Something new about the Old Lahore

May 28, 2023

A visit to the old city at night time is a unique experience

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— Image by the author


Living in Lahore and being able to explore its heritage is a privilege. During my stay in the city for the past one year or so, I’ve been fortunate to explore the myriad landmarks in the old city and its surroundings.

Old neighbourhoods have a peculiar vibe to them. Life there is very different from that in many modern cities. The buildings, shops, people… everyone, everything has a certain aura that lends those places and people a distinct feeling — something which isn’t felt anywhere else. This is true of Old, or androon, Lahore, too.

I have been exploring it ever since I came to this city. When the holy month of Ramazan began, I was curious to see what the old city looked like in Ramazan. I contacted my friends Talha and Adeel to plan a night stroll in the streets of the old city that would end at sehri. After lots of planning and cancellations, we finally met up on the night of April 12 at the Badshahi Masjid. The mosque had been illuminated.

Next, we reached the tomb of Allama Iqbal at midnight. It was so peaceful there, and the guard was surprised to see the visitors so late at night.

We entered the old city via the Taxali Gate and began to roam around the infamous Hira Mandi, which used to be the red-light area for the longest time in Lahore. The buildings around the area were very tall and old. My friends told me that prostitutes and dancing girls would stand in the balconies all decked out, in order to charm the potential customers. But that is now a tale of the past. The world has moved on, but the history remains buried there.

Nearby, at a busy square (chowk), we found what are said to be Lahore’s most famous eateries such as Phajje Kay Paye and Arif Chatkhara.

We were on foot. We kept walking till we reached the heart of the old city where we witnessed the beauty of life in its purest form. It was very late at night but the place was still buzzing with activity. The shops were open, and kids were playing in the streets. Lahoris’ love for food is no secret. At that hour, the night was still young. We saw chai shops, channay-paye stalls, and all sorts of restaurants packed to capacity with customers. Some of these had customers taking away their orders. (This was a novel sight to me.)

The tailor shops were open and looked every bit colourful. The tailors were busy sewing dresses for Eid. The vintage shops filled with colorful spools made these shops look really special.

Soon, we reached the haveli of a fabled dancer in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s court. It was a beautiful haveli. Though we could only see its façade, it looked very modern for its time, except that it wasn’t in a good condition.

After a long walk, we felt hungry and realised that it was almost time for sehri meals. We decided to find a place to eat and after much deliberation, we settled on trying the spicy fried chicken at Arif Chatkhara, located inside Taxali Gate. The ambience of the place was not up to the mark, but it wasn’t bad either. When the food arrived, it was super spicy and stimulated our taste buds.

Outside the restaurant, there was a lassi shop. What better way to wash it all down with, than by having lassi! Later, we walked towards the Food Street near the Badshahi Masjid.

We wanted to end our ride with a sip of chai, so we tried tandoori chai at the Food Street. It was quite costly and, to our surprise, had a rather average taste.

Eventually, our night full of memories and laughter came to an end as the sirens announcing the end of sehri started ringing. We left for our homes soon after. In the end, I’d like to tell everyone in Lahore to take a trip to the old city, especially at night time, to get a completely different perspective on the city.

The writer is a graphic designer and an activist. He writes on environment, politics and culture. He can be reached at

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