruction was part of the Heritage Trail Project, which saw work extending from Ghanta Ghar to the Tehsil Gor Ghatri Archaeological Complex.

Work began last December and ended June 5, Umair Khan, spokesman for the preceding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government, which left power May 28, told Pakistan Forward.

Renovations to Ghanta Ghar have also beautified its namesake 118-year-old clock tower.

Thousands of residents and tourists visit the Heritage Trail daily, mostly to enjoy the transformed scene and the many foods available.

On their way down the trail, they can behold seven palatial havelis -- traditional mansions -- built by the Sethis, a prominent merchant family, long ago.

Extensive repairs

The project cost Rs. 315 million ($2.5 million), which covered renovations to decaying 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Workers did everything from extensive overhauls to repair of delicate woodwork on windows, doorways and arches.

They also built a food street to cater to local and tourist demand.

Pervez Khattak, the then-KP chief minister who launched the project last December, announced compensation for shopkeepers whose businesses were disrupted by construction.

The project workers "renovated about 80 buildings from Ghanta Ghar to Tehsil Ghor Ghatri," Gohar Amin, a doctor who operates a clinic in the area, told Pakistan Forward.

The same workers renovated the exterior of his clinic, he said.

The project "will give a better look to the Old Town", he said.

Mohallah Sethian and Tehsil Ghor Ghatri have some of the oldest buildings in Peshawar, which will attract more tourists now that the Heritage Trail is complete, he said.

Booming business

Local observers are seeing much greater business along the Heritage Trail now that the work is finished.

"The food business stayed at its peak in the evenings during Ramadan, and thousands are still coming every day," roadside kebab restaurant worker Shakil Khan told Pakistan Forward.

The peak hours are 8pm to midnight, he said, adding that crowds come for the food street's beef tikka, karahi, fish, biryani and lassi.

"The number of families visiting the main street after renovations has grown noticeably," he said. "They think the general environment on the food street has improved."

Preservation of old buildings along the food street "gives a charming look to the entire street", Zahoor Ahmad, 40, a local visitor to the food street, told Pakistan Forward. He cited concerns that still need work.

"The authorities, as well as the restaurant and shop owners, need to keep the street clean," he said, referring to the public's habit of littering.

The Heritage Trail Project "has added to the beauty of Peshawar", another Peshawarite, Shaukat Ali, told Pakistan Forward.

The KP government is renovating another food street in Namakmandi, which has the biggest tikka market in Pakistan, he said, adding, "Beautification and proper parking arrangements for visitors from these two projects will allow more visitors to come and have a good time with family and friends."

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