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Attitude Tourism

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Attitude tourism - to be distinguished from, say, adventure or seeing the sights - is generally not a particularly satisfying activity. Ideas and those who hatch them tend not to leave behind things large or attractive enough to ogle. So you may go to a place of great historic value but find nothing worth the visit. Lasbela tract is a case in point. Usually, you are left, if you are lucky, with a plaque or just an intrinsic thought. So I expected, more or less, nothing in Lasbela.

What I got was signs in lieu of plaques, hot wind, remnants of crumbling columns, and a long view of the undergrowth of thorny bushes, some wildflowers, functional Persian wells and rocky hilltops covered with camel and sheep droppings. It was all prosaic and quiet and yet real enough to propel me into another fit of wonder: I was driving on the tract where Alexander and Muhammad Bin Qasim had treaded.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, July 16, 2014, , links to this post

Pleased in Pak Pattan

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Pakpattan - the name is enough to start the travelers, cautiously curious and devoted faithful dreaming. Already the magic words like sultans and saints are stirring in the head. Let your gaze slip over the dhaki - original citadel of Pakpattan - and the town will suddenly appear. The antiquity is its own message: the town is heritage, and heritage permeates the town.

Enter the once walled inner-city through one of the existing gates and you will find yourself in archetypal form of an ancient town - crooked and narrow streets, dense housing, intricate woodwork on Jharokas, bay windows and doors. So many historic cities have developed losing much of their original character in the process during modern times, but Pakpattan has survived remarkably in tact. It is the entire urban fabric of the place that is historic. Though, the major portion of the fortification wall has disappeared. At places, the wall has even been utilized as a part of the residences. Four gates (Shahedi, Rehimun, Abu and Mori) have survived out of six but they are all crumbling. Now extensive suburbs stretch from the foot of the wall all around. Thin red bricks from centuries old wall are seen used in the new houses all over the town. The portion of the settlement that sits on the mound can be compared with walled part of Multan City.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, July 15, 2014, , links to this post

Travel Writing

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Travel writing is a fine art; accepted literary genre that is read. Writers who are gifted with an ability to understand what they see and can breathe life into a place when they narrate their travel experiences. The Internet that is wrongly considered as a pedestal for instantaneous scribbles mixed with emotions and indecipherable abbreviations has already become a place to find some good travel literature, travelogues and travel stories in addition to online trading of travel services. It can be one of the best display places for travel writers to showcase what their countries have to offer.

Travel is prosperity and leisure pursuit, which is a result of many things; history, heritage, culture, natural beauty and a quest to know what is unknown and meet wonderful people.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, July 01, 2014, , links to this post

The mountains

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Climbing the mountain had been on my mind for almost all my life, particularly ever since I did a course in Rock Repelling and trekked some softer mountains up in the North. But I have never climbed K 2 or Nanga Parbat -- icons of Pakistani climbing, as identifiable and as famous as the Mount Everest. I have been pretty close to them, at the distance that seemed nearly close enough to touch their summits. In different capacities, I had lived some of my life in the base camps of these majestic mountains and some others in Northern Pakistan; with mountaineers, explorers and adventurers from all over the world.

Sitting in the base camps, I have seen determined, committed and sponsored climbers arrive at base camps; some less savvy teams taking a look around and going back. Some staying and waiting for the weather breaks that do not come; some even taking a start only to abort and some conquering the mighty mountains. Staying in base camps is important for climbers to give their bodies more time to acclimate to the elevations.

Life at all base camps is almost the same. Mess tents are the best places in the base camps where every one huddles like a living rooms. It usually is a hole climbers dig in the snow or rocks and cover it with tarp or it is a natural cubby hole behind and in between rocks. "You eat and drink (hot tea, coffee) your way to the top," is a way of life with climbers. Climbers get up early in the morning because moving early in the morning is essential for crossing snow bridges that melt in the midday sun.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, June 30, 2014, , links to this post

Who Own Derawar Fort

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The historic Derawar Fort, enormous and impressive structure in the heart of Cholistan desert, is rapidly crumbling and if the immediate preventative measures are not taken, the edifice will be destroyed and the historians, researchers and sightseers deprived of the view of the legacy of the bygone era. Like so many other historic sites in the country, Derawar Fort is yet another sign of old times we are poised to loose forever due to the apathy of those who are responsible for its upkeep and preservation.

Before it disappears, once again, I was on my way to Cholistan: the place that is crucible of one of the world's oldest civilization, where some of the past secrets are hidden, where history is still active.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, May 12, 2014, , links to this post

If only walls spoke

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An important battlefield for centuries, Dipalpur is now a quite and peaceful town. It is situated at the distance of 25 Kilometres from Okara on an old bank of River Beas in Bari Doab. Dipalpur is famous in the history as an outpost that has played a significant part in the defence of Delhi kingdom against Mongol invasions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

History of Dipalpur dates back to ancient times. The coins of Sakas (Scythian) period found on the site suggest that the place was inhabited in 100 (BC). After Multan this is probably the oldest living city in the Subcontinent. General Alexander Cunningham writes that the place figures out in works of Ptolemy under different names. As per the tradition, Dipalpur was named after Raja Dipa Chand once he captured it. Dipalpur once used to be the first fortification in the way from Khyber to Delhi. In 1285, Muhammad Tughlaq son of Emperor Balban was killed in a bloody battle with Mongols and the famous poet Amir Khusuro was taken prisoner in Dipalpur. The dilapidated tomb where Muhammad Tughlaq rests stands neglected in a silent corner of the town, for removed from the noisy haunts of men.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 28, 2014, , links to this post

Chaniot's claim to fame

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Chaniot - the name is enough to start the furniture lovers, travelers and cautiously curious dreaming. Antiquity is the first message of the town. And, international quality furniture "made in Chaniot" is collectors delight with potentials for marketing all over the world.

On the bank of River Chenab in area called Sandal Bar, Chaniot town is an exotic place in the foot of series of hillocks that seem to be man made rather than evidence of old mountains. The town is very ancient. It was inhabited before the time when Alexander of Macedon came in the South Asia and was principal City during the rule of White Huns. Chinese explorer Hiuen Tsiang visited it. Alberuni has mentioned in Kitabul-Hind that Chaniot was one of the there most important places in this part of the world.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 21, 2014, , links to this post

Changing Chitral

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Picturesque Chitral town sits up in Pakistan's northwest district, walled in by the Hindu Kush range. During winters, the only way in is by air (weather permitting) as the two passes, the 3118-meter Lowari from Dir and the 3810-meter Shandur from the upper Gilgit Valley are closed to road traffic. The Fokker Friendships drone for 50 minutes and burst through clouds on decent to reveal on mountains covered with whitecaps and red tin roof houses.


This is Chitral. On the small airfield, the cold wind thrust you to shiver. The remoteness of the district has left it undeveloped in spite of grand natural beauty, hospitable people and ancient history. The town is a base camp for tourists, adventurers and researchers from across the world. And, people seem to be living there in peace.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 14, 2014, , links to this post

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

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Is there anything more beguiling than a true tale of high adventure well told? Stories about places like Pakistan and China sides of Muztang Pass, braving difficult odds under overwhelming conditions in far flung locales, relating to people of Pakistan and Chinese Turkistan who had been in the area centuries ago, can keep anyone glued to The Apricot Road to Yarkand by Salman Rashid.

The Apricot Road to Yarkand is a spellbinding tale of journey from Shigar Valley to Yarkand in the North, over the glaciated Muztagh Pass by Salman Rashid. The author is master of conveying what seems to be going on in his heads in gripping prose that is never clichéd.

First, a word about the author. Salman Salman is Pakistan's foremost travel writer. His passion for writing is matched by his passion for photography. His research, range of visual subjects and narratives make a remarkable and powerful combination. In addition to eight travel books, his work appears in leading English language journals. In The Apricot Road to Yarkand, Salman Rashid has also told how he switched his career in the army to become a full time researcher and a writer. (I keep thinking how Salman Rashid would have been in 'appreciation of tactical situations' on battle grounds if he was still in army?)


Salman Rashid is a historian in the truest sense. He writes from a knowledge standpoint as opposed to a position biased toward the dominant paradigm and its conquests. A moving writer, Salman reminds the heart of its search for power in a world which has forgotten its purpose for existence. As usual, Salman Rashid, 54 when he undertook the journey, delivers a ton of current information all based on historical research. No one else seems to have half the energy of this man. What is more, Salman Rashid is currently translating the book into Urdu language.

In The Apricot Road to Yarkand, Salman Rashid recounts his journey from Shigar Valley to Yarkand and he does so in frank and honest terms. Result of sixteen years of dreaming about everything that sits on the historic route from Baltistan to Yarkand, The Apricot Road to Yarkand is an epic to the essence of exploring mighty
mountains, but it is also about of the cultural, geological, and biological make up of mountains, people of that area, human behavior in difficult situations, and history; and about joy of  watching purple-gray clouds spreading out like an atmospheric ocean in all directions as far as the eye can see.

Alan Hovaness once wrote, "Mountains are symbols of mankind's search for God," and Allen Ginsberg told us, "Things are symbols for themselves." In The Apricot Road to Yarkand, Salman Rashid allows the mountains to be symbols of the seeking soul and at the same time symbols of themselves - they are encountered as we internalize them in our quest, and they are encountered as they really are: cold, hard, lonely, mighty and sometime hazardous.


The Apricot Road to Yarkand inspires its readers to explore the less explored areas and experience for themselves what only a few had the fortune to discover. Well-written and wonderfully presented, the book is a must read for anyone remotely interested in mountains, adventures or for those who want to find out why a chunk of land was handed over to our best friends. I highly recommend it.

Fellow of Royal Geographical Society, Salman Rashid is author of eight books including jhelum: City of the Vitasta.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, December 21, 2013, , links to this post

Shifting Sher Garh

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An old sleepy and dusty village Sher Garh lies about 20 minutes drive away from Renala Khurd (Okara). The coins found at Sher Garh prove that the place was inhabited at the time of Kushan dynasty. Though “the name Sher Garh was given by the Governor of Molten, Faith Jang Khan after the name of Afghan King Sher Shah Sure,” wrote Abbas Khan Sarauni in his book Tarikh Sher Shah Suri.

On the old bank of River Beas, it is a typical Pakistani village where farmers live like rustics in the face of urban attractions. Even the electricity and telephone are a recent phenomenon. But the village has never been out of limelight. Besides heritage conscious people from all over the world, the village is venerated by a large number of devotees. Reasons, a massive mud fort and mosque which were built in the period of Afghan Sher Shah Suri. And, it is the last resting place of Saint Muhammad Ibrahim Daud-e-Sani Kirmani Bandgi.If one wants to absorb the sense of history, Sher Garh is a place to visit. Director Syed Noor has set his film Chooriyan in the background of this village. One has to possess a sensibility shaped in granite not to be moved by the village of past age that has not changed much in last 400 years. In the periphery few van (salvadora) trees, may be as old as the village stand witness to the bygone era. The village is experienced changed due to awareness about various things and agricultural advancements but at a snail speed.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, November 27, 2013, , links to this post

Fruit Basket From Pashin

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Visit Pishin at this time of the year and one finds thousands of acres of fruit orchards. The rich harvest of apples, grapes, plums, peaches and apricots is seen every where. I discovered the area, and the taste of the fruit, during my stay at the School of Infantry and Tactics, Quetta when we used to walk miles and miles for training maneuvers. It is still the same.

Legend attributes the origin of the name Pishin to a son of the Emperor Afrasiab. Until the middle of the 18 th century, when Quetta finally passed into the hands of Brahvi rulers, the history of Pishin is identical with the province of Kandahar. The earliest mention of Pishin is found in the ancient writing in which "Pishinorha" is described as a valley in an elevated part of the country and containing a barren level plain.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, November 06, 2013, , links to this post

To Carry the Dust to Multan

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Shrine Shah Rukn-e-Alam
Standing in Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh - accumulated debris of ages - one can think of Alexander the Great, Muhammad Bin Qasim, Saints, Mystics, Sultans, Gardezis, Gilanis, Qureshis, and Khawanis. But what you see is the ageing town hall and Ghanta Ghar, Hussain Agahi chowk - Hide Park of Multan - with the nerve jarring rattle of auto rickshaws, tangle of tonga and donkey carts vying for space with mechanical transport, vendors and shoppers, blaring music of audio video music centers and second hand cloths (landa) hung on the walls.

A city of monuments, Multan has been around for centuries. History of Multan dates back to ancient times. As per the legend, its origin is assigned to the time of Hazrat Noah (A S). Under the various Hellenic forms of ancient designations (Kasyapapura, Kashtpur, Hanspur, Bagpur and Mulasthan) Multan figures into works of Hecataeus, Herodotus and Ptolemy. It has been an empire, a kingdom, a province, a state, a capital and now a divisional headquarters.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, November 04, 2013, , links to this post

Mountain Might

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Pakistan Urdu Science Board textbook defines earth surface “13000 feet above sea level as mountains. Areas that are 9840 feet above their surroundings are also mountainous.” Much more than travel, recreation and adventurous destinations, mountains are natural resource reservoirs that help to sustain life on the planet earth. Nature has blessed our country with rich mountain terrain.



Nowhere in the world is concentration of high mountains, peaks, glaciers, clean water lacks (full of trout and romantic legend attached to them) and passes except in Pakistan. Of the 14 over 8,000 meters high peaks on our earth planet, four occupy an amphitheatre at the head of Baltoro glacier in the Karakorum Range: K-2 (this year Pakistan is celebrating fiftieth anniversary when man first conquered the world’s second highest - 8,611 meters – peak half century ago), Gasherbrum-I (8,068 meters), Broad Peak (8,047 meters) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 meters). There is yet another great mountain, Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters), located at the western side of the Himalayas. Moreover, there are 68 peaks over 7,000 meters and hundreds others over 6,000 meters in Pakistan.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, October 30, 2013, , links to this post

Every Rose Has Its Thorns

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While most of my friends were having a great weekend, I was taking a trip to explore the lush green plains of Punjab, riding my trusted old motorbike on Band Patri (track along the bank) of Lower Bari Doab Canal (LBDC). Many new and interesting things came in the way, which normally remain hidden from commuters on the National Highway or travellers in the area. The countryside embraces you with lovely colours, atmosphere, people and bits and pieces of history. And, there is no hassle anywhere in the way.

As spring approaches, the traveller, especially in the irrigated tracts, ride through endless expanses of waving crops of different shades of colour, out of which the villages seem to rise like islets in an ocean of green.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, October 21, 2013, , links to this post

Power Station of the Past

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Situated on the bank of river Ravi on Okara Faisalabad Road Gogera was once an important and dignified town in the plans of Central Punjab. It is reduced to a shabby and sleepy suburb of Okara today. Town still boasts its importance when it was important British power centre and district headquarters from 1852 to 1865 and the part played by the resilient people of the area during War of Independence in 1857. The stories of the war that was fought around Gogera echo in the pages of history books.

The only historic building -- a British court -- that reminds of the colonial period has been converted into a school. The verandas of the old building with round arches have been clogged to create additional rooms and red thin bricks are covered with coats of whitewash. It was much better if the building could have been conserved in its original shape. That does not seem possible now.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, September 04, 2013, , links to this post

'Tera Dera Ya Mera Dera'

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There were many things on my schedule when I travelled from Multan to Quetta by road instead of rail: to see the tomb of Ghazi Khan, to visit famous Fort Monro and familiarize myself with this less travelled rout to Quetta.

For those who take their chance for the first time to the city, it might sound too good to be true but Dera Ghazi Khan (D G Khan) in the past was known as Dera Phullan Da Sehra — ‘land of flowers’. “The canal skirted its eastern side, fringed with luxurious gardens of mango trees, while ghats lined the bank, thronged in summer by numerous bathers.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, August 07, 2013, , links to this post

Bolan Pass

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Owais Mughal



One of the greatest Engineering feats of British rule in India was to lay a railway track through the famous Bolan Pass. More than a century old, this railway track still generates an awe among rail enthusiasts all over the world.

Orders or a feasibility survey of Bolan Pass Railway were first issued by the British Government in 1876. Work on the construction of railways through the Pass started in 1880 but was stopped after laying of only 31 km track due to the occurrence of famous 'battle of Maiwind' in the area. Work restarted in 1885 by rapidly laying a rail track in the bed of river Bolan and finally a steam locomotive rolled into Quetta via Bolan Pass in August of 1886.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, July 02, 2013, , links to this post

Mandi Bahauddin Mein

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Originally Mandi Bahauddin was a village called as Chak number 51. It started expanding after the completion of Rasul Hydroelectric Power Station on Upper Jhelum Canal in 1901. Today, Mandi Bahauddin is an over crowded market town famous for its agricultural markets (Grain Market, Vegetable Market and Livestock Market) and local industry of making colourful bed legs.

The name Mandi Bahauddin originates from two sources: Mandi (market) was prefixed because it was a flourishing grain market and Bahauddin was borrowed from nearby old village Pindi Bahauddin, which has now become part of the town. After the partition, thousands of refugees from India rehabilitated on the evacuee property of Sikh and Hindu landlords. Lately, after the construction of Rasul Barrage, people from the belt along southern edge of Salt Range up to Pind Dadan Khan and other areas across the River Jhelum came settling in the town. Due to migrations and increase in business activities, the town has expanded in all directions. The result is that more than half of the population is living outside municipal limits without any civic amenities. More unplanned localities and kachi abadies are coming up everyday. The tendency to move from rural areas to urban centres is on the increase.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, May 14, 2013, , links to this post

Living in a fort

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Discover Odysseus Lahori - Pakistan's Top Travel Blog

Historic Baltit Fort is at a short walk from Karimabad. Around 700 years old castle has been rebuilt a number of times during the centuries it has seen. The present structure was constructed some 600 years ago and the architecture reflects a marked Tibetan influence. The story goes that a Princess from Baltistan married the local Thum and she brought in Balti masons, carpenters and craftsmen to build it and it. According to local legends, 300 labourers for the construction of the Fort were also part of the royal dowry of the Princess from Baltistan. In former times this impressive fort ensured the survival of Hunza regimes. But even before the Fort is reached, the old cobbled streets of Baltit village spanned by easily defensible archways seem to provide enough of a deterrent to all but the boldest of intruders. Within the fort itself, narrow stairs with a small opening into the living quarters on the first floor are features, which must have helped ensure that the ruling Thum stayed out of harms way.


The Fort stands on a natural citadel of a hillock overlooking the Valley and makes a fine vintage point to view high peaks that surrounds the Valley. While there is a splendid observation of Hunza from the Thums’ balcony on the first floor, the best view is from the roof, which is gained after an equally guarded ascent. There were excellent views even at night: the village lights and the stars overhead all seem mixed up. There are 53 rooms in the Fort. The designers extensively used wood during construction. The intricate woodwork on windows, doors, columns and railings is testimony to the artistic expertise of those who executed the work. The Fort served as residence of Hunza rulers until they abandoned it and shifted their residence to another fort down the valley.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, May 13, 2013, , links to this post

Alexander's Navel Station

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Name Jhelum reminds of Alexander from Macedonian who came to the South Asia sometime in 326 BC. He moved from Taxila of Raja Ambhi, whom he subdued without fight, to Kalar Kahar. From there he moved over the Salt Range, turning left, along the western bank of River Jhelum, which he called Hydaspes. He encamped in area of present village Darapur (a monument is under construction at the site of the camp). Opposite him on the other bank was a Raja Porus. They fought Alexander’s biggest Indian battle which Alexander won, achieving a masterly surprise against the valiant Rajput.

Before moving further, along the River Alexander established a village on west bank of the River and ordered construction of 2000 boats. Greek Admiral Nearches was to arrange wood from nearby higher hills which would be floated down the River and hauled up at this point. He called this village as Boucephila (Present Jhelum city). The Jhelum River passes vying with the residential areas of the city. The mosque inside the river is a famous landmark most commuters on the Grand Trunk Road see even today.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 22, 2013, , links to this post


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