The city of Lahore is affectionately referred to as “Data ki Nagri” (The Saint’s City) by it’s people. Lahore is the capital of Punjab and sometimes called the heart of Pakistan, because of it’s central geographical location. The heart of Pakistan is surrounded by rich fertile alluvial plains and a green agriculture zone. The river Ravi holds a strong position on the outskirts of Lahore, separating Lahore from Shahdara and other areas of the Punjab. Lahore has a reputation of being the “green city” and is called the city of Gardens. Lahore is also famous for it’s poets, saints’, artists, architecture, food, culture and it’s film industry.
Conquered by Mahmood Ghaznavi in 1021 AD, Lahore was made the capital of the Ghaznavid east of Indus and later the capital of the whole of the Ghaznavid Empire. It was then that Lahore really started to develop as a centre of social, cultural and education activities, reaching the pinnacle of it’s glory under the Mughals. The Mughals were the ones who gave it the plethora of magnificent architecture that we see today, which includes breath taking sites of Mughal structures, gardens, tombs and pavilions.
A walk through the streets of Lahore makes you wonder what a beautiful city Lahore really is. Not only is Lahore colourful but so are it’s people. The people are friendly and always welcome other people with smiles and hospitality. It has been said that the people of Lahore are the most hospitable. Lahoris, which is the term given to the people of Lahore, do not shy away from food and have amazing cuisine. There is not one place in Lahore where you will not find a restaurant. Places like MM Alam Road and the second food street near Anarkali Bazar are filled with outlets for cultural as well as Pakistani dishes. The second food street near Anarkali Bazar has been made because of the closure of the first one near Gowal Mandi due to security reasons, but this doesn’t stop Lahoris from having a nice gastronomical adventure every night. Most of Lahore stays open till 3 AM in the night, offering people all kinds of choices when it comes to food.
Exploring Lahore is a visual treat for the resident and the tourist. There are lots of structures and sights to see in Lahore. The city of Lahore can be divided in to two, Old Lahore and the modern posh areas of New Lahore. All of the historical sites and tourist attractions can be found in Old Lahore, while the New Lahore contains shopping and residential areas. Old Lahore has areas such as Anarkali, Ichra, Badami Bagh, Islampura, while new Lahore has more popular areas like Gulberg, Lahore Cantonment and Defence Housing Authority (DHA). People from both Old Lahore and New Lahore go to places like Liberty Market in Gulberg, Origa Centre in Gulberg, Fortress Stadium, Pace, Lahore Mega Mall, Hyperstar, Siddique Trade Centre etc. for shopping purposes.
As you spend the day looking at the different structures and buildings around town, you think that in many different ways, for a wide variety of people, Lahore’s architecture and pre-colonial style buildings assert some sort of a symbolic presence. They give character to the city. The number of ruined and active tombs in the city serve as repositories for memories of the city’s important ancestors, as physical points of anchorage between the city’s riotous past and a benevolent present. Lahore has some sort of a festival or event happening all year round. For people, these tombs and symbolic structures of saints’ act as sites for religious festivals and saints’ days. Old Anarkali, Badhshahi Mosque, Minar-e-Pakistan, Shahi Qila, Shalimar Bagh are few of the most famous historical places of Lahore. These are one of the most popular places that tourist throng to from all over Pakistan and from abroad.
People of Lahore revel in their traditions and colourful “rang rangeeliyan”. People of Lahore think of it, as not another city but their home. They are proud of their city and that is where the popular saying “Lahore Lahore Aye” (Lahore is Lahore) gives birth from. Everyone single person of the city of Lahore is high spirited and this is why Lahore is also called “Zinda Dilane Lahore“. Every single Lahori would tell you that Lahore is the place that they belong to and it is the best city in the whole world. Lahore in general is a place full of life and Lahoris no how to live life to the fullest.
Lahore is also a city of cultural and religious events, and festivals. It is a city with creativity running through it’s veins. One of the most famous festivals that Lahore is known for, is the festival of Basant. Basant is the traditional kite flying festival and it is a time when girls and boys of all ages come out of their homes on to their roofs wearing bright coloured clothes and tease each other in to a kite flying competition. It is a time for yellow and orange coloured traditional dresses, bright flowers, fun and frolic, playing games and lots of Punjabi music. Apart from Basant, Lahore celebrates other religious and cultural events with full vigour which include, Independence Day, Eid, Ramadan and National Day. Walking along Mall Road, you would find historical buildings and centres. Near Mall Road you would also find the Alhambra Arts Centre, which holds world class Arts events all year around. Alhambra Arts Centre is also where the iconic Tariq Aziz Show is recorded as I was told by people waiting to go in to the Centre. PTV has been recording the show from the past 15 something years.
Apart from being the cultural centre, it is also an educational centre. One look at the Lahore city map will tell you how many Universities and Colleges Lahore actually has. Lahore does not only have the most Universities out of all of the cities in Pakistan, but it also has some of the oldest and most prestigious. National College of Arts in Lahore has one of the finest graduates of Media and Fine Arts in the country. Lahore University of Management Sciences produces brilliant Management and Business graduates. One of sub-continent’s oldest and prestigious Medical College, King Edward Medical College is in Old Anarkali Lahore. It also has Pakistan’s biggest and most famous Punjab University, along with having the whole sub-continent’s oldest colleges namely, Government College, Lahore and Forman Christian College.
Lahore has also in the past been a hub of different religions. It’s past can be traced back to having Hindu roots and Lahore is also the birth place of Sikhism with the Sikh Temple located right next to the most famous Badhshahi Mosque. Every year Sikhs come to Lahore to pay homage at the Temple and there is a famous saying by one of the Sikhs at the Temple “Lahore Nai Waikhya o Jamiya Nahi" which basically means, those that have not seen Lahore, have not been born yet. Culture, traditions, Mughal architecture, religious festivals, pride, spirit and zeal are that make the lives of Lahoris so colourful. Lahore is just not another city on the map of the world, Lahore is Lahore!