June 2019


Lahore: The Heart of Pakistan
June 2019




The Lahore Museum is home to the largest collection of historical, cultural and artistic objects.

Hailed both as the Heart of Pakistan and the Paris of Asia, Lahore is a city like no other. Lahore is a hive of activity, but also soulful, cultural and thrilling. And the fact that the modern city is built on such a rich and palpable vein of history makes it all the more compelling.

Words: Robin McKelvie.

Pakistan's second largest city is an ancient oasis. Myriad peoples and civilisations are woven into its rich tapestry, from Hindu princes and Ghurids, on to the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. It is the latter dynasty that left the most indelible mark between the 16th and 18th centuries. By the early 19th century, Lahore was the capital of the Sikh Empire and then also capital of the British Punjab.

Walk the streets of this city of over 11 million inhabitants and this glorious cocktail of cultures and influences is still writ large today. Atmospheric bazaars and regal British Raj buildings sit side by side, while Mughal architectural legacies abound alongside an array of striking mosques. Lahore is also known as a centre of Sufism (Islamic mysticism), where Sufis whirl to hypnotic beats to attain a state of bliss.

You can spend a month in Lahore and still not see all there is to see. Other highlights you should not miss include the Badshahi Mosque and the Minar-e-Pakistan.

It is impossible not to feel Lahore's passion for cricket too and fittingly the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, a former cricket player himself, hails from Lahore. It may be a city built on history, but Lahore has modern relevance today not just as a cricket hotbed, but also as a major commercial hub and a popular tourist destination.

I always start my own explorations at the Lahore Museum. This iconic spot is where British colonial-era writer Rudyard Kipling, who lived in Lahore, begins his novel Kim with the eponymous protagonist sitting atop the famous and deeply historic Zam-Zammah Cannon. Inside the museum the story of the city is told in intriguing detail with myriad exhibits building up a colourful picture. Moving back in time we come to the highlight of the old walled city, Lahore Fort. It dates back to the days of the Mughal Empire and is a massive site that spreads it charms over 20 hectares. Delve inside to savour marble pavilions, bejewelled palaces and lush courtyards. The centuries peel back at every turn here.

Lahore's Old City itself is a bewitching maze of narrow streets, alive with bazaars selling everything from fashion to carpets, tailored suits to handicrafts. You can spend a month in Lahore and still not see all there is to see. Other highlights you should not miss include the Badshahi Mosque and the Minar-e-Pakistan. The former dates back to the 17th century and is not only one of the largest mosques in Pakistan, but also one of the most iconic buildings in the country. It is woven in intricate Mughal style. The latter is a national monument built in the 1960s in a striking fashion that weaved Mughal influences with more modern Islamic architecture. You can head up it for a sweeping view of Lahore or just recline by the fountains and lake below admiring its grace and beauty.

In Lahore, green spaces are welcome and there are plenty of these. The UNESCO World Heritage Shalimar Gardens were originally commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1642. Stroll in this oasis amidst the ponds and waterfalls - there are remarkably over 400 fountains and the modern city feels very far away indeed.

Lahore is a remarkable city that is intriguingly a blend of its glorious past and its thrilling present.

 

 

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    The Lahore Fort is a star attraction of the city, spreading its charm over 20 hectares.

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    Minar-e-Pakistan symbolises the Pakistan Resolution.

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    Badshahi Mosque is an iconic landmark, epitomising the beauty and grandeur of the Mughal era.

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    Shalimar Gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage oasis with picturesque ponds and waterfalls.

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