Author Archives: Raza Rumi

Foodistan (Lahore, Pakistan)

Irfan Rydhan

Recently, I came back from a month long trip to Lahore – the culinary capital of Pakistan.

Lahore, has a wide variety of cuisine, from fancy upscale Italian restaurants to the simple Pakistani village food and everything in between.

A few tips for those of you who may be traveling to Pakistan soon:

1. Get Your Shots – Before you Travel (Currently Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio and Malaria are the main diseases in Pakistan)

2. Don’t Drink The Water – unless it’s Bottled and Sealed (Nestle PureLife is the most reliable brand)

3. Don’t Eat Street Food – unless it is fried up, steaming hot, or cooked well done!  Avoid eating anything cold or something made with water.

If you follow those 3 simple rules, you should be fine and not get sick!

Below is a short slideshow of my trip through “Foodistan” aka Lahore this past February.  I hope you enjoy the pictures, as much as I enjoyed eating all the delicious food:)!

Fresh Butter on hand-made Aloo Paratha (Bread stuffed with Potato) in the Pind (Village)
Fresh Butter on hand-made Aloo Paratha (Bread stuffed with Potato) in the Pind (Village) Continue reading

‘I belong to Ranjha’ – the syncreticism of Lahore’s Shah Hussain

Raza Rumi

I am cross posting my piece here.

Lahore, the ancient city of Loh, the age-old halt for invaders, is also the home to eclectic Sufis. Men and women who shed conventions and discovered newer planes of spirituality found a home in this city. The merging of centuries’ old Indus valley bastion – the Punjab and its primordial language – with core strands of Islamic Sufism was a unique moment in South Asia’s cultural evolution. And, no one can better represent the composite soul of Lahore than its poet and Sufi master Shah Hussain, whose identity has forever fused with his Hindu disciple Madhu Lal. Those who seek Lahore’s Mela Chiraghaan or Festival of Lights still frequent the 16th century shrine of Madhu Lal Hussain.

Shah Hussain’s father, Shaykh Usman, was a loom weaver, and his grandfather Kaljas Rai (Kalsarai) was a convert to Islam who gained the confidence of the state during the reign of Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Shah Hussain Lahori was born in 1538 AD near Taxali Gate, Lahore. His early religious education was followed by induction into the Qadiriya order by Hazrat Bahlul Daryavi at a very young age. As a devout Muslim in his early years, he gained a formal outward knowledge and imbibed the spiritual moorings of Lahore, including the blessings of Hazrat Usman Ali Hajvery, aka Data Saheb, whose shrine has guided scores of saints, fakirs and yogis for nearly a millennium.

Read the full post here

Lahore – a short poem

By Gohar Sadaf Qureshi


Missing Lahore and the years there.
years had been from home,
And now, before the door,
I dared not open, lest a face
I never saw before

Stare vacant into mine
And ask my business there.
My business, — just a life I left,
Was such still dwelling there?

Photo by Saad Alvie

Basant: Lahore’s lost spring

Raza Rumi

Cross posted from my website

Lahore, a centre for the arts and learning in the early 20th century, has been the custodian of a plural, vibrant culture for decades. Its walled city, unlike several other old settlements, has continued to survive despite the expansion of the city. So have its peculiar features: its dialects, cuisine, community linkages and, of course, rich festivals such as Basant. As the capital of Punjab, Lahore used to celebrate Basant — the arrival of spring — in a colourful manner.

Since the medieval times, Basant was acknowledged and celebrated by the Chishti saints. Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi turned it into an act of devotion, and Amir Khusrau’s songs captured the multi-layered evolution of this festival.

Punjabi poets such as Shah Hussain gave a Sufi flavour to it. Hussain, in one of his kaafis, says: “The Beloved holds the string in his hand, and I am His kite.” The festival offered a meaning to all and sundry: from playful kids to lovers and Sufis; from profit-seekers who developed livelihoods around the festival to the community as a whole.

Basant was celebrated by all communities prior to Partition: Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs treated it as a Lahori festival with an identity linked to the city. In this milieu, Allama Iqbal was known to be an avid kite flier. But the post-1947 rise of clerics meant that inclusive cultural practices were to be treated with suspicion. For many decades, the Pakistani mullahs have ranted against Basant as an “unIslamic” festival and one that endangered public morality.

Unfazed by these fatwas, Lahoris continued with the festival. It even received state patronage on various occasions. A citizen of Lahore, Mian Yousaf Salahuddin (the grandson of Iqbal), turned his old Lahore haveli into a cultural hub and, over time, Basant celebrations became an international attraction. By the 1990s, proactive civil servants turned Basant into a great regional festival. Lahore’s then deputy commissioner, Kamran Lashari, provided full backing to the holding of this event in the 1990s. That was perhaps the time when Basant also became most controversial due to its scale and the increased hazards of unregulated kite-flying in which metallic or chemical-coated string was used.

The use of this string instead of the traditional dor caused many deaths each year and the local government was unable to enforce regulations on its usage. The metallic wire would get entangled in electricity cables in the old city, leading to electrocution. The courts intervened and asked the Punjab government to ban the festival in 2007.

Ironically, the banning of Basant did not take place in the name of religion but through a public interest litigation. However, the ideological opponents of Basant have been happy with the outcome and have created an uproar each time someone raised the question of reviving Basant after putting safety measures in place. But Lahore is a poorer place now. It is devoid of this public celebration, especially for thousands of impoverished workers in the old city and neighbouring towns where Basant was celebrated with great fervour.

Read the full post here

The images are Mahboob Ali’s works (an eminent artist from Lahore also known for his woodcuts)

Lahore in 1933 – an aerial view

These original aerial photographs of old Lahore or the Inner City were shot in 1933. Zahra Mahmoodah has generously contributed them from a recently acquired album for Lahore Nama.

We invite the readers to identify the landmarks and buildings that are captured in the above photograph. Lahore remains the most beautiful city and in the 1930s it was surely a splendour!

Lahori Jazz takes the world by storm

by Raza Rumi
Sachal Studios, a brainchild of Izzat Majeed and supported by an immensely talented poet and music producer, Mushtaq Soofi has now gained international attention. Here is an Al-Jazeera report from Lahore.Please also read my earlier post on this group by clicking here .


Please vote for Lahore Nama at Pakistan blog awards

Dear friends, followers, readers and visitors.

Due to your interest and support, Lahore Nama is becoming a popular resource on Lahore and Pakistan’s culture. It has been nominated under the ‘culture’ category. Please vote for it by clicking here: Link or  copy paste this URL into your browser –

Vote under the headline by clicking the stars..

Looking forward to your support


Stories of sex-workers in Heera Mandi, Lahore and beyond

Posted by Raza Rumi

A TV journalist prepared this bold documentary for a news channel but it was never aired for obvious reasons – electronic media remains conservative about taboo subjects. The documentary provides great insights into the way women live, work and identify themselves as sex-workers in Lahore’s oldest red-light district known as Heera Mandi (Diamond Market) ironically next to the great Badshahi mosque. Coverage of Multan in the later parts is also interesting.

The narrator obviously has his biases – the usual refrain of middle class Muslims of the subcontinent – but he tries hard to remain neutral and investigative. There is a good dose of Mujras inserted into the series for the viewers; and tit bits of the Hollywood/Bollywood melodrama on the oppressed ‘tawaif’ (prostitute). Whilst tragedies bring these women to the sex-trade, not all of them lament their lives. If anything, Mirza Ruswa’s Umrao Jan (way back in the nineteenth century) was pretty comfortable and empowered by her profession. Similarly, one of the interviewees says: “money is the father, mother and everything for tawaifs”. The head of Kanjar biradri says that girls are taught to be ‘men’, earning ‘horses’ fooling their clients! Not to be missed.

My favourite is the ‘client’ who confesses how intoxicating it is to be “in love” with a sex worker. One gets tired of ‘using’ a wife all the time he says. Wish this documentary had been aired.

The language of these videos is Urdu so it might not be accessible to all the visitors here. Continue reading

Aitchison College, Lahore

Aitchison College, Lahore, originally uploaded by Jahane Rumi.

Lahore’s famous and premier school. Once a preserve of the elites, it is finally opening up. The buildings are beautiful: mixing Gothic with Indian styles.
The building above is called the “Old building” – the first one constructed to cater for the ‘chiefs’ and their progeny. A true architectural gem.

All set for the sacrifice – a sheep on a motor bike

A Pakistani man holds a sheep on a motor bike after buying it in an animal market in Lahore on November 6, 2011. Eid, the festival of sacrifice, is Continue reading

Delhi Darwaza, Lahore

Delhi Darwaza, Lahore, originally uploaded by Jahane Rumi.

One of the several gates of Old Lahore also known as the walled city. This picture was taken when I took a few friends to the Shahi Hamaam. RR

Photo: A year ago when Asma Jahangir won the bar election

Asad J with the winners, originally uploaded by Jahane Rumi.

Captured immediately after her victory. That was an amazing moment. Asad Jamal (centre) was an active member of her campaign. A year later, her group has won the elections to Supreme Court bar Association indicating that she remains the most independent lawyer of the country.

‘Dingi’ (Dengue) Fever in Lahore

Prof Farakh A Khan

According to WHO (1999) 2.5 billion people are at risk of dengue virus infection in 200 countries. Before 1970 only nine countries had dengue fever. The mortality is about 5%, which can be reduced to 1% with proper treatment in the hospital. Dengue viral infection has become the leading public health problem.

According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention USA dengue infection places more than 1/3rd population of the world at risk. Every year 100 million people get infected.

The first case of dengue virus in Pakistan was reported in 1996 and incidence started to rise in 2003-2004 (Shahid, Jamal. Govt blames lifestyle for dengue spread. Dawn. September 22, 2011). The dengue viral attack reached epidemic proportions in Lahore during the summer of 2011. The number of people down with dengue viral infection in Lahore can only be a vague conjecture since we have no system to collect reliable statistics. Our rough estimate is that more than 100,000 people in Lahore have so far been infected if the recorded deaths are to be relied upon. There have been 98 reported deaths allegedly due to dengue haemorrhagic fever in Lahore (Nine more die of dengue in Lahore. OC. The News. September 24, 2011).

First let us analyse what the Pakistani papers have been feeding us in this regard. Continue reading

Jungle Sovereign – at Lahore Safari

Remembering the royal graces and monarch-like demeanour of Lalu the tiger at Lahore Safari

By Rizwan Mehboob

Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined the devastation and agony that I would be living through in writing the obituary of my dear friend from Sunderban, Lalu – the lame Royal Bengal Tiger of Lahore Safari Park. Though lame by birth, Lalu, much like his illustrious historical counterpart, Taimur the lame, never allowed his infirmity of be ever taken for a free ride. Any instances of infringement to his royal decorum by his own species or safari visitors were swiftly and ferociously dealt with. Bleeding wounds in fellow tigers or tattered tyres in rowdy visitor’s vehicles were the typical outcomes that were liberally meted out as retribution for any untoward liberties with Lalu.

Lalu was brought to Lahore Zoo Safari around 2006 as a full grown tiger and since then had been paired with a number of tigresses. However, the only time he produced a progeny was with a tigress named Rozee acclaimed to be the finest and comeliest specimen of her species, ever brought to a zoo in Punjab. As a matter of fact, Rozee was the main cause for a string of blood curdling fights that involved Lalu and a few other tigers who shared the bushes of tiger safari with him in recent years. Lalu was a great believer in wisdom of nipping the evil in the bud. It was therefore no wonder that after an initial fight or two, each new male inmate of tiger safari thought it prudent to stay clear of harm’s way by leaving Rozee to Lalu. Continue reading

Sarabjit’s lawyer files petition for reopening of case

By Yudhvir Rana

AMRITSAR: Sarabjit Singh’s counsel has filed a fresh petition in Pakistan’s Supreme Court seeking reopening of his case following the arrest of Manjit Singh in India, on whose identity Sarabjit Singh was allegedly booked in a case of serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Kasur and was sentenced to death.

His lawyer claims that the Manjit Singh arrested in India recently is the person who is responsible for the bomb blasts.

Sarabjit’s counsel Awais Sheikh told TOI on Sunday that he had filed the petition for reopening and re-adjudicating of his client’s case. He said, “The reality has come out in the open following the arrest of Manjit Singh in India and now the case should be reconsidered.” Continue reading

Murder in Lahore

By Md. Arif Iqbal Khan

Lahore is no St. Petersburg. But at this moment Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment seems so much more relevant to Lahore than any other city. Not that Lahore lacks a credible judiciary, it can boast of a powerful legal lobby capable of overthrowing a military regime. Lahore has its history and culture woven in a long connection with justice, beginning as the imperial city of Mughal Emperor Akbar, who was known for his equitable justice in an undivided Hindustan that belonged to all denominations.

But after two Pakistan nationals were gunned down by US national Raymond Davies recently, Lahore today is caught in a tight place. It wishes to continue the traditional path of evidences and circumstances, but it seems to be failing. Something in Lahore has changed. The bravery and courage of Lahore to resist foreign invaders like Alexander seems to have slightly diminished in this traditional romantic “city of emotions”. Continue reading

Lahore offline

By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

The city home to top software houses is without an official website for years

Lahore, undoubtedly one of the most sought-after travel destinations in Pakistan, is widely searched on internet by millions of people all over the world. The inquisitive web searchers are mostly interested in knowing about any upcoming public events in the city, details of historic places, cultural and tourism scene, shopping opportunities and, in case of locals, the district government’s service delivery mechanism.

But quite unfortunately, the situation is that the official website of the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) is dysfunctional for many years. The website, which once was there, was hosted on the orders of Lahore former nazim Mian Amir Mehmood, and carried comprehensive contact details of elected representatives as well as officials serving the district. Continue reading

We shall struggle for our freedoms

Lahoris protest and refuse to be silenced

We shall struggle for our freedoms

Lahoris protest and refuse to be silenced

Vigil in the memory of Lahore’s brave son – Salmaan Taseer (shaheed)

TODAY – Friday, January 7 · 5:00 pm
Location -Main Gate, Governors House
Please come. Spread the word, too. In the memory of a man who did not give up his principles