Category Archives: buildings

Restoring Masjid Wazir Khan – A monument-al task

This article was originally published on TNS

Work on restoring Masjid Wazir Khan’s eastern façade and forecourt is fast underway, despite the challenges, and the place is likely to be open to public by the end of this month

Wazir Khan

Constructions around the mosque had become an eyesore. — Photos by Rahat Dar

Masjid Wazir Khan is a jewel of Mughal architecture. It has retained its grandeur even after the passage of around four centuries since it was built between 1635 and 1640AD under the orders of Hakim Ilm ud Din, the then prime minister of King Shah Jahan. Over time, the magnificent structure has weathered many storms and seen its surrounding land, the forecourt in front of the eastern façade as well as the lower parts of its boundary walls devoured by encroachments.

Till recently, the situation was so bad that the constructions around the mosque became an eyesore, making it look like a structure totally out of place. The sight of the surrounding residential buildings and shops, motor workshops, and welding facilities right next to its boundary walls, was so overwhelming that the mosque would appear subdued in comparison.

It was in 2013 that an initiative was taken with the help of funds provided by the Royal Embassy of Norway in Pakistan, to restore the historical monument’s northern façade. Technical support was afforded by the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (AKCSP) — an arm of Aga Khan Trust for Culture — and work began with support from the Walled City Lahore Authority (WCLA). Around 70 shops had been removed from around the place, their owners compensated by the Punjab government.

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Rare Image of Advertisement of Nedou’s Hotel from 1880

Please note that the advertisement announces that the hotel has electric lights and fans.

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan writes about the history of Nedou family.

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I thought I’d provide some interesting information (historical backdrop) about the Nedou family, which is from my book, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014):

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My Grandmother Akbar Jehan’s paternal grandfather, Michael Adam Nedou started out as a photographer and architect, but destiny had willed otherwise. The decisions that he took shaped that destiny as though with the finesse of a calligrapher’s brush. His first venture in hoteliering was the acquisition of the Sind Punjab Hotel in the port city of Karachi. He built the imposing and courtly Nedou’s Hotel in Lahore, characterized by charm and grace, in the 1870s. He and his heirs later built the Nedous’ Hotel in Gulmarg, Kashmir, in 1888. The hotel in Gulmarg sits on an elevation, overlooking the once luxuriantly lush meadow, with its cornucopia of fragrant, beauteous, and flourishing flowers. The riot of colors in Gulmarg in the summer has always had the power to revive my spirits! The cozy cottages around the main lounge, furnished with chintz drapes, chintz covered armchairs, soothing pastel counterpanes on the canopy beds, and hewn logs around the fire places would warm the cockles of any anglophile’s heart. Despite the rapid growth of monstrous concrete construction in Gulmarg, Nedou’s Hotel has always retained an old world charm, maintaining, against all odds, its historical association, environmental importance, and architectural significance.

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Nedou’s, Srinagar

In Akbar Jehan’s father’s lifetime, the Nedous’ hotels in Lahore, Gulmarg, and Srinagar retained their reputations as classy, plush, and magnificent havens in colonial India. The Nedous’ hotel in Gulmarg has been exquisitely and intimately described by M. M. Kaye in her whodunit novel, Death in Kashmir. Akbar Jehan’s father, the stoic looking, stocky, and thick-set, though not short, Michael Henry [Harry] Nedou, took over the management of the restful hotel in Gulmarg from his father. Several people have testified to his proverbial philanthropy, beneficence, and kindness.

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Akbar Jehan, Rani ji aka Mir Jan, Umar Nedou, Baby Harry Nedou aka Col Ghulam Qadir, Micheal Harry Nedou aka Sheikh Ahmad Hussain
Sitting down: George Nedou

 

Akbar Jehan’s sister-in-law, Salima Nedou, observes in her unpublished manuscript, “Michael Nedou was the pioneer of the hotel industry in India and he laid the first stone in the splendid structure of the country’s hotels. His name is woven forever in the tapestry of our tourism” (16). The then grandiose Nedou’s Hotel in Srinagar, which was opened in 1900, boasted a confectionery that, for a long time, had no parallel. The very thought of the delectable jams and jellies that we got from the Nedous’ bakery in my childhood makes me drool. Until the eighties, Nedou’s, Srinagar, epitomized a rare and appealing excellence, and a flawless execution, which, over the years, deteriorated. It is now, sadly, in a dilapidated state.

Salima Nedou provides an enchanting account of the “Protestant work ethic,” entrepreneurship, and sheer grit of Michael Adam Nedou, his spouse, and children:

“Their summers were spent in Gulmarg and Srinagar, and for the winter, they moved to the splendor of Nedou’s, Lahore. As Gulmarg was in those days a remote part of the country, everything had to be carried up the mountains by pony and labor. I sometimes wonder how great safes from London, billiard tables and pianos go to Gulmarg. People either walked or rode up by pony. Some were carried in chairs called “dandies.” All came to escape the heat of the plains.
Granny [Jessie Maria] was a shrewd and tough Victorian woman. She was faced with the hard work of helping in the hotels and bringing up nine children. . . . Christmas festivities were in those days a time of abundance and merry making. Those privileged to be able to come to Nedou’s had to book their tables well in advance. At Nedou’s, preparations were begun weeks before. The Gulmarg hotel was closed by the end of October, but logs were chopped and Christmas trees were brought down to Lahore and Srinagar. The great halls and lounges at Srinagar were heated by log fires and stoves. In the kitchens under Granny’s [Jessie Maria] supervision the Christmas puddings were stirred and hung in linen bags. The famous Nedous’ silver was polished, and Christmas cakes baked by Goan chefs and their assistants.
So the holidays passed. It was a time of goodwill, hospitality, and joy, and it all ended in the New Year’s celebration, which after the dancing, all at Nedou’s must have been exhausted.”

This riveting account of the venturesome and risk-taking folk transported me so seamlessly to a different time that I thought of sharing it with the reader. Taking refuge in a “once upon a time” world does rid the soul of its afflictions.

 

لاہور کے شاہی حمام کا انوکھا نظام

شمائلہ جعفری

یہ آرٹیکل BBC Urdu میں شایع ہوا۔

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لاہور شہر تاریخ کی ایک کتاب کی طرح ہے، جیسے کتاب کا صفحہ پلٹتے ہی الفاظ سے تراشی گئی ایک نئی تصویر ابھرتی ہے اسی طرح سر زمین لاہور کے سینے کو کریدیں تو ہر کونے میں خطے کی خوبصورت ثقافت اور روایتوں کی نئی داستان سامنے آتی ہے۔
ایسا ہی کچھ ہوا ہے اندرون شہر کے دلی دروازے میں جہاں مغلیہ دور کے شاہی حمام کی کھدائی میں ایک انتہائی سائنسی انداز میں بنا نظام دریافت ہوا۔
دلی دروازے کی شاہی گزرگاہ میں جڑا پہلا نگینہ مغلیہ دور کا یہ حمام ہی ہے جو سنہ 1634 میں شاہ جہاں کے گورنر وزیرخان نے عام لوگوں اور مسافروں کے لیے تعمیر کروایا۔ ماہرین کے مطابق یہ مغلوں کا واحد عوامی حمام ہے جو اب تک موجود ہے۔

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تاہم اب اس کی عمارت میں بہت سی تبدیلیاں آ چکی ہیں۔ 50 کمروں کے اس حمام کی تزئین وآرائش کو دیکھ کر یہ تاثر ملتا ہے کہ حمام صرف نہانے دھونے کے لیے استعمال نہیں ہوتا تھا بلکہ یہ لوگوں کے میل ملاپ اور ذہنی آسودگی کی جگہ بھی تھی۔

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