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November 24, 2016

Shahi Hammam becomes a hub of foreign tourists

November 24, 2016


The internationally recognised Mughal Era’s Turkish bath site Shahi Hammam has turned out to be the first priority of international visitors and tourists. 

Statistics collected by The News revealed that since its inauguration in June 2016 as many as 5,000 international visitors and delegates had visited this site while over 50,000 local visitors including students, corporate entities and government functionaries had visited the site.

The monument had recently received Award of Merit in this year’s Unesco Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) in collaboration with Agha Khan Trust for Culture and with financial support of Norwegian government carried out the conservation of this Mughal-era public bathhouse over a two-year period.

Walled City of Lahore Authority officials said the primary objectives of the conservation effort were to reestablish the monument as a bathhouse through the exposure, conservation and display of the remains of the original waterworks, drainage and hypocaust system through archaeological excavation, structural consolidation and restoration of the historic floor levels.

The main reason why international tourists prefer visiting Shahi Hammam is presence of some other very important historical monuments nearby such as Delhi Gate, Masjid Wazir Khan, Well of Dina Nath and rehabilitated and restored Shahi Guzargah.

The visitors can also witness original city life while touring this area.

Nisar Ahmed, a local shopkeeper, said after conservation business activities in this area have flourished. “I am a seller of handmade mud toys and prior to the conservation and restoration of this area, I was living hand to mouth but now I am earning good as well as my children are also going to school,” he added.

On Thursday (today), WCLA has planned a colorful ceremony to commemorate the Award of Merit during which a plaque will be unveiled by Counsellor Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) Arne Haug and DG Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) Kamran Lashari, in the presence of CEO Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) Salman Beg, as well as representatives of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) conservation team that worked on the project.

Tanya Qureshi, media manager of WCLA, said the Unesco Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation programme recognised the efforts of private individuals and organisations that have successfully restored and conserved structures and buildings of heritage value in the region.

A total of 13 winning projects from six countries – Australia, China, India, Iran, Japan and Pakistan – have been recognised in this year’s Heritage Awards, she said, adding a panel of international conservation experts met in Bangkok to review the 40 Heritage Awards entries.

Salman Beg, CEO Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan, said the project has been undertaken with a high degree of technical proficiency and the restoration of Shahi Hammam has safeguarded a unique example of the 17th-century Mughal public bathhouse monument.

The team of international and local experts and artisans adeptly addressed the issues of significant structural damage and loss of fabric resulting from inappropriate alterations, poor conservation work and encroachments, he said.

He added that careful investigation and analysis were done for the conservation, including architectural consolidation and the preservation of frescos and other decorative elements.

Senior Architect, Rashid Makhdum, said Shahi Hammam was the first example of a monument conservation of its kind in Punjab and was the evidence of the success of the partnership between AKCSP and Walled City of Lahore Authority.

The project has also paved the way for similar monumental conservation in other parts of the Walled City, like the rehabilitation of the Chowk Wazir Khan and preparatory documentation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Lahore Fort as both these projects are being carried out with financial assistance from the US and Norwegian Embassies in Pakistan, he maintained.

DG WCLA, Kamran Lashari, said that the Hammam has now been established as a heritage museum-site that welcomes tourists and visitors from all over the world into the Walled City and is kept alive as a venue for talks, seminars and cultural and corporate events. “Since its opening, the Hammam has been visited by thousands of local as well as international visitors and is increasingly becoming the centre piece of tourism in the Walled City,” he said.