The Khyber Pass is a narrow defile linking Pakistan with Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a 19C creation of the British, as was Pakistan in the 20C. The present border cuts through the tribal territory of the Pathans, which spans both sides of the border. The road is usually nose to tail of trucks bringing contaband of every kind, bound for the city of Peshawar for distribution.
Darra has two 'industries' - arms and drugs. There are shops like this one where guns are made. The back wall is crammed with pistols waiting for final fittings on the metalwork. Drugs are sold in premises identified by a sheepskin hanging over the doorway. With a CIA agent, I went into a room with all four walls piled from floor to ceiling with 2kg blocks of Afghani black cannabis resin, wrapped in clingfilm. The agent was told that the current price depended on the size of the order.
Pistols, shotguns, rifles and automatic weapons are on display all up and down the one dirt street in Darra. Heavier weapons like machine guns, light anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers are on sale round the back. All may be tried out. I was offered a trial of a Dashaka anti-aircraft heavy machine gun. I declined.
Headwear is a distinguishing feature of the different Afghan tribes. Beards or not are also a signifier of culture. Traditionally, a devout Muslim man has a beard at least the span of a hand long - longer is better.
There is a quality range of the weapons on sale. The AK47 Kalashnikov is a top seller. The original from Russia is the most expensive. The Chinese version is a good quality/price option. The versions made here and elsewhere in similar places are a liabilty to the user. I saw a small boy of about 10 y.o. reaming out mild steel rod for the barrel of some sort of rifle. One hopes that the weapon would be more for decorative purposes than combat.
A Pathan would consider himself improperly dressed if he was not without his weapon, for most occasions. The older generation still favour the Lee Enfield rifle of the British Army of 1895-1960's. These were standard issue to many other armies as well, all now replaced by more modern types. Thousands of L-E's like the one being polished will have made their way to Darra and other such places. They are still very effective weapons.
It is bizzare to think that family life exists in a town like Darra but these children confirm that it does. Pathan culture dictates that the women are never seen. In fact, in the ultimate mores of Pachtunwalli, a woman must be killed by her brothers if she is even suspected of being seen by a man stranger.