Sunday, 21 June 2009

I Spy: Blame it on Lahore, An invitation to visit the City - Sadaf Zarrar

Each week since this blog started, I eagerly await to post my column. Each week my mind is bustling with ideas on what I want to talk about... That unfortunately, didn't turn out to be the case this week. I have to very selfishly, blame it all on Lahore.

My love affair with this city started back in 1996 when I came to take an entrance exam at National College of Arts which fortunately or unfortunately I didn't pass. I had decided long before the result that I wasn't going back to Kharian/ Islamabad both of whom I called home. And hence went ahead an enrolled myself at Kinnaird College.

I fondly remember Lahore as my grandparents town while I was growing up and associated all things fun to it. The most fun of all being the Hico Truck! Back in the day, the ice cream wasn't available on retail and just the thought that Nano would have called Hico people to have a load of ice cream delivered to satisfy the bottomless pits of stomachs that her grand kids had, pretty much made our holiday... But then that wasn't all...

How can I tell you about Lahore in a way that it would do justice to this town? I can not even figure out where to start. So I will start by telling you about the famous Punjabi saying 'Jinney L'ore Nai Wakhiya Jamiya Nai', roughly, it means 'You're not truly born if you haven't seen Lahore'.

Located on the banks of once the Mighty River Ravi, Lahore is often called the Garden of Mughals because of its rich Mughal heritage. It is also often called the cultural heart of Pakistan, as it is the center of Pakistani arts, films and intelligentsia and also as the City of Colleges... I am sure there are many other names this city goes by also. To me it simply is... Home.

This particular time, was like any other. Having lived in Lahore long enough before moving to Islamabad a couple of years ago. I take it for granted mostly, No visits to the touristy destinations for me, nor any shopping sprees unless absolutely required, I don't indulge in cultural activities unless I am bored to death but you know, not only should you visit Lahore, you should dive into the beauty and cultural diversity of this city heads first!

If you're fond of eating, and trying out various cuisines... You're in the right City. Lahoris are known for their love of food and eating. While Lahore has a great many traditional and modern restaurants, in recent years Western fast food chains have appeared all over the city. Recently the food streets in the historic locales of Lahore (Gawalmandi, Anarkali, and Badshahi) have attracted tourists. Food streets have undergone restorations and are cordoned off in the evenings for pedestrian traffic only; numerous caf├ęs serve local delicacies under the lights and balconies of restored havelis (traditional residential dwellings). Some of the trendiest restaurants in Lahore are concentrated on the M M Alam Road in Gulberg. Here, dozens of high-class culinary outlets, ranging from Western franchises to traditional, ethnic, or theme restaurants, attract all classes of Lahore's citizens. New restaurants are constantly opening, and the business is extremely competitive. Many boisterous restaurants of Lahore are open late into the night.

The origins of Lahore are shrouded in the mists of antiquity but Lahore is undoubtedly ancient. Legend has it that it was founded about 4,000 years ago by Loh, son of Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana.Historically, it has been proved that Lahore is at least 2,000 years old. Hieun-tasng, the famous Chinese pilgrim has given a vivid description of Lahore which he visited in the early parts of the 7th century AD. Lying on the main trade and invasion routes to South Asia, Lahore has been ruled and plundered by a number of dynasties and hordes. Muslim rule began here when Qutub-ud-din Aibak was crowned in Lahore in 1206 and thus became the first Muslim Sultan of the subcontinent. It waxed and waned in importance during the Sultanate. However, it touched the zenith of its glory during the Mughal rule from 1524 to 1752. The Mughals, who were famous as builders, gave Lahore some of its finest architectural monuments. For those interested in History and Culture, Lahore offers the best of the Mughal era as well as British Colonial Heritage.

If you intend on shopping till you drop, once again, Lahore is it. Lahore offers the best of Desi delights in terms of fabrics, accessories, leather goods... incidently all at a price so low they are bound to turn a shopaholic out of anyone!

I have to confess, Lahore is no Party Capital of the world... But that by no means denotes that Lahories do not know how to party. Living it up Lahori style is an experience worth going through, where loud is louder and happy is happier.

I recommend you get your hosts to find you an invitation to a wedding. Considering that a normal Pakistani wedding has a few hundred guests, I am sure you won't find any trouble being welcomed with open arms. Given the famous Lahori hospitality, I doubt you'll have trouble landing an invite anywhere... But a wedding is a not just a wedding, it is a cultural experience in itself with atleast 3 functions and no end to the upper limit.

Honestly, there is so much to tell about Lahore that for this particular article, the best I can do from here on is give you pictorial glimpses of Lahore. I can however promise you, that if you visit Lahore not only will you forget to write your Friday Ed Note, you will definitly not want to come back... After all Lahore Lahore Aye (Lahore is Lahore).

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