The Khyber Pass (elevation: 1,070 m or 3,510 ft) is a mountain pass connecting Afghanistan and Pakistan, cutting through the northeastern part of the Spin Ghar mountains. An integral part of the ancient Silk Road, it has long had significant cultural, economic, and geopolitical significance. Throughout history it has been an important trade route between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent and a strategic military location. The summit of the pass is 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) inside Pakistan at Landi Kotal. The Khyber Pass is part of the Asian Highway 1 (AH1). “Khyber” is the Hebrew word for fort.
History: Well known invasions of the area have been predominantly through the Khyber Pass, such as the invasions by Darius I and Alexander the Great and also include Genghis Khan and later Mongols such as Duwa Qutlugh Khwaja and Kebek. Among the Mulim invasions of ancient India, the famous invaders coming through the Khyber Pass are Mahmud Ghaznavi, and the Afghan Muhamamd Ghori and the Turkic-Mongols. Finally, Sikhs under Ranjit Singh captured the Khyber Pass in 1834 until they were defeated by the forces of Wazir Akbar Khan in 1837. Hari Singh Nalwa, who manned the Khyber Pass for years, became a household name in Afghanistan.
To the north of the Khyber Pass lies the country of the Mullagori tribe. To the south is Afridi Tirah, while the inhabitants of villages in the Pass itself are Afridi clansmen. Throughout the centuries the Pastun clans, particularly the Afridis and the Afghan Shinwaris, have regarded the Pass as their own preserve and have levied a toll on travellers for safe conduct. Since this has long been their main source of income, resistance to challenges to the Shinwaris’ authority has often been fierce.
For strategic reasons, after the First World War the British built a heavily engineered railway through the Pass. The Khyber Pass Railway from Jamrud, near Peshawar, to the Afghan border near Landi Kotal was opened in 1925.
During World War II concrete “dragon’s teeth” (tank obstacles) were erected on the valley floor due to British fears of a German tank invasion of India.
The Pass became widely known to thousands of Westerners and Japanese who traveled it in the days of the Hippie trail, taking a bus or car from Kabul to the Afghan border. At the Pakistani frontier post, travelers were advised not to wander away from the road, as the location was a barely controlled Federally Administered Tribal Area. Then, after customs formalities, a quick daylight drive through the Pass was made. Monuments left by British Army units, as well as hillside forts, could be viewed from the highway.
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