Tag Archives: travel

Why I Love Lahore

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post

Child lost in his thoughts

Child lost in his thoughts

I am a voracious traveller and have had the good fortune of visiting about 40 to 50 cities across continents in the last two decades. Whether it is Naukuchiatal or New York, Periyar or Paris, Delhi or Denmark, I have enjoyed and celebrated each of my travels with equal zest, always discovering something unique and special about the place. And it’s never been about the facilities or the comforts, as much as it is about the energy and attitude of the place and its people.

So for someone like me, an opportunity to officially visit Lahore — to speak at the prestigious Women Leadership Forum organized by Nutshell & AIMA — came like a blessing in disguise, as Pakistan is one country that most Indians wouldn’t consider for a pleasure trip. I was delighted at the thought of visiting our closest neighbour and the birthplace of my parents. Finally, I thought, I’d be able to bring some life into their stories about Pakistan as a haven of large houses, warmth and camaraderie before the lines of geography came in the way of humankind. My mother would reminisce about her father’s cinema hall, named Lakshmi in a small town near Sindh, and my mom-in-law still talks with yearning about their 22-room haveli with its badminton court. Continue reading

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

Ball Bearings (A Lahori’s impressions of Sweden)

by Ahmad Rafay Alam

While landing at Sweden’s Arlanda airport, some 30 minutes outside its capital Stockholm, one can be forgiven for wondering where all the people are.  Coming from Pakistan, where rare is the moment one’s line of sight is not interrupted by another human being, Sweden appears to uninitiated as unpopulated; a vast swathe of pristine forest dotted every now and then with a cottage and the odd lake.  The presence of nature is all encompassing – there’s forest everywhere and can’t be ignored – and is one of the reasons Swedes have a deep connection with their environment.  But one would be quite mistaken to think, what with nearly eight months of darkness in the winter, Sweden is a land where nothing goes on.  Not so. Swedes and Sweden are everywhere.  You just have look a little harder.

Lake Siljen, by Leksand (population 5,861)

Continue reading

Lahore Travel Guide

Posted by Raza Rumi

This busy metropolis has some of Pakistan ’s best sites. Lahore has been the capital of the Mughal Empire and of that of the Sikhs.
Lahore is located near the only border crossing with India that is currently open, in the Pakistani part of the Punjab . While you will see many Sikhs on the Indian side of the border, here the people are almost all Muslim. Lahore is reagarded as the heart of Pakistan and also the heart and mind of The Punjab. It is both educational and cultural capital of Pakistan and only two and half hours away from Harrapa the oldest civilized city of the world. Lahore is perhaps the continuation of the north part of the Great Indus valley civilization.

Read the full post here

Lahore in the “Naive & Abroad” Series

Book Reviews: The “Naive & Abroad” Series

I’ve just finished reading some really great books. You should, too.  This being Christmastime, they would all make excellent gift ideas.

He really looks like this in real life, too.

He really looks like this in real life, too.

They’re by a local author named Marcus Wilder who had this idea to write a book about his travels in Pakistan 20 years ago.  Originally conceived as notes on his travels to quiet an insistent friend, his 10 page manuscript has grown to a 200 page critique and insight you won’t find in any other book available. Written in a style reminiscent of Hemingway’s short, punchy word pictures, Marcus almost overwhelms the senses with sensory input from his descriptions of “pungent” room cleaners in Pakistan, the sheer grandeur of the Taj Mahal, or the simple pleasure of a succulent orange in the Hindu Kush.

Marcus’ manuscript, just as an outsider viewing an Islamic society in passing, has shown me more than I learned in a college-level comparative-religions course that contrasted the three faiths of Abraham (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.) Take his observations on the prophet Mohammed: that unlike the teachings of Christ or Buddha, Mohammed’s teachings do not project well into a modern, literate world. Education is the Koran’s worst enemy. (p.60)

Marcus also doesn’t mince words when analyzing the opposition to both America and Israel, as well as our basic inability to grasp the problem facing us: For them it is about killing infidels. For us it is about understanding their point of view. What twits we are. (p. 167)

And yet, as Paul Harvey likes to say, “It is -not- one world.” Marcus’ description of Lahore Pakistan made me laugh out loud: “Lahore–in Muslim Pakistan–has one of the largest, oldest, continuously operated red light districts in the world. (A bawdy editor penciled in, “La Whore.”) In some families, prostitution has been the family business for uncountable generations. No family member–male or female–is too young to serve in the family business. Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan.” (p. 40) Continue reading

A Lahori’s visit to Amritsar in India


An ode called Amritsar by Ammara Ahmad

If you live in Lahore and choose to go North-West, you will be in Gujranwala in about an hour’s time. And if you move from Lahore to the East, on the same Grand Trunk (GT) Road which Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan Warrior-King, carved out, in about the same time you could be standing in Amritsar — except for the ordeal of crossing the Indo-Pakistan border.

How can one cultivate memories for a city without visiting it? Although just a few miles away from my Lahore home, throughout my life this city has seemed years, if not decades, away. Like a musty page out of history, somehow unreal, the sharpest acuity inscribed on my mind concerning it was that of the massacre that my grandfather — who was born there — had survived. A massacre brought to notoriety by the immensity of its scale, the chaos engendered by the Partition in 1947.

But we were here at last! As the girls with me ran off to do their shopping, I set out on a much weightier mission. The city had been stamped in my consciousness, now was the time to adjust, to fit in the pieces, fill in the colours and bond with it directly. This town of a few millions has a place in history that few towns can boast of, yet this is the last thing you feel while walking around. Continue reading

Marvellous City Of Lahore – Impressions of Ranpreet Bal

Ranpreet Bal a visitor to Lahore has shared his impressions in an exclusive article for the Lahore Nama.

I was thinking to visit and explore the Historical City of Lahore for a long time. My first visit was very short with excitement and I tried to visit as many places as I can visit.

I am grateful to my friend and elder brother Jamil Ahmed Mir who received me warmly and made me feel at home and his sons Bilal and Avais who assisted me to see some of the places which I would never be able to see without their support.

Lahore is a City of Gardens, Colleges, British era buildings and Mughal and Sikh architecture old monuments and Havelis.

Some of the places of my interest were Shahi Quila, Samadh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Kharak Singh and Naunihal Singh, Samadh Maharaja Sher Singh and Baradari,Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore Museum, Shalamar Gardens, Punjab University, Landa Bazar, Dayal Singh College, Mall Road, Hall Road, Lakhmi Building, Sardar Dina Singh building built in 1927 on Mall Road, and Gawal Mandi Food Court. The other interesting place is the Canal which passes through Lahore and during Basant Festival it is decorated beautifully.

The British built some important buildings like General Post Office, High Court, Punjab University, Museum, Railway Station, Chief’s College, Government College, King Edward Medical College, National College, Forman Christian College, Dayal Singh College and so many other Victorian style architecture heritage buildings.

The city was famous for its Educational Institutions. Punjab University has the largest campus in the city. Aitcheson College is still the most expensive educational institute The Maharajas and some Chieftains of Punjab got their education from this college. Continue reading

Lahore travelogue – Impressions from a keen visitor

M A Soofi visited Lahore a couple of years ago with a peace delegation from India. This piece recounts his instant judgements, sympathetic comments and insights on Lahore. This contribution to Lahore Nama is much appreciated. 

Life by the Canal

The Daewoo van left Wagah – the international border separating India from Pakistan – and was now speeding towards Lahore, some twenty miles away. A canal was gushing forth on the right side of the window seat. Flowing between two parallel highways, it remained a constant companion.

Grassy patches sloped down to the banks, which were occasionally being lapped over by a sudden violence of the frothing mud-colored water of the canal. Tall trees on either side formed a comforting canopy over its length.

A variety of haiku moments flashed past the air-conditioned window: buffaloes swimming in the waters; a green-turbaned Mullah lying on the grass and reading a book; bare-chested young boys splashing water on each other, their shalwars ballooned with water; fully dressed women blushing, laughing, and taking quick cold water dips in the canal; a family contentedly feasting on a picnic lunch, with men and women sitting in separate groups; a young man and woman whispering under a tree; a lone man throwing pebbles in the water; two woman holding hands and sitting quietly; a middle-aged man resting against a tree trunk; a pair of boys washing a bicycle…

Soon these enchanting scenes vanished. The fallen leaves, languidly floating on the water, gave way to polybags and tin cans. Lahore was approaching. Continue reading

Heera Mandi – The Dream House of the Whores

Courtesy Mayank Austen Soofi

I felt like a bridegroom who had come to pick out one of the three beautiful sisters. Sitting next to each other on a blue sofa, they blushed and coquettishly glanced at us.

An old woman with a straight back and shining-white hair sat down on the floor and talked of the heat and humidity. She had a firm, commanding voice that sliced and rebuked the air with the sharp tanginess of a most refined form of spoken Urdu.

Unlike the brightly-colored and intricately designed shalwaar kameeze (Shalwar are loose trousers and the kameeze is a long shirt) of the girls, the stern woman stood apart in an off-white dress and a white netted dupatta (a scarf or covering for the head and upper body worn by women), carefully adjusted on her head.

It seemed like a cultured Muslim family, but the girls were not sisters. They were prostitutes. The old lady was not a mother looking for suitable boys for her daughters, but a pleasure-house Madam.

We were in Heera Mandi — ‘a bazaar of diamonds’ — Pakistan’s oldest red light district.

Crossing into the Red Light

Mian Naeem, a soft-spoken Lahore-based sculptor and art-critic, had agreed to take me for an excursion to Heera Mandi, a place I particularly wished to visit especially after reading an excellent book by the British author Louise Brown, The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan’s Ancient Pleasure District.

I was in Pakistan to take part in a conference for a visa-free South Asia and was tied up with a series of seminars and speeches during the day. Night was the time to explore the city and Heera Mandi had to be a necessary pilgrimage. Continue reading