History and modernity combine famously in this beautiful city of the world
Pakistan has a lot to offer when it comes to tourism. I have been fortunate enough to visit all the four provinces of the country and a number of cities. Every place has its own charm, but Lahore remains my favourite.
There are various reasons for that. It’s a city I have lived in for at least two years, as a hosteller. Though, earlier I had the chance to come here twice — as a tourist. What fascinated me especially was its unique culture which is a blend of Mughal architecture and the modern Punjabi lifestyle. In the words of Javaria Waseem, a young Pakistani writer, “Lahore was a different world in its own; the busy life, the rich history, the colourful culture and the unfamiliar faces.”
There are ancient cities like Taxila that lack modern-day buildings and road infrastructures, parks and shopping malls. And then there are ‘modern’ cities like Islamabad where you don’t find any historical buildings or landmarks. Lahore, to me, offers the best of ‘both the worlds,’ so to say.
Lahore is haven for lovers of history. If you have a thing for monuments of Mughal, British, Sikh and Hindu eras, Lahore is the go-to place. On its one side, the Greater Iqbal Park — formerly Minto Park — looks over the magnificent Badshahi Masjid, built during Emperor Aurangzeb’s rule. The mosque is presently the fifth largest in the world. Between the years 1673 and 1986, it was the largest mosque in the world.
Facing Badshahi Masjid is the Lahore Fort, a citadel at the northern end of the famous Walled City that spreads over an area of more than 20 hectares.
Accompanying these buildings is the Gurdwara Dera Sahib, a Sikh temple which is historically the spot where the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjun Dev, was martyred circa 1606.
These are just a few places in Lahore that attract me to the city though the city boasts a number of historical buildings, havelis and shrines. The existence of shrines of great sufi poets and teachers like Hazrat Mian Mir and Baba Shah Jamal add sanctimony to the great city. Lahore is popularly called “Data di nagri” (in vernacular), because it is home to the shrine of Hazrat Hajveri alias Data Ganj Buksh. His shrine, known as Data Darbar, is barely 10 minutes’ drive from the Greater Iqbal Park, and remains one of the most visited places in Lahore.
Lahore may also be regarded as the culinary capital of the Punjab, if not Pakistan. The city’s many Food Streets attract visitors from all over Pakistan and abroad. They say that if you didn’t have food at the Cocoo’s café or the Fort Road Food Street, you weren’t here. As you enter these places, the aromas and smoke billowing out of the various barbecue joints, combined with those of naans being baked simultaneously greet you. You just cannot miss the mouth-watering desi dishes and drinks! Cocoo’s is famous also for it affords you a vantage-point view of the Badshahi Masjid.
Lahore also takes the lead when it comes to public and private spaces for art. The city is sprinkled over with art galleries, museums and has the best arts institution — National College of Arts (NCA) — in the entire country. I am very fond of Alhamra Arts Council; for me it stands for creative expression and freedom. The place traditionally hosts high-profile literature and arts festivals all year around, besides being an exhibition space for theatre performances and arts practitioners.
There’s another reason why Lahore holds a distinctive place in my heart. I come from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) where a majority of women observe strict purdah, covering their faces. Due to male domination, very few women are seen in the streets and even fewer in offices. But in Lahore, it’s very different. Though the women here face many issues, as we remain a patriarchal society, Lahore has lots of women in almost every field of life — from private individuals found shopping and restauranting, to Uber drivers, salesgirls and solo entrepreneurs.
I can go on and on about what I love about Lahore. A short-form column can’t do justice to what I feel about this lovely city.
The writer is a freelance graphic designer. He tweets @Ehteysham1