Khyber Agency is named after the world famous Khyber Pass, which has served as the corridor connecting the Asian sub-continent with the Central Asia through Afghanistan. The location of this pass has given the agency and its people worldwide recognition and has made it the focus of attention of historians interested in this part of the world. The headquarters of the agency is located at Peshawar.
Khyber Agency is a hilly tract with some narrow strips of valleys. It is the meeting place of the series of ranges of the Koh-e-Safaid, an off-shoots of the mighty Hindukush mountains starting from the Pamir, the roof of the world. Lacha Ghar, Karagah Ghar, Surghar and Tor Ghar Morgah and Kalauch ranges are located in the agency. Water is scarce thus the valley has little land suitable for cultivation. Generally, the hills are barren. The historic Khyber Pass is situated at a height of 1,180 meters above the sea level, which starts about 5 kilometers beyond Jamrud Fort. It is a narrow gorge winding up to lofty mountains towards Afghanistan through Koh-e-Safaid range. The highest peak of the mountain in western side of Khyber Agency is about 1,029 meters with 509 meters at its eastern side.
Khyber Agency has extreme climate with severe winter and summer seasons. May, June, July and August are the hot months. The maximum and minimum temperature during the month of June is about 40 and 26 degree Celsius respectively. The winter starts from November and continues till April. December, January and February are the coldest months. The maximum and minimum temperature during the month of January is about 18 and 4 degree Celsius respectively. The average annual rainfall is about 400 mm.
RIVERS AND STREAMS:
The two rivers flow in the agency are Bara and Kabul. The Bara river flows in the southern part of the agency. The Khajuri plain and the area near Bara River are somewhat fertile. The Kabul River making northern boundary between Mohmand and Khyber Agencies. The Valley of Kabul River is narrow and deep.
DRESS AND ORNAMENTS:
The tribesmen generally wear loose shirt, trouser and turban. A large turban is placed on the head with a chadar or waistband to gird up the loins and from it may be seen obtruding the handle of a knife or a dagger, a pistol and one or two bandoliers hanging cross-wise on the shoulders containing cartridges and a rifle on his shoulder. The women flok generally use black printed cloth. Their working and festival dresses are all the same with the exception that they wear new dress on festival. In winter season a chadar or woolen blanket is used by the males. While in the case of females their dress remains the same.
Women use ornaments such as Bangles, Bracelets, Pazeb, Karah, Nath, Golden rings and earrings.
Dwelling houses of all the tribesmen are alike and are in the shape of fortresses having towers. The houses are mostly situated on commanding sites on the hills. Sometimes these little forts comprise 10 to 15 houses within the enclosures. In tribal area each family has its own separate dwelling, proportionate in size to the members of the households and their cattle and flocks.Amongst the Khyber tribes, the Afridis are generally dokora (having two dwelling places) as in summer they live high in the hills while in winter they come down along with their families and flocks to the plains to spend the winter months.
As regards construction material, the walls of hamlets are always built with stone and mud. Wood is used for doors, windows and ceilings. Entrance to the fortress is through a main gate; while for use of women flock there is a small side door in the wall. As one enters the main gate he finds a vast courtyard with one or two rooms, depending on the social status of the family, for use of guests and male members of the family. There is also a mosque in the same compound. In most of villages only mosques will be found with cemented floor. The interior of a house is very simple with no decoration and furniture. Mostly they keep cattle inside their houses. Every cluster of houses has Hujra where the male member daily discusses their local issues and spends free time. It is also a common place used as a guest room.
PLACES OF INTEREST:
The Khyber Pass:
The prime attraction in this region is the Khyber Pass situated some 5 kilometers to the west from Jamrud. It runs to a length of about 40 kilometers up to Torkham check post at the Pak-Afghan border. For centuries this pass has been witnessing numerous kings, generals and preachers passing through it. Khyber is associated with numerous events in history, which have brought about momentous changes in the annals of mankind. It is a collection of mountain ranges, barren and crazily piled hills; forts of steel and rock stop every vantage point and naked road.
Baab-i-Khyber, the gateway to Khyber, has been constructed at the entrance of the historic Khyber Pass near Jamrud. The platform, for visiting dignitaries and containing useful and authenticated information which present in a nutshell, the historical background of the pass, the secrets of its magical charm and strategic importance, have also been constructed.
The Khyber Railways thread its way through 34 tunnels crossing 92 bridges and culverts and climbing 1,200 meters. The British built it in 1920 at an enormous cost of Rs. two million. Two coaches are pulled and pushed by two steam engines. At one point, the track climbs 130 meters in less than a kilometer by means of the famous changai spur, a section of track shaped like a “W” with two-revesing stations.
Khyber Steam Safari:
The historic Khyber Pass is the gateway to Central Asia via Kabul. The capital of war torn Afghanistan was finally traversed by the railway in 1926 of Rs. 438 to 500 thousand per kilometer. The Khyber Railways cost the Raj twice that of the magnificent Railway through the Bolan Pass although it was purely a military and never a commercial enterprise.
The idea was conceived during the second Afghan war and received fresh impetus seven years later in 1890 when the railway head has reached Peshawar Cantonment. Initially the Kabul river gorge was chosen but eight years later another study proved the Khyber Pass to be a better route. Jamrud, entrance to the Khyber Pass witnessed the Iron Kiss in 1901 and in 1905 the track was pushed up the Kabul river gorge before turning West up the Loi Shalman valley.
Alliance with Russia slowed the work and scheme was abandoned in 1909. The third Afghan war sparked the incentive once again. The myth of impossibility was shattered by Colonel (later Sir Gorden) G.R. Hearns. The construction began again in 1920 and the section from Jamrud to Landi Kotal was opened on November 3, 1925. On April 23, 1926 the line was finally opened as far as Landi Kotal just 3 kilometers short of the Durand Line. The alignment is a classic example and from the engineering point of view the work had no
superior in the world. It has a ruling gradient of three percent between Jamrud and Landi Kotal, 1065 meters above the sea level, a rise of nearly 610 meters in 33.8 kilometers. The track then drops 36.9 meters in a kilometer to Landi Khana. Other features include four reversing stations, thirty four tunnerls, ninety two bridges and culverts, six ordinary crossings and four locomotive watering stations.
Being a strategic track, the Khyber Railways was designed for the movement of troops and supplies in emergencies. The line between Landi Kotal and Landi Khanna has been closed since 1932 on the insistence of the Afghan government.
Sehrai Travels has taken the initiative to transform the Khyber Railways into a tourist attraction in collaboration with PRACS (Pakistan Railways Advisory Consultancy Services), a subsidiary of Pakistan Railways and Sarhad Tourism Development Corporation in pursuance of government policies. The Khyber Steam Safari has been incarnated from the ashes of Khyber Railways and within a short span has not only gained momentum but international recognition as well.
Jamrud, about 14.5 kilometers to the west of Peshawar on the Peshawar Torkham road, has always played the part of sentinel of the famous Khyber Pass. It is a historic place and is said to derive its name from the famous Iranian emperor Jamshed, who is said to have ruled here some 2,000 years ago. When Iranians were ruling over Khyber Pass and Peshawar valley they built a tank, which still exists near this place. Jamrud, situated at a point where Khyber Pass meets the Peshawar valley has served as the camping ground for Iranian, Greek, Tatar and Mughal armies who marched through the Khyber Pass to the Sub-Continent.
Shagai the summit of Khyber Pass is 30.6 kilometers from Peshawar. A splendid fort was built by the British in 1928. There is a cemetery of the British soldiers. The gallant tribesmen in keeping with their traditions, still respect their dead enemies and there is a Pathan custodian appointed by the government to look after this cemetery to dust the tomb-stones and water flower plants. A little distance ahead of Shagai and about 6.4 kilometers from Landi kotal there is a big Buddhist stupa by the roadside but it is in ruins now.
Landi kotal plateau is at the top of Khyber Pass, 1,072 meters above the sea level. One caravan Sarai at Landikotal is a typical Central Asian type of camping and resting place for all sorts of people. This Sarai also serves the purpose of show room for the arms and ammunitions manufactured in the tribal arms factories just behind the hills. Before the establishment of Bara market, Landi Kotal was a busy shopping center of foreign merchandise. Now it is used as a godown for Bara market, which is in the proximity of Peshawar city.
Torkham is situated on the border where the Durand Line separates Pakistan from Afghanistan. A well-furnished rest house equipped with sanitary fittings and other amenities have also been constructed. This is maintained by the Political Department and is meant only for government officials and other dignitaries. Some small hotels and restaurants are also available for providing facilities to the tourists.