PESHAWAR: Every winter, the traditional wool apparel business in Peshawar’s historic Chitral bazaar begins to boom.
The bazaar was first established by shopkeepers from the scenic upper Chitral region, from the extreme northwest of Pakistan, in the late 1940s. It is famous around the country for its expertly crafted handmade woolen hats, waistcoats, long coats and cloaks.
With roughly 500 shops, most of the people working in the bazaar are from Chitral and speak their native language, Khowar. But having adapted to the needs of their business and customers in Peshawar, they also speak Pashto.
Abdul Waheed, a shop-owner from upper Chitral said he’s been in the business of Chitrali hats for 20 years. A single Chitrali hat of pure wool, he said, took hours of meticulous crafting.
“A normal hat can be made in even an hour,” Waheed shrugged. “But a special one takes at least four hours.”
“I sit in the same shop of the Chitrali Bazaar where my father sat before me. I’ve been making these Chitrali hats for decades,” Waheed, 45, told Arab News.
“After the recent visit of the British royal couple, the sale of the traditional Chitrali headgear has risen,” he added and said these days, there was a demand for his warm hats from other cities in Pakistan as well.
The price of the handmade hats in the bazaar varies according to the design and quality, and ranges from between Rs. 500 ($3.20) to Rs. 2000 ($12.92).
Waheed said that due to the high quality of the handmade products, people from neighboring Afghanistan also used Chitrali woolen products, and visiting European tourists took a special interest in purchasing from the historic bazaar.
In the past, celebrities and royals who have visited Chitral have received the Chitrali hats as gifts, with iconic photographs of Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, Princess Diana and others in the traditional headgear now a part of the region’s documented history.
Sadiq Amin, 54, President of the Chitral business community in Peshawar said he was one of the first few shopkeepers in the bazaar and had been associated with the business since 1980.
He said the traditional Chitrali hat season started in November and continued until March, and reiterated that following the royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Chitral last month, the demand for Chitrali hats had risen with orders pouring in from around the country.