Old Lahore: For the love of Culture, Historic Wonders & Street Food
Pakistan for decades now has been dismissed as a travel destination, due to it’s ‘unsafe’ persona. Not too long ago, it was one of the least traveled to destinations in the world. However, according to World Crime Index, Lahore was recently declared ‘safer’ than London and New York overshadowing any reservations a traveler may have, when considering a visit.
With that being said, Pakistan is evolving from that unseemly portrayal and is exposing all that they’ve got to offer in terms of tourism. Authentic culture and amiable hospitality across the nation, as well as scenery like one could only imagine.
Pakistan has implemented visas on arrival for several nations around the world in order to broaden as well as boost the tourism industry. This in turn makes it a lot less complicated to plan a trip to the land of hidden gems.
It is also extremely budget-friendly to travel around Old Lahore. When speaking to co-founder of local travel agency, Maktub Tours, he stated, “Travelling in Lahore is relatively cheap as compared to travelling in other countries in the world, especially so in Old Lahore. You could expect to spend about 15–35 USD per person and this is inclusive of three meals and accommodation.” — Sarim Saeed
The Punjab Province of Pakistan, Lahore, has indefinitely made its mark as the cultural historic centre of the region. The city brims with beautiful, ornate architecture dating back to colonial times. The Walled City of Lahore, more commonly known as ‘Old Lahore’; so incredibly rich with history, makes for the ultimate tourist destination. The city is packed with sites, monuments and museums catering to explorers that want to get acquainted with the country’s historical events.
“They say ‘If you haven’t seen Lahore, you haven’t even been born.’ And rightly so. Lahore’s rich cultural heritage and historical sites makes it one of the most attractive places to visit in the region. From delectable local food, to it’s intellectual treasure of artists and writers, the city has a soul that every traveler connects with. The warmth and hospitality of flamboyant and lively Lahori’s make the place feel like home.” — Sadaf Farasat
I have grown up visiting every nook and cranny Lahore has to offer. My father made it a point to show us the places he frequented while growing up. From Lahore Fort to the streets of Delhi Gate, Data Darbar to the gem that is Fort Road Food Street. He made sure that the heritage of Lahore was indefinitely instilled into our upbringing. My mind can still vividly recall every sound and smell that defined Walled city’s characteristic cosmopolitanism, captured by my young mind.
As I made my way down towards the entrance of the Badshahi mosque, I was met with a security line that led me straight into Lahore Fort. Sheltered behind the walls of the Mughal-era fortress, I wandered into several exquisite palaces, monumental museums and lush greenery.
The present day fort’s foundation was completed in 1605 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Lahore fort consists of 21 notable historic monuments. The Fort is open to the public daily from 8.30am to 5pm, seeping with the aura of grandeur. In this place, time seems to have halted amongst the timeless treasures of the past.
As a result of extreme environmental conditions, a large number of fresco paintings and stonework within the walls of the fort have deteriorated. However, the fort still houses some of the world’s most unique pietra dura stonework and fresco murals.
Through the forts diverse styles of architectural designs, you are able catch a glimpse of the lifestyles of several different rulers that once resided in those palaces. From Hindu-esque elephant-contoured structures to Persian-esque halls.
I strolled into Badshahi Mosque in the early morning, soon as the guards open the gate. I noticed that the 9am visit time was ideal, as a place like Badshahi Mosque in all its Mughal grandeur is best adored in solitude and total serenity.
The lighting at the mosque was optimum with the morning sun cracking down just right. The morning sun shines directly at the mosque in contrast to the evening sun which shadows the mosque.
The Badshahi Mosque is one of Pakistan’s most treasured landmarks. It has truly stood the test of time, with it at one point being a Military Garrison for the British under the British Colonisation in 1846.
It is one of the very few remarkable architectural monuments constructed during Emperor Aurangzeb’s lengthy rule. It currently proudly stands as the fifth largest mosque in the world. Despite being built late in the Mughal era during a period of relative decline, its elegance, large scale, and overall charm exemplify the Mughal culture accomplishment like no other monument in Pakistan could.
Walking down a path through several different markets led me to Delhi Gate. One of the six gates that are left around the walled city of Lahore. It is a beautiful historic monument, which was once used as the main gateway to Lahore, with its gates being shut every evening.
The gate in itself is beautiful, however the highlight of that gateway is what it holds within. The market beyond Delhi gate is an area where you will experience hospitality like you have never experienced before. True Pakistani hospitality in all its glory.
Taken into consideration the fact that Pakistan has yet to experience mass-tourism, it is likely that you will face a moment of shock. The locals rarely have encounters with foreigners, leading them to be curious about anyone that looks like they don’t belong to that particular area. You may experience a bit of a culture shock when accepting greetings or even tea from strangers, but don’t hesitate as they are genuinely nice people.
Fort Road Food Street
As I walked the food streets of Fort Road, I was welcomed with the inherent smell of karak chai (strong tea), pakodas (potato fritters) and warm, fresh jalebi (zulbia) doused in sugar syrup. The street, rich with quality food and the finest vendors Lahore has to offer is the ultimate food experience.
The taste of Lahori food is like none other with its unique blend of spices and unrivalled aroma. Some of Lahore’s forte and must-haves include Biryani, Taka tuk, Nihari, Lassi, Falooda, Chargha and the list goes on…
Not only does Fort Road Food Street excel in food culture, but is also widely popular for its Mughal buildings, Kashmiri-Persian Architecture and it’s tradition amongst other things. That rare amalgamation of antiquity, culture and food is what makes Fort Road Food Street.
Walled City of Lahore: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Walled_City_of_Lahore
World Crime Index: https://dailytimes.com.pk/540405/lahore-beats-paris-in-world-crime-index/
Sadaf Farasat- Artist
Sarim Saeed- Maktub Tours