In an area of Pakistan that has become synonymous with Islamist militants, a mural on a wall speaks of the other side of ethnic Pashtun culture: "Welcome to the Northwest Frontier Province, the home of hospitality."
The mural is out of date -- the province was just renamed Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa. And while the snarl of traffic at the entrance of Peshawar gives the impression of life humming normally, this thousand-year-old city is under siege.
It is the capital of the restive province and gateway to Pakistan's lawless tribal belt. Suicide bombers have attacked the city nearly 40 times in the past 14 months. The famous market of the Old City is a favorite target -- and is considered too dangerous to visit.
Talk of terrorism now dominates conversations in the city.
At the University of Peshawar, Qassim Kahn, 23, says because of the violence, "we can only dream about our plans, but we can't give them shape."
Some of this region's young people are pessimistic that their lives will improve anytime soon.
Annan Saeed, 21, is studying economics at the Institute of Management Sciences in Hayatabad, an affluent suburb of Peshawar. She doesn't see things getting better.
"You might see that in Islamabad or Lahore," she says, "but Peshawar, basically it's not. It's not getting better at all."
Asked what effect the threat of violence has had on her daily life, Saeed says, "Totally ruined actually. ... Because you're fearful about your life the whole time. You're going out, you're not so sure you're going to come back home or not."
Music offers a means of expression for two young men in Peshawar who are rebelling against the claustrophobic atmosphere. They've formed a band that blends Western music with traditional Pashtun songs -- a risky thing to do here.
One of the defiant musicians, Mohammad Ameer Khan, taught himself to play guitar over the Internet and by mimicking what he saw on MTV. The other, Dilawar Qazi, 21, is a rapper.
"I remember people saying, 'Oh, Pashtun music and rock -- Oh my God, are you sure you're going to be taking that risk?' So I was like, yeah, why not?" Khan says.
Kazi says he wants to get his college degree and get out of Pakistan.
But other young people manage to maintain their optimism. Instead of letting their situation make them depressed, they insist that their country can have a bright future.
"Good pictures are developed in dark," says Fatima Khan, 20, a student at the Institute of Management Sciences. "Similarly, I'm optimistic about one day I'm going to get my prosperous country back."
Another student, Jawad Zeb, says the turmoil has made his generation's members strong enough to improve their lives.
"We are still carrying on our fight," says Zeb, 22. "We know that we can come out of it as a strong nation."
"We're no different from the youth" anywhere in the world, Zeb says. "We've just evolved our lives according to the situation."