Qehwa in Peshawar’s storytellers market

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Zar Jan was in his tea shop when a bomb ripped through Qissa Khwani Bazaar – Peshawar’s storytellers market – two and half months ago.

“I can still hear the sound of the explosion even now in my head. I was wounded badly and thought I would die,” he said.

Outside, more than 40 people did die, caught in the blast of a car bomb detonated outside the neighbouring police station. Inside, regulars and staff were luckier. Four people were injured including the owner, who described being smashed against the wall as the shockwaves shook his first-floor qehwa khana, a traditional tea house serving Peshawar’s famous, cardamom-flavoured green tea.

He has photographs showing firefighters, equipped with breathing gear, climbing into a blackened and burned shell where his business used to be.

Peshawar has endured a particularly bloody year. The location of his shop, in a busy market near a police station, means it is on the frontline of the war against the Taliban. But abandoning the business – run by his family for more than 60 years – was not an option.

“What could I do. I’d have no job without this place,” he said.

Thankfully, Khyber Khana re-opened recently. It has been whitewashed and filled with smart green tables. Customers lounge on charpoys to wait for tea brewed by an aged chaiwallah, sitting on a raised platform where he can tend his brass samovars, watching the ebb and flow of the market below in between orders.

Business is not yet back to what it was in the market’s oldest tea shop but life goes on.


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