Thursday July 25, 2024

In Lahore: A Contemporary City Guide

By Ishrat Hyatt
February 23, 2017


‘Lahore is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the world and yet very little is written to guide visitors. Kelsey Hoppe and Ben French moved to Lahore in 2015 and were at once frustrated, amazed and charmed by the city, resulting in a handy guidebook,’ said the blurb in the Asian Study Group (ASG) newsletter. To launch the book, the Literature Study sub-group of the ASG organised an event at the Serena Hotel which was well attended by members and their guests. The event was based on a question/answer session as a member of the team questioned the author on the whys and wherefore’s that led her to writing the book, the answer - “There is so much to do, and see, and learn in Lahore. But every visitor either has to know someone or they start from scratch. We wanted to make it easier, whether they were moving there or just dropping in for the weekend” - explaining it all.

The programme began with VP of ASG, Michele Galopin introducing the author and the cheerful coordinator of the literature group team, Dorothy Blane, saying a few words about the launch. Kelsey interspersed her answers with humour and spoke frankly, which convinced that she really was as taken up with Lahore as any native Lahori – her comparisons of the old city with the newer capital city helping her to get her point across but in a manner not to displease the Isloo crowd in the audience! 

When asked the big ‘why’ about her liking Lahore, she chose to read an excerpt from the book. “When I lived in Lahore people used to ask me what I liked so much about it. I would stare at them for several seconds blinking unfathomably. It wasn’t that I couldn’t come up with something to say but rather I didn’t know where to begin. I loved the mist that lingers in the gardens at dawn. I loved having ‘halwa puri’ in the Old City for breakfast. I loved the thousands of cricket games played on the streets at dawn, at noon, at midnight. I loved the genuine hospitality of Lahoris. I loved the peace and solitude of the Mian Mir shrine. I loved the complex, playful tile faces of the Lahore Fort. I loved the view from the minarets of the Wazir Khan Mosque in the morning. And that is not to even mention the food; or the textiles; or the literature - I could go on. A friend repeated a Russian proverb saying, ‘Sometimes, you drink a cup of tea so good that you miss it even while you are still drinking it.’ This is how I felt about Lahore.”

In Lahore: A Contemporary City Guide, is a 164-page, full colour book covering where to stay, what to see, where to eat, arts, culture, events, activities, shopping and much, much more. 90% of the pictures are by Ben French while the others are by ‘a good friend.’ In Lahore it was launched at the Literary Festival in February.

Kelsey Hoppe is a writer, editor and consultant currently based in the UK working in the humanitarian and development sectors. She has lived and worked across South East Asia, the former Soviet Union and East Africa and is also the lead editor and author of ‘Chasing Misery: An Anthology of Essays by Women in Humanitarian Aid.’