Lahore – the showcase of Mogul Architecture

I love Lahore not because I was born in Lahore, but for many other reasons as well. I love Lahore for the warmth of hospitality of its people, its richness in diverse architecture, culture and traditions. A city which has been seat of governments of the Moguls, Siks and the British. Located on the famous Grand Trunk Road, a city once skirted by the River Ravi and bordering India on the other end, stands and thrives majestically every second, minute, hour and day of the one’s life.

Talking of architecture, the city is rightly called the showcase of Mogul architecture as one finds remains of Mogul architecture wherever one tours in Lahore. The Badshahi Mosque, the Shahi Qilla (Lahore Fort), the Shalimar Gardens, the Mosque of Wazir Khan and Chouburji (building with four towers) are some of the major marvels of Mogul architecture. But beside these are countless number of small buildings that add to the galore and grandeur of the city of Lahore.

One has to be there in Lahore to enjoy and feel the richness of heritage that Lahore possesses since countless centuries.

View some glimpses of the Mogul architecture at JahoJalal. The details of these can be read in the Landmarks section of my website Pakistanpaedia.

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Peace return to Malam Jabba – the Ski Resort

Malam Jabba – the biggest ski resort in Pakistan has seen its good days and bad days. Good days when it was a thriving ski resort for the skiing enthusiasts of Pakistan and even attracted enthusiast from abroad. Located in the Karakoram mountain range and some 40 km from the town of Saidu Sharif in the Swat Valley, the resort was established due to joint efforts of the governments of Pakistan and Austria. Besides ski slope of about 800m with the highest point of the slope 2804m (9200 ft) above sea level, the Malam Jabba Ski Resort was equipped with modern facilities including roller/ice-skating rinks, chair lifts, skiing platforms, telephones and snow clearing equipment. The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation had a beautiful hotel constructed at the foot of the ski slopes.

The bad news came when the ski resort was badly damaged during 2008 when militants took control of the area. After Pakistan Army’s successful operation, and control over the area, the resort is under repair and renovation and is thus closed for the tourists for now.

And the good news again is that the resort has been restored and a 5-days peaceful skiing gala is being organized by the PaRRSA (the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority) of the Khyber Pakhtunkwa province from 26-30 January 2011. It may be mentioned here that after cleansing the area from militancy by the Pakistan army, an “Aman Mela (Peace Fair)” was held in Swat in July last year, which attracted over 40,00 thousand tourists beside a huge participation by the locals.

Besides being a tourist and skiing resort, Malam Jabba also assumes significance from the fact that there are to Buddhists stupas and six monasteries that are located close by the resort. These monasteries dating back to some 2,000 years are also an added tourist attraction for the skiers and spectators.

Related Reading: Skiing in Pakistan (Hobby Shobby)
Originally posted at The Fire Within

The Migratory Guests Arrive

I have added another two months to the famous movie Come September’s title and made it Come November – a month that brings us our guests from the frozen and freezing frontiers of Siberia, Central Asian Republics and Mongolia. Yes I am talking of the thousands and thousands of the migratory birds that evade the sever winter conditions of their natural habitat and come to rather lesser cold climate of Pakistan. We will be host to these beautiful birds till March-April, when they again fly back to their homes when it is relatively warm out there.

One of these birds is the Houbara Bustard – a majestic bird on the verge of extinction which along with others flies from faraway lands, as far as 5000-6000 kilometres from Central Asian Republics and even China, and land in a numerous wetlands stretched from D I Khan in the north, Ucchali in the Salt Range to down south in the Cholistan Desert. These Bustards fly at an amazing speed and make to Pakistan in just about 5-7 days.

With the arrival of Houbara Bustard, the rich and famous from the Gulf States also start to arrive into Pakistan with their teams of falcons, specially trained to hunt the bustards while in flight. I was once deputed to accompany a high profile royal dignitary who had come for the Bustard hunting. They had camped in general area Jhampir near Thatha in the Sind province. Each day they would go out with their falcons and come back with a few hunted Houbara Bustards.

Besides Houbara Bustards, Flamingos, Swans and many other species of birds like the Marbled Teal, White-headed Duck, Eurasian Spoonbill, Dalmatian Pelican throng the wetlands in Pakistan. The migratory birds’ arrival in Pakistan provides an opportunity for the bird watchers to flock the wetlands and enjoy their presence amongst themselves. Once on a reconnaissance in the areas south of Rahim Yar Khan, I also got a chance of bird watching of a large flock of migratory birds perched on an artificial lake in Sandh and Gabbar villages inside the desert. Once they took off, it was a breathtaking lifetime scene to watch them flying, rather floating against the blue sky majestically. It was here that I saw black swans flying overhead me with their grace, charm and majesty.

For bird watchers, the time is now to watch these beautiful guests of our perched in almost all wetlands of Pakistan.

Related Reading: Bird Watching in Pakistan (Pakistanpaedia)

Originally post at JahoJalal

Breakfast Morning in Islamabad

….. but people were there were busy eating it, mostly with hot doodh patti. There was a group of tourists also sitting and enjoying their parathas heavy breakfast with tea (my cellular phone camera came handy to preserve the moment). I was later told by a friend (Shaun D Metcalfe) when I shared the same photo at Flickr that these were French cyclists touring Pakistan, whom he met in Gilgit a month ago. And I am sure they must have been enjoying this heavenly bread to their entirety. I envied them as I did not have room for the paratha shot… Read Full Post at: Breakfast morning in Islamabad.

27th September each year is celebrated since 1980 as the World Tourism Day under the auspices of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The purpose of this day is to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. This year the theme for the day is “Tourism –Celebrating Biodiversity.” Official celebrations will be hosted by China on 27 September, with many other events taking place around the world, including the 30th anniversary celebration of the establishment of the UNWTO.

The theme selected for this year would help focus on the world’s cultural wealth and role of the tourism industry in revitalizing local traditions and making them flourish as these cross other cultures. The local customs and traditions are generally reflective in the languages, food, architecture, religion, attire and even the natural environment.

Like all other countries, the culture and traditions of Pakistan are unique, attractive and awe inspiring. These are a fine blend of our millennium old cultural heritage stemming from the Mehrgarh Civilization, which as old as 9000-7000 BC, and the following Moenjodaro, Kot diji, Taxila and Gandhara civilizations. With the arrival of Islam in the 7th century and the incursions from the North by the Mongols, Turks, Afghans and the Moguls, Pakistan has become a showcase window of the cumulative effect of all these civilizations, religion and empires.

The city of Lahore is rich in its cultural heritage while remains of Mehrgarh (Balochistan), Moenjodaro and Kot Diji (Sind), Taxila and Harrapa (Punjab) and Rehman Dheri and Buddhist remains (Khyber Pakhtunkwa) provide an insight into our rich cultural heritage. The customs and traditions of Pakistan are diverse in nature and each province has its own peculiar traditions that are found in their way of life, food, languages, music, festivals and literature.

Pakistan is also a haven of natural wonders and landscapes. From the snow covered pinnacles of the north, that include the K2 (the second highest mountain after Mt Everest) and many other peaks that top in the world listing, lakes with picturesque view. The lush green Deosai Plains are the highest plains in the world. Punjab offers vast green pastures, while Sind and Balochistan have wide tracts of desert and semi desert terrain. Near Ziarat (Balochistan) one finds the second largest Juniper Forest of the world with trees as old as 5000-7000 years. The Arabian Sea that skirts the 1200 kilometres coastline of Pakistan along Balochistan dn Sind provinces is home to still virgin beaches. The mangrove forests in Sind are unique in the world.

Pakistan is also home to some of the endangered species like the Snow Leopard, the Marco polo Sheep, Markhor, Hooubara Bustard, the Himalayan Brown Bears and the Blind Indus Dolphins. Besides Pakistan attracts millions of migratory birds from around the world each year in search of warm waters to its countless wetlands and lakes and is an ideal place for the bird watchers.

The people of Pakistan are extremely simple, hearty and hospitable. Those who venture out to Pakistan carry back pleasant memories of love and care by their Pakistani hosts. It’s fun to be in Pakistan, despite many misconceptions.

Related Reading: Pakistanpaedia (the mini pedia of Pakistan)