The city of Darra Adam Khel is situated in Khyber Regency, south of the city of Peshawar and close to both the infamous Khyber Pass and the Afghan border. It’s generally regarded as the largest illegal gun market in the world. Seventy-five percent of the population are involved in the gun business, and gun shops seem to be the sole market keeping the city alive.
Individual craftsmen produce replicas of nearly every gun on the market, from Nazi WWII pistols to modern anti-aircraft guns. Most of the shops are identical at street level and have a “shooting range“ on the roof of the building.
The arms business of Darra Adam Khel came into being in 1897, and is mostly run by the local Afridi tribe. The skills used to produce these high-quality replicas are being handed from father to son, keeping the family business strong for generations. Locals take extreme pride in their gun crafting traditions.
Guns from Darra Adam Khel are not only of importance to local Pakistanis, but they have also played a crucial role in the Afghans’ struggle against Soviet occupying forces. Today, a good part of the guns and ammunition used by the Taliban (in both Afghanistan and Pakistan) originate from Darra Adam Khel.
Unsurprisingly, a city in which numerous rival clans and Taliban restock on ammunition and guns so close to the Afghan battlefields is not one visited by tourists. Located in a territory that the Pakistani government has no control over and where large parts of the population have strong anti-foreign sentiments, Darra Adam Khel can be rightfully regarded as one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Therefore, it’s anything but a tourist destination, despite its newfound popularity stemming from the release of the 2007 film “Son of a Lion” showcasing it. Local authorities in Peshawar actively discourage tourists from visiting.
Some foreigners have managed to visit Darra Adam Khel in recently, but they have always been taken there by locals with connections in the region. The town isn’t quite as lawless as it once was, but it’s still not a good idea to try to visit on your own.
Know Before You Go
Darra Adam Khel, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
There is a checkpoint at the entrance of the Kohat Subdivision that will turn back foreigners if they attempt to enter.