OPINION

Lahore: Rants and Raves

March 03, 2010
Halima Khan

Sights and sounds. Distinctive! Setting one piece of land apart from one another; thus the world has it all a Lahore, a London, an Amsterdam too. What all these cities share is the keen-ness to preserve culture most predictably. But then this is where this masterpiece of a city, Lahore really stands out. Here we emphasize on preserving our taste buds; the real essence of survival. Or so they are considered here. So if live to eat is your business don't miss out on why 'Lahore Lahore hai!' (Lahore is Lahore.)

Gawalmandi and Anarkali, part of the older city, and the real hub of passionate eaters and other activity too of course. But since the government has renovated these places as food streets, the dhabas and restaurants our parents so fondly referred to have us hooked to the exquisite 'desi' cuisine too. These places have undergone major restoration work which hasn't just made food more accessible but has made it possible to enjoy tradition at its best in the magnanimity of 'havilis' as well.

Data Darbar, a spiritual sanctity and a recluse for the lost souls and the restless is the highlight of the day for many for its 'langar'; after all there is always enough food for everyone there! With 'qawalis' ringing out of it all the time it builds up the atmosphere for a breath-taking experience at 'Coocoo's Den', located just behind Badshahi Mosque near the Darbar. The Den is a 300 year old 'kothi' which gives a beautiful view of the city from its sitting area, which is mostly located in the outdoors.
Another landmark which is a treat to the creative instincts is the Pak Tea House in Anarkali; it is famed as a ' long favored haunt of intellectuals and artists.'

Talking about doing justice to your creative instincts Lahore with its faded elegance of wide variety of Islamic and British architecture sets the stage perfectly with its contrast and surprise. Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan, with fragrance of gardens spread around and the aroma of cultural heritage echoing in the Old Walled City.

Shalimar means the purest of human pleasure; during Shah Jahan's reign this romantic Shalimar Garden was built with its triple-terraces, marble pavilions, ornamental pools, water falls and fountains. Purity indeed!

World's largest existing historical mosque is also hosted by this city of old tales. Blend of white marble and red stone and beautifully engraved Quranic verses Badshahi Mosque stands tall as a symbol of Mughal religious zeal. The neighboring Lahore Fort was founded way back in the B.C era. However it got its present face by the infamous architects aka Mughals. The Sheesh Mahal (The Palace of Mirrors), Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), Diwan-e-Aam (Court for the Commons), Hathi Per (Elephant Steps are masterpieces in themselves and best preserved too. The Fort also has a museum covering the Mughal and Sikh periods.

The Lahore Museum established during British Raj displays the evolution of culture in this region with rare and best collection of the Buddhist art from the Gandhara Period, Islamic artifacts, Calligraphy, Old Manuscripts, Arms, Costumes and Jewelry.

Lahore seems to have always favored tales of lost love and has preserved legends in its bazaars and 'galis' and gardens and tombs too. 'Jahangir ka maqbara', where lies the most romantic soul of the Mughal era, and ironically his final resting place is still an alcove for the romantic souls of today. Like Jehangir there is a beautifully constructed tomb of his beautiful and much doted wife Noor-Jehan.

The history of the Old City of Lahore is a thriving one, accessible by 12 gates it's a multiple bazaar and the hub of oriental culture with its distinctive flair and aroma.

This city of extreme weather conditions shows great traces of westernization now, to cater to the more modern needs of the young generation. MM Alam Road is the result of the great demand of restaurants and cafes. From KFC to Pizza Hut and Subway almost all international food chains have their outlets in Lahore. Another upcoming trend that has hit this city is the 'sheesha'; Iranian face of our local huqa. It is all the rage amidst teenagers! While there are no bars as such, smoky cafes and hangouts don't make their absence felt.

Halima Khan is a research associate at Pielle Vision, an international social development consultant group.Moreover Halima is a freelance writing and editing professional. She writes for many leading publications while also being associated withrespected online journals. As an academic she is currently working on the translation anthology of an early 19th century manuscript compilation on Islamic epic stories.
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