Lahore has no no-go areas like Karachi. Wherever I go in Lahore, it is home to me. PHOTO: REUTERS
Every city or town in Pakistan is famous for one thing or the other. However, for usLahoris, all arguments cease to matter before our simple motto –Lahore Lahore ae(Lahore is Lahore).
Here are a few reasons as to why I’d choose Lahore over any other city in Pakistan.
Data ki nagri
Pakistan is very fortunate that many great sufi saints lived in this part of the world and all our major cities have different shrines. But not many cities have a title like Data ki nagri. The shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri brings many to Lahore and keeps many connected to the city, spiritually.
The Data Darbar in Lahore.
In Lahore, what do you when you’re happy?
You go out and eat.
What do you when the weather is nice?
You go out and eat.
What do you do when you want to hang out with friends?
You go out and eat.
What do you do when you’re bored?
You go out and eat.
I know that Gujranwala has its tikkay and kasurifalooda, and that Karachi’s Burns Road’s nihari is famous too, along with Peshawar’s Namak Mandi and so on and so forth, but when you have it all (and so much of it) in Lahore, you wouldn’t find the same foodie happiness anywhere else.
Come to Lahore!
We all know that Lahoris are called zinda dilaan (lively) but how can you define this zinda dili? Ask a visitor and he’ll reduce it to hospitality. However, I have a different point of view on it. Here is an example.
Once, while waiting at the traffic signal at Lakshmi Chowk, I asked my brother, who was on the driving seat, if he’d like to have some laddoos. He gave me a strange look because I didn’t have any with me. I asked him to wait a minute and then began looking at the fellows having laddoos in the car beside ours. The moment he saw me looking at those laddoos with wishful eyes, he immediately offered them to me saying:
“Paa ji lawwo”
(Hey brother, have some)
To me, this is zinda dili, with a twinge of humour. You can crack a joke with an absolute stranger, be it a shopkeeper, a rickshaw driver, a policeman or any passerby and enjoy the company of a hearty laugh! They will never disappoint you.
People enjoying a dhol performance in Lahore. Photo: AFP
The hustle and bustle of Karachi doesn’t let people have this luxury. When I tried the same thing over there, I got a strange ‘what’s the deal with you man!’ look.
There are no no-go areas, unlike in Karachi or some parts of KPK, I’ve been warned by people to avoid using my phone in public in Karachi even during the day! But here, I can walk on the street in the middle of the night, to an ATM, whilst texting and nobody would care.
Lahore is green. I love that about Lahore. There are so many parks. You’ll always find them crowded no matter what time you go there. You’ll find families out for picnics, kids playing, uncles walking and the view of everyone peacefully going about their business compliments the scenic green beauty even more. The green around Lahore and the mountains in the north of the city provide us with unending luxuries and modes of entertainment. As we go south of Lahore, the cities become drier and drier until we reach the beaches of Karachi, the only form of entertainment there.
Yes, Lahore has its fair share of historical places but that is not what I mean when I say heritage. The heritage of Lahore includes its way of life, its people, its poets, its artists and its streets. You can feel the aura of that rich heritage even when you sip a cup of hot chai at the Pak Tea House. Islamabad isn’t old enough to have that aura and Karachi has become too modernised to lug its own heritage along.
Pak Tea House in Lahore. Photo: Files
They say that 10 out of 12 months in Karachi are hot, while the other two are extremely hot. There might be some exaggeration there but it’s mostly humid in Karachi. Islamabad gets quite cold and its springs have too much pollen for my liking. But if you want to experience the thrill of every season, Lahore would never let you down!
A rare glimpse of Lahore covered in snow and ice. Photo: Files
In spring, Lahore’s beauty blooms along with its spring flowers; the site is stunning. In the summers, there are days we easily cross the 50 degrees Celsius mark and you can actually feel your skin cooking. This doesn’t last very though because by the time we start taking out our summer wear and enjoy trips to swimming pools, it’s time for the next season to arrive. During the monsoons, we like to load up on a lot of mangoes and jamuns while we watch the city be washed clean by the heavens. Before we can notice the colourful rainbows peeking forth from the clouds, it’s time for autumn to take over. We are really never bored, here in Lahore. Autumn has its own charm, the old architectural delights, decorated with fallen autumn leaves is an artist’s paradise. When famous poet, Nasir Kazmi, was asked by a friend as to where he was going in that afternoon, he replied that he was going to Lawrence Gardens to see the autumn leaves. The winters here have something truly magical about them! Aside for being my favourite season, they are also some of the most fun seasons we have. Bonfires and barbeques come to life and the winds carry the sound of music throughout the city.
Lahore’s people are beautiful and that makes its markets a pleasant shopping experience. Have you ever been to Anarkali, Bano Bazar, Rung Mahal or Liberty Market? If yes, then you know what I mean.
There is Hafeez Centre as well – the solution to every computer and mobile related problem, under one roof. A friend of mine believes that Hafeez Centre is reason enough for him to never leave Lahore.
A scene at a market place in Lahore. Photo: Files
I’ve spent my fair share of time (and not so much of money) at Landa Bazar too. I won’t mention the cool new fancy malls because Karachi has them too, and probably better.
I will, however, leave you with this beautiful verse by Nasir Kazmi that can sum up why Lahore is Lahore;
Shehr e Lahore teri ronaqien dayem aabaad
Teri galiyon ki hawa kheinch k layee mujh ko
(O City of Lahore, may your incessant fervour last forever
The winds of your streets pulled me back to you)
If you haven’t been to Lahore, then you are missing out. If you have been to Lahore and didn’t like it, let me know when you are coming next and I’ll make sure you have a good time. If you have been to Lahore and loved it, come back! There is always more, and that is why, Lahore is Lahore.
Quetta (the word derives from kwatta, fort in Pushtu) is a natural fort, surrounded as it is by imposing hills on all sides. The encircling hills have the resounding names of Chiltan, Takatoo, Mordar and Zarghun.
Quetta was first mentioned in the 11th century when it was captured by Mahmood of Ghazni on one of his invasions of the subcontinent. In 1543 the Moghul emperor Humayun rested here on his retreat to Persia, leaving his one-year-old son Akbar until he returned two years later. The Moghuls ruled Quetta until 1556, when the Persians took it, only to be retaken by Akbar in 1595.
In 1828 the first westerner to visit Quetta described it as a mud-walled fort surrounded by 300 mud houses. Although occupied briefly by the British during the First Afghan War in 1839, it was not until 1876 that Quetta came under permanent British control and Robert Sandeman was made political agent in Baluchistan. Since Partition the population of Quetta has increased dramatically. Because of its military base and trading activities, and the introduction of commercial fruit farming, Quetta District can now support about half a million people.
Quetta, before the devastating earthquake of 31 May 1935, was a bright and bustling city with multi-storey buildings. Those couple minutes of the earthquake seemed like hours to the people of Quetta. It was almost completely destroyed in this earthquake and was virtually razed to the ground in the small hours of the morning of that fateful day, when about 40,000 people perished. Today, houses are generally single storey and quake proof, built with bricks and reinforced concrete. The structure is generally of lighter material. Incidentally, the bricks of Quetta have a yellowish tinge unlike the red variety of Sindh and the Punjab.
Geography and climate:
Quetta city is comprised of a valley surrounded by three different mountain ranges. It is north west of Karachi and south west of Islamabad.
Quetta has minimum winter temperatures ranging well below freezing point and as low as -13˚C (8.6˚F), while maximum winter temperatures seldom crosses 20˚C (68˚F). Snowfall was a common feature in month of January till late eighties but after that snowfall has become rare in winters. While summer maximum and minimum temperature hover around 40˚C (104˚F) and 12˚C (53˚F) respectively. Unlike to the rest of the country, Quetta does not have a fertile rainy season during monsoon time. In general Quetta has a dry climate.
According to the 1998 census Quetta was the ninth biggest city of Pakistan with a population of 565,137. The city is dominated by a Pashtun majority, a Balochi and Hazara minority with an eclectic smattering of smaller groups. The Pushto, Balochi, Persian (Hazaragi dialect), Brahui, Sindhi, Punjabi and Urdu languages are spoken in large parts of Quetta, giving the city a very multicultural feel.
Quetta was the outskirt of Kandahar till it was captured by the British in Second Afghan war. Most of the Baloch settled in Quetta after 1970 when a new province by the name of Balochistan was created after One Unit system was abolished in Pakistan. Quetta was made the capital city of Balochistan.
The inhabitants are mainly Pashtuns. Quetta tribesmen are known for their friendliness and hospitality. Making visitors comfortable is an integral part of their local traditions. The main bazaar on Jinnah Road is full of Pashtun traders, many of them wearing turbans. Hazara traders sitting in their shops, Baloch hawkers with red embroidered caps, and full-skirted nomad women carrying bundles of imported cloth for sale.
Football is popular in Quetta, which has produced more renowned players then any other part of Pakistan. Mali Bagh is the best-known football ground. Teams in Quetta include the Hazara, Baluch and Afghan football clubs. In boxing, Olympian sportsmen are Syed Ibrar Ali Shah, Asghar Ali Changezi and Haider Ali Changezi. The three boxers belong to the Hazara ethnic group.
Quetta has many higher education institutions. The prestigious military
Command and Staff College, which was founded by the British, recently celebrated its hundredth anniversary.
University of Balochistan was established in 1974. The
Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management SciencesBalochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences
Command and Staff College
Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University
University of Balochistan
Tameer-i-Nau public college
Government College of Technology Balochistan
Although Quetta is on the western edge of Pakistan, is well connected with the country by a wide network of roads, railways and airways.
Pakistan International Airlines, Shaheen Air International and Airblue all have regular flights between Quetta and other major cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. Pakistan International Airlines has a direct flight between Dubai and Quetta. Other international passengers traveling to Quetta can reach Quetta via any of the other main hubs of Pakistan, i.e. Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad or Peshawar.
Road and Railways:
The extensive network of Pakistan Railways connects Quetta to Karachi in south, by a 863 km (536 miles) track, Lahore in northeast (1,170 km or 727 miles) and Peshawar further northeast (1587 km or 986 miles). A metalled road is also present along the railroad that connects Quetta to Karachi via Sibi, Jacobabad and Rohri. A track from the Irani city of Zahedan links to Quetta via Taftan, but the train service were temporarily disabled in 2006 due to unrest in Balochistan.
Even though the linear distance from Quetta to Lahore is merely 700 km, there is no direct railroad track on this route because of the Sulaiman Range that lies in the east of Quetta. So all northeast-bound trains for Punjab or NWFP must go 350+ km south upto Rohri, Sindh (near Sukkur) first, before continuing north to Punjab and/or NWFP.
Telecommunication:PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Limited) provides the main network of landline telephone. Many Internet Service Providers and almost all major mobile phone companies operating in Pakistan provide service in Quetta.
Quetta is a major tourist attraction for tourists from abroad. It is advertised as a thrilling location, full of adventure and enjoyment. Some prominent bazaars of Quetta are located on the roads Shahrah-e-Iqbal (the Kandahari Bazaar) and Shahrah-e-Liaquat (the Liaquat and Suraj Gang Bazaar Modern Electronics), Alamdar road (little Tokyo), Toghi Road (Safest Place for Punjabis) and Hazara town. Here, tourists can find colourful handcrafted art, particularly the Balochi mirror work embroidery, Hazaragi Chapal, Norozi and Hazaragi Carpets which are admired all over the world. For those interested in local cuisine, there are many sumptuous dishes to feast upon. The "Sajji" (leg of lamb), Hazaragi Aash, Mantho is said to be very good by locals. The Pathan tribesmen of the valley also enjoy "Landhi" (whole lamb), which is dried in shade and kept for the winters. "Kebab" shops are very popular, the best being Lal Kabab, Tabaq, Cafe Farah and Cafe Baldia. They serve Pakistani and Continental food, while Cafe China specializes in Chinese cuisine. Some of the finest mutton in the country is raised around Quetta. It has a delicious smell which can be sampled in the "Pulao" that most of the eating houses offer. Small and clean hotels in Alamdar road provide real comfort for tourists in peaceful environments.
About 50 km, from Quetta is the valley of Pishin, which is surrounded by thousands of acres of vineyards and orchards, made by boring holes into rocks to bring to the surface the deep water. The rich harvest of apples, grapes, plums, peaches and apricots is loaded at Yaru railway station, seven miles from Pishin.
Hanna Lake nestles in the hills ten kilometres (six miles) east of Quetta, a startling turquoise pool within bare brown surroundings. There is a lakeside restaurant with picnic tables shaded by pine trees. At one end, the irrigation dam rises out of the depths like battlements of a fort. It is very attractive for holidaymakers, and is crowded with hikers and campers in holidays. You can hire a boat and paddle on the lake and round the island in the middle.