Tag Archives: Conservation

Lahore’s history goes rack and ruin

Isambard Wilkinson, The National

Lahore – A project to save the architectural and cultural heritage of Lahore’s fabled Old City is foundering due to political instability and corruption, officials say.

The World Bank has offered US$10 million (Dh36.7m) to restore the 2.6-sq-km Old City, home to 145,000 of Lahore’s eight million population, but the so-called Sustainable Development Walled City project has become mired in bureaucracy and inertia.

Jewels of Moghul architecture have been neglected or poorly restored. Havelis, courtyard houses akin to Morocco’s highly prized riads, have been left to rot. Many of the city’s decorously carved wooden balconies, or jerokahs, have collapsed and the streets are squalid.

The city that was bought to life by writers ranging from the Moghul court chroniclers to the bard of the British Raj, Rudyard Kipling, and was once the capital of the Moghul and Sikh empires, is in a state of deep decay. Continue reading

Losing Lahore

Josh Loeb writing for this week’s Friday Times

Delhi Gate – entrance to the
“Royal Route”

The Dhai Anga Mausoleum

The derelict tomb of “Buddu,”
Dhai Anga’s husband

“Cities that survive and prosper are not cities which destroy their heritage. People don’t visit Paris because of business; they visit because it is a beautiful city”

“This country is strewn with heritage,” she continues. “Turn a stone and there’ll be something there. And it should not be the preserve of intellectuals – ordinary people are interested” – Yasmeen Lari

“He who has not seen Lahore has not been born,” the saying goes, yet speak to those interested in old buildings and they will tell you that Lahore is dying.

Earlier this year, English architectural historian Simon Jenkins issued a stark warning. “Lahore’s past is collapsing around it,” he wrote in a British newspaper. “Hovering over its ancient walls is a sense of utter neglect.” He went on to warn that cities that neglect their past endanger their future. If this true, Lahore’s future is bleak.

Take the mausoleum of Dhai Anga, wet nurse to Mughal Shah Jahan. Completed in 1671, the building is situated in what was once a rose garden but is now a mini-wasteland – the haunt of drug-addled young men who pace about with bloodshot eyes beneath the arches of the tomb’s chambers. Of the “beautiful enamelled tile mosaics” proclaimed on the information board outside there is now almost nothing left. Whilst funds are directed towards Lahore’s two world heritage sites – the Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens – other historic monuments are turning to dust.

Mohammad Imran makes a living guiding visitors around historic sights like the Dhai Anga Mausoleum.

“I want to see this building in a good condition,” he says. “I want to see a restoration but I want to see it done in the right way. A lot of buildings are restored half-heartedly. It should be restored to its original shape or else there is no point.”

Imran trots out the old refrain that antique buildings should be looked after for the sake of tourism (something with which Jenkins agrees). But Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect and the director of the Pakistan Heritage Foundation, takes a different view.

“I’m not bothered about tourists,” she explains. “Frankly, the way things are in the country right now, tourists are not going to come anyway. Conserving our heritage is something that should be done for our own pride and for social cohesion. It’s something to understand ourselves by.

“This country is strewn with heritage,” she continues. “Turn a stone and there’ll be something there. And it should not be the preserve of intellectuals – ordinary people are interested.”

Back at the Dhai Anga Mausoleum, two workers from the mysteriously (and perhaps misleadingly) named Archaeological Department are engaged in what appears to be dusting stones. “Small repairs,” explains one, Furqan Ullah, yet there remains an air of hopelessness about the endeavour. Continue reading

Lahore: Conservation and Religion

Conservation and religion
By Ahmad Rafay Alam
(The News)

Just a few months ago, in the shadow of the archaeology department’s devolution to the provincial government, a minaret in the Lahore Fort collapsed, revealing to all just how effective official conservation measures are. A decade ago, citizens of Lahore stood flabbergasted as construction workers felled hundred-year-old trees to bring the shoulder of the G T Road within inches of the entrance of Shalimar Gardens. In the intervening years, the only notable bit of urban conservation was the restoration of the Tolington Market, where, as an illustration of the quality of restoration work, only a few weeks ago, anxious NCA students exhibiting their thesis feared exposure and dripping rain would ruin their work. The PHA’s “new” billboard policy – ostensibly for the beauty of the city – can only find 12 sites of historical importance worth protecting from the ugliness of its advertising hoardings. This in a historically and culturally rich city over a millennium old.

It isn’t just Mughal Lahore that needs to be, and isn’t, properly conserved. Colonial Lahore is also fast fading from view. Behind the mosque next to Fortress Stadium in the Cantonment lies a memorial in honour of the commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment who lost their lives in Lahore just before World War I. The monument is now surrounded by dust and is passed by an un-metalled road. The 19th century buildings that once lined the nearby road, all splendid examples of the architecture of the period, have been brought down to make way for a “General’s Colony” housing scheme. Only one barracks remains, dating back to 1864. The Civil and Military Gazette, where a galaxy of writers and intellectuals interned after Partition, and where Rudyard Kipling – one of Lahore’s two Nobel laureates – cut his teeth, was razed to the ground in the 1960s and turned into a shopping mall, Panorama Centre – Lahore’s first, incidentally. Continue reading