Lahore, â€œCity of Gardensâ€ and the second largest city in Pakistan, has a population of about 10 million souls and is the capital of Punjab province. Covering a total land area of 404 square km it lies between 31Â°15â€² and 31Â°45â€² North latitude and 74Â°01â€² and 74Â°39â€² East longitude. Lahore is considered to be one of the 30th largest cities of the world. Because of the heritage of the Moghul Empire, it is also known as the Gardens of the Moghals. Lahore is known as the Heart of Pakistan due to rich popular culture. Much of architecture from the Mughal era has been preserved. Badshahi Mosque, Shalimar Gardens, Lahore Fort and the mausoleums of Jahangir and Nur Jehan are the most popular tourist spots in Lahore.
During the rule of the Moghals Lahore reached a peak of architectural glory. The buildings and gardens constructed in the Moghul era survived the hazards of time and, fascinated by the beauty the English poet John Milton wrote â€˜Agra and Lahore, the Seat of Great Moghalâ€ in 1670. During the rule of Moghal emperor Akbar, Lahore served as its capital, from 1584 to 1598 and the impressive Fort of Lahore was built during this period. The Alamgiri Gate next to the Fort of Lahore and the most famous monument of the city â€˜Badshahi Masjidâ€™ was built during the rule of the last Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who ruled from 1658 to 1707.
Weather in Lahore is extreme during the summers and temperatures can drop to -1 Â°C in the winters. The cityâ€™s highest maximum temperature was recorded 48 Â°C, in June 1921. Punjabi is the native language of the province but other languages i.e. Urdu, Pashto, Persian and English are also spoken in the city.
Lahoris are known for their love of spicy food. Lahore has many traditional and modern restaurants, Western fast food chains, i.e. McDonaldâ€™s, Dunkin Donuts Pizza Hut and Kentucky Chicken. Food streets also attract tourists in Lahore.
Prominent cites of Lahore
The Shalimar Garden was laid out during the rule of Moghal emperor Shah Jahan. The garden follows the familiar Charbagh model (four squares) with three descending terraces. In 1862 the Lawrence Gardens were established and named after Sir John Lawrence, late 19th century British Viceroy to India. The gardens cover an area of 112 acres.
Other gardens and parks in Lahore are: –
Hazuri Bagh, Iqbal Park, Mochi Bagh, Ghulshan Iqbal Park, Model Town Park, Race Course Park, Nasir Bagh, Jhola Park, Wild Life Park (The Zoo of Lahore) and Changa Manga.
One of the cityâ€™s best landmarks is the Badshahi Mosque, built in 1673 by the Moghal Emperor Aurangzeb. It accommodates over 50,000 worshipers and is the second largest mosque in Pakistan after the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. Architecture of the mosque is similar to the Jamia Masijid Delhi, India.
A small museum has also been added to the mosque complex recently containing relics of the Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (peace be upon him), his cousin Hazrat Ali and daughter Hazrat Fatima (alihimussalam).
Lahore Fort (Shahi Qila)
The Fort of Lahore is located in the northwestern corner of Lahore, adjacent to the Walled City. The fort is 1,400 feet long and 1,115 feet wide. The fort was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Shalimar Bagh in 1981.
Other prominent features within the fort are:
Moti Masjid, Alamgir Gate, Naulakha pavilion and Sheesh Mahal.
Other prominent cites
- Roshni Gate
- Walled City
- Iqbal Park
- Lahore Museum
- Mausoleum of the great poet Mohammad Iqbal
- Bibi Pak Daman
- Data Darbar
- Shahi Mohalla
Located at 33040 N, 73010 E in the Potohar Plateau in the northwest of the country, Islamabad is the Federal Capital of Pakistan. In 1969, President Ayub Khan, established the city as Capital of Pakistan. In the mid 1960’s the capital was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad, with most of the Government machinery along with most of the foreign embassies. Due to the close proximity, Rawalpindi is considered its sister city.
Compare to other cities of Pakistan, Islamabad is a rather modern and clean city. It is well-organized, with the city being divided into different sectors and zones.
Islamabad is rich in natural wildlife with wild boars and leopards dwelling in the Margala Hills.
Prominent Places in Islamabad.
The Faisal Masjid is the state mosque and one of the largest mosques in the world. In is renowned because of its architecture and immense size and is very popular in the Islamic world.
The late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia suggested the mosque during a visit to Pakistan in 1966. Design of a reputed Turkish designer was selected and construction started in 1976 with a cost of 120 million US Dollar funded by the government of Saudi Arabia. The mosque was named after King Faisal after his assassination in 1975.
Located in front of the Margalla Hills, it is the most famous and recognized icon and a focal point of the capital city Islamabad.
In the north of the city a series of hills that is called The Margalla Hills, offers excellent opportunities for hiking to both serious and less serious enthusiasts. Autumn and spring are the best seasons to hike when there is less rain and the days are very pleasant.
Daman-e-Koh, means the center of the Mountain, is located north of Islamabad in the middle of Magalla Hills, and is one of the most popular outing spot in Islamabad. One can have the complete view of the city from the southern side of Daman-e-Koh.
The National Monument Islamabad, which represents the four provinces and three territories, is a national monument of Pakistan. The four main petals of the monument represent the four provinces while the remaining three smaller petals represent the Northern Areas, Kashmir and federally administered Tribal areas of Pakistan. The star and crescent represent the flag of Pakistan and the blooming flower shape of the monument represents Pakistanâ€™s progress as a rapidly developing country. The monument also depicts the story of Independence Movement and reflects the culture and civilization of Pakistan.
National Art Gallery
National Art Gallery is a new art gallery in the capital which was opened to the public August 2007. It is located opposite the Parliament and the Aiwan-e-Sadr.
The National Art Gallery covers an area of 1800 square yards and has 14 galleries with an auditorium having capacity for 400 and an open air theatre.
Covering an area of 8.8 square kilometer, Rawal Lake provides water to the twin cities of Rawalpind/Islamabad. This artificial reservoir is located within an isolated section of the Margalla Hills National Park.
The area around the lake has been planted with flowering trees. The terraced garden and the lake are used for picnics, fishing and boating. The highest point in the garden has a panoramic view of the lake, Margallah and Murree hills.
Other prominent cites and sporting facilities.
- Pir Sohawa
- National Herbarium
- Shakar Parian
- Simli Lake
- Islamabad Museum
- Lok Virsa Museum
- Fatima Jinnah Park
- Rose and Jasmie Garden
- Jinnah Sports Complex
- Musharf Squash Complex
- Para Gliding at Margalla Hills.
- Yachting at Rawal Lake.
Murree, at 7500 feet above sea level, is one of the largest tourist resorts in Galyat, Pakistan under the administration of Rawalpindi District. Murree is approachable by road from the twin cities of Rawalpind/Islamabad.
Important places in Murree to visit:
Patiata, Bhurban, Aubia, Nathia Gali and Thandiani.
Peshawar means City on the Frontier in Persian, is the provincial capital of the North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. It is located on the edge of the Khyber Pass. Historically it used to be one of the main trading centers and crossroads between the Indian. It is said by some historians that Peshawar had a population of 120,000 in the year 100 B.C., making it the seventh most populous city in the world.
Babar, the founder of the Moghal dynasty came to Peshawar from what is today Uzbekistan and found Begram and rebuilt the fort there, in 1530. The great Moghal Akbar formally named the city Peshawar which means “The Place at the Frontier”.
The population of Peshawar is 982,816. Its environment has suffered tremendously due to an ever increasing population. It is a quiet and peaceful city, but overcrowded and polluted for it has not grown as much in size and capacity as the population has.
Maximum temperature in Peshawar during summer is over 40 Â°C and the minimum is 25 Â°C while in winter the minimum temperature is 4Â°C and maximum is 18.35 Â°C.
Bala Hisar Fort
Covering an area of about 15 acres and with the height of about 90 feet above ground level,
the Bala Hisar Fort is one of the most historic places of Peshawar. It stands on a high mound in the northwestern corner of Peshawar and gives a panoramic view of the entire Peshawar valley.
Mohabbat Khan Mosque
The 17th century Mosque â€œMohabbat Khan Mosqueâ€ is named after the Moghal governor Nawab Mohabbat Khan. There is an ablution pond in the middle of the courtyard and a single row of rooms around the sides. Three fluted domes shelter the interior of the prayer hall.
Because of its historic and geographic importance, Khyber Pass is one of the most famous pass in the world. The Pass was one of the principal approaches of the armies of Alexander the Great, Timur, Babur Moghal Emperor, Mahmud Ghaznavi, and Nadir Shah. The pass starts from near Jamrud and ends west of Torkham, Afghanistan. The route passes Fort Maude and Ali Masjid to reach the narrowest point of the pass. The summit is at Landi Kotal, followed by a steep decline to Michni Kandao, Landi Khana and the Afghan border just east of Torkham. Jamrud is at an elevation of 491 m, while the summit at Landi Kotal is 1070 m. A road was built by the British through the Pass in 1879 and a railroad in the 1920s. One may travel by road from Peshawar via Jamrud Fort or by train (rail) which threads its way through 34 tunnels crossing 92 bridges and culverts and climbing around 1,200 meters to reach the border post at Torkham. Two or three coaches are pulled and pushed by two 1920 model steam engines.
Other sites to visit
- Hayat Abad
- Bara Bridge
- Cunningham Clock Tower
- Chowk Yadgar
- Sikh Temple
- Mausoleum of Sheikh Imamuddin (1650)
- Mausoleum of Khoshal Khan Khatak.
- Shahi Bagh
- Wazir Bagh
- Peshawar Museum
- Islamia College
Since the first century BC Gilgit has been an important transactional platform on the Silk Route from China. According to Chinese Tang Annals Gilgit remained under Buddhist rule from 4th to 11th century AD and together with Yasin was called Little Bolor while Baltistan as Great Bolor.
The Shins – European Shina-speaking people, invaded Gilgit in the 10th century and Shina language is still the most important dialect spoken in Gilgit.
At the time of Mahmood Ghaznaviâ€™s invasion in the 11th century, Gilgit was part of the powerful independent mountain stronghold of Dardistan. Most of the population started turning to Islam after the 15th century.
Giving Laddakh, Baltistan and Gilgit under his rule, Gulab Singh was appointed as the first Maharaja of Kashmir in 1846 by the British government of India but the repeated campaigns held by the Muslims of the area against the rule of the Maharaja in 1850s and 1860s could never be silenced by the forces of the Maharaja.
Being conscious about the strategic importance for its nearness to China and Russia the British set up the Gilgit agency in 1877 which was the most isolated outpost of the British Empire. When the route from Srinagar via Astore was improved and Gilgit had established a telegraphic link with other areas, the second agency was set up in 1889. In order to maintain peace in the area, the British formed a force (Gilgit Scouts) of 600 scouts in 1913.
At Partition in August 1947, the Gilgit Scouts were left in the charge of Major William Brown, a British officer who had volunteered to see them through Independence. On October 31st, Subedar Major Babar Khan and Mirzada Shah Khan arrested Ghansara Singh, the then Governor, in Gilgit under the order of Major William Brown and Gilgit was then declared as â€˜the Independent Republic of Gilgitâ€™, which later acceded with Pakistan. At the end of 1948 Indo-Pak war, Pakistan issued a proclamation separating Northern Areas from Azad Kashmir replacing them under the administration of the Federal Government, naming them as the Northern Areas of Pakistan.
Places Around Gilgit
Buddha Carving: Near Gilgit, located about10 km west, is the Kargha Buddha, a 7th century relic of the areaâ€™s Buddhist past, carved out on a solid rock. The 10 ft Buddha figure carved on the rock is worth viewing.
Naltar: Spreading over 3000 meters with clad pine forests and alpine meadows, Naltar is the ideal camping spot with a distance of 32 KM from Gilgit. The village is also the starting point of treks across the 4000 meter Naltar Pass. The Lake above the camp is a perfect fishing spot.
Karimabad: Karimabad, 112 km from Gilgit, is marked for its terraced fields and fruit orchards. View of Rakaposhi (7788 meter), from the KKH en-route Karimabad, is spectacular. One can also have the splendid view of the peaks of Ultar, Balimo and a few other great peaks from Karimabad. The historical Altit and Baltit forts in Karimabad are worth visiting.
Spreading over an area of about 26,000 square kilometers and situated in the heart of the Karakoram, Baltistan is a region of the Northern Areas and the home of lofty peaks and long glaciers. It borders with Laddakh in the east, Gilgit Hunza in the west, the Sinkiang Province of China in the north and Kashmir in the south.
The indigenous features of the population, the cultural trait and the similarity of the Balti language to archaic Tibetan has earned this area the nickname of “Little Tibet”. From earliest times, it was in the cultural sphere of northern India. Alexander of Macedon (356â€“323 BCE) subdued Baltistan and brought Hellenic influence to the area. Thereafter, Baltistan was part of Gandharan culture and was an important center of Buddhism. It was only in the eighth century CE that Tibetan tribes made inroads into the region and became a dominant part of the population. Ladakh and Baltistan remained under the Central Tibetan dynasty for a very long time.
Majority of people converted to Islam when it came to Baltistan in the thirteenth century, during the rule of the Makpon dynasty. It is often said that only with the Makpon rulers did Baltistan acquire its identity. Ali Sher Khan Anchan (Anchan means strong) was the greatest ruler in the Maqpon dynasty. The period of his rule is considered to be the golden period in the history of Baltistan. His rule spread from Mansroar, a lake in Tibet, to the valley of Kalash, Chitral in the east-west, and from the Karakoram mountain range in the extreme north to the northern boundaries of the present day Kohistan Hazara. Their rule lasted until 1840, when the Dogras under the rule of Ghulab Singh Maharajah Jammu and Kashmir, seized the area.
The ethnic and cultural bonding between Baltistan and Ladakh deepened during the Dogra period (1842-1948), as the Dogras consolidated both regions into one province called the Ladakh Wazarat. The union of Ladakh and Baltistan within one administrative setup was based on the fact that both regions have a similar culture.
Laddakh Wazarat was the largest province of the unified Jammu and Kashmir, exceeding the total area of Kashmir province by six times. It was divided into Leh, Kargil and Skardu districts. Skardu, the capital of Baltistan, was the winter capital of the province while Leh, the capital of central Ladakh, was the summer capital. The Dogra Regime introduced state subject rule to protect the socio-political and economic interests of the native Muslim and Buddhist populations by allowing only local ownership of land. The provincial set-up further enabled strengthening trade and socio-economic links along with cultural development. Roads and bridges were constructed and a postal system was set up, thereby accelerating communication between the various valleys of the province and bringing people even closer.
Baltistan remained part of Kashmir until 1947. Partition of Ladakh Wazarat in 1948 led to separation of Ladakh and Baltistan, when the local Baltis fought for freedom from the Hindu Dogra regime to join Pakistan. Baltistan was later annexed by Pakistan and incorporated into the Northern Areas.
Other prominent places in Baltistan & historical sites therein
Skardu is the center of Baltistan and the largest district of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is situated on the bank of the Indus River near the confluence of the Indus and Shigar Rivers. At an altitude of 2300 meters and lying in a region characterized by mountains that are stark and rise up to 18,000 feet, gorges that are deep and steep, glaciers that are gigantic and imposing, waterfalls that are fast-flowing and noisy, and lakes that are pure and placid, Skardu is marked by a cool and pleasant climate. This truly is, in Fosco Mariani’s words, “The world’s greatest museum of shape and formâ€ and a sight defying imagination.
Over a big rock, on the bank of the Indus River is the relics of the Kharfocho Fort, (The king of forts), also known as Alexandria Fort. This maze of low doors, dark passages and steep wooden steps dates back to the sixteenth century. However, opinions differ regarding the constructor of this fort. Hishmatullah has attributed it to Maqpon Bugha (1490 – 1515 AD), the great grandfather of Ali Sher Khan Anchan. But Mughal historians and European writers, such as Cunningham, Foso Marine, and G. T. Vagne are positive that the great fort was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan himself. The location and construction of this fort demonstrates the warfare and architectural genius of its constructor.
Gul Khatoon (gul means flower and khatoon means lady) decided to build a palace with flower garden beneath the fort. Since the garden was located at a higher point the queen linked the garden to Lake Sadpara five miles from Skardu by a canal to bring water to it. Hence the aqueduct was constructed through the center of the town. The palace, named after the queen, was called Mindoq Khar, meaning flower palace. When Maharaja Gulab Singh, the Sikh ruler of Kashmir, invaded Skardu in 1840 AD, his troops destroyed the palace. The ruins of the palace can still be seen. Hundreds of years have passed but the aqueduct still exists, witnessing the intelligence of the queen.
A meditating Budha is carved on the northern face of a large rock about half way between Skardu and Sadpara. This is the one and only surviving Rock with carvings of an image of a meditating Maitreya Buddha. It has been suggested that these rock carvings and images of Buddha can be placed in the period of Great Tibet Scholars Empire in 900 AD. When the Buddhists of Gandhara migrated from their land, they passed through the present day northern areas of Pakistan; they set up temporary settlements at some places and carved drawings of Stupas, scenes of their experiences, and images of Buddha with texts in Kharoshti language. Either these rocks are lost in the Satpara Lake, or were utilized as building material by Ali Sher Khan Anchan. It is an easy walk from the road across the Sadpara stream, crossing a foot bridge over the stream and up to the slope on the other side at Manthal.
Eight Kilometers south of Skardu, is a 10 minutes drive or an easy walk to Sadpara Lake. The walk along the aqueduct in the centre of the town is most pleasant and shorter than following the jeep road. A small islet in the centre of the lake is reached by boats. (Construction of the dam is nearing completion and the islet may soon be under water). The lake abounds in trout fish and is an ideal place for fishing and boating.
Deosai plateau lies 32 kilometers southwest of Skardu and can easily be reached via the Satpara Lake and village. The average height in Deosai is about 3,500 meters (11,660 feet). Spreading over about 70 kilometers across, it links Baltistan with Astore Valley.
Deosai plateau has officially been declared National Park and Himalayan Brown Bears, jackals, wolves and other species of wildlife are found here. The land is covered with snow for seven months of the year. In spring, vast stretches of green and thousands of wild flowers are intercepted by crystal clear streams and backed by snow-covered peaks.
Behind a ridge near the Kharfocho Fort, at a distance of one and half kilometer is the first Organic Village of Pakistan â€œNangsoq Villageâ€ where farmers follow organic practices for production of food. By virtue of the support rendered by Agha Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) in understanding the worth of their centuries long unique practices, the village has become the first organic producer. All type of food produced, consumed and supplied in the village is organic. It provides all facilities, i.e. campsites, bathrooms/toilets, open air restaurants serving with all kind of traditional and local foods, walking tracks and sitting places. Walking on the sandy bank of the Indus River, the track bears one of the most exciting features in itself. It gives the visitors an unmatched experience of trekking on the mountain path in the Karakoram.
Shigar is the gateway to a wonderland for trekkers and mountaineers, where some of the largest glaciers of the world, including the famous Baltoro glacier are situated. Four above 8000 peaks are located at the head of the Baltoro glacier.
Shigar is the most fertile valley in Baltistan. Apples, walnuts, peaches, grapes, pears and apricots are in abundance.
Shigar town has great historical sites to offer.
(With thanks to AKCSP Skardu Baltistan)
Built upon a huge boulder, Shigar Fort-Palace is locally known as Fong Khar â€“ literally the Palace on the Rock. Sited on the right bank of a mountain stream, slightly elevated above the nearest hamlets of Shigar, at the foot of a steep rock formation, a hundred or so meters high, on top of which lie ruins of the original Fort.
Raja Hassan Khan, the twentieth ruler of the Amacha dynasty, ascended the throne in 1634, but lost his kingdom to other invaders. He managed to regain the throne with the help of the forces of the Moghal emperor Shah Jehan. The Raja brought various artisans including shawl weavers, carpenters, goldsmiths and stone carvers from Kashmir to Shigar and proceeded to build the palace-fort. Fong Khar was gradually abandoned in the 1950s in favour of more recent annexes, built in its immediate vicinity.
Shigar Fort was selected for adaptive reuse and restoration as a major strategic investment which would re-establish community pride by conserving and putting into use one of the major heritage assets of Baltistan. The current function of the Fort complex as a museum and exclusive guesthouse will have ripple effects in terms of economic benefit for the community and will also influence them to value their cultural heritage. In addition the process of conservation will revive traditional artisansâ€™ skills which will result in the community manufacturing products for local and international tourists. The introduction of compatible use of a palace as a hotel will provide necessary funds for the future maintenance of the Fort and also sustainability for local institutions.
The conservation of the Palace into a guesthouse was designed in such a way as to remain faithful to the original structure and minimum architectural interventions. The basic decision of the re-use is based on the potential offered by the cellular typology of the architecture, which lends itself admirably to individual room units.
Conservation principals have not been sacrificed to conventional commercial thinking; it was though that, on the contrary, maintaining the historic character will enhance the rarity value of the rooms. Some rooms have only small windows, but this is part of the authentic experience. Furnishing is restrained, discreet and tasteful, utilizing simple wooden furniture and hand-woven textile elements from a re-vitalized textile craft in the neighbouring village. As much as possible original features such as bed niches, woodcarvings, screens, have been conserved and displayed as an integral component of the dÃ©cor. Plastered earthen walls lightened up by a muted lime wash and timber and walnut floors make the rooms friendly. Bathrooms have been integrated as much as possible in small service rooms or added in ways, which do not conflict with original historic features.
The complex at Shigar comprises the old Fort-Palace and two ancillary buildings) the â€œOld Houseâ€ and the â€œGarden Houseâ€). The adaptive re-use plan for the Fort was predicated on transforming it into an exclusive 13-room guesthouse with the grand audience hall and the anterooms serving as a museum of Balti woodcarving and local living traditions. The guestrooms â€“ some being rather small, some having comfortable suite character â€“ retain as much as possible the authentic character of the Fort/Palace. Modern furniture and equipment in the rooms is minimal. Many guestrooms feature spectacular original or restored woodwork complimented by traditional craft objects and artifacts from the region. Accommodation is geared to an international clientele of connoisseurs, who look for an authentic, special experience.
The â€œOld Houseâ€, having less historic value, is now a reception and restaurant compound, with the restaurant, the kitchen and service rooms occupying the former stable on the ground floor, while the lounge, a conference room and a managerâ€™s office occupy the upper floor. The lower restaurant has a porch and an attractive garden overlooking the stream, while the lounge benefits from a covered veranda with spectacular views.
The â€œGarden Houseâ€ overlooking the traditional garden has been converted into a modern 7-room guesthouse with rather conventional rooms. Local craft products have been used to decorate the rooms.
The Amburiq Mosque
Astana Syed Mir Mohammad
Khaplu, â€œShyuk Valleyâ€ or â€œSiachan Valleyâ€ is located at 2600 meters above sea level. Khaplu is cooler than Skardu. With the friendly character of the people and superb walks along irrigation channels, Khaplu is well worth visiting and the nicest place to stay in Baltistan.
Chaqchan Masque Khaplu, It is said that the site of the mosque has always been a place of worship from the very existence of human life in this area. A mosque was built by Amir -e- Kabir Syed Ali Hamdani in the 14th Century AD. The architectural design of the mosque is unique and presents the true picture of ancient Islamic art.
Khanqah of Khaplu, is attributed to Syed Muhammad Shah & was built in 1712 AD / 1124 AH.
Khaplu Palace is a beautiful historical building of the last & best Tibetan style in Pakistan. This palace was built by the rulers of Khaplu in the middle of 19th century.
Khaplu Brouq is a nice and beautiful picnic spot, with lush green fields surrounded by snow clad peaks.
Baltistan Tours arranges custom made cultural tours of different durations involving different historical and cultural sites and places from the metropolitan city of Karachi in the south to the far-flung valleys of Shigar and Khaplu in the Gilgit-Baltistan.