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Lahore: Badshahi Mosque
Stoning the Badshahi Mosque’s environment
By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE, June 20: The Punjab Archeology Department is fixing red sand stones in the courtyard of the historic Badshahi Mosque despite the fact the stones lack water absorption and develop depressions due to water accumulation by the time. The department will spend Rs36.44 million on the renovation of the 45 per cent of the courtyard.
Archeology Department officials say the mosque’s original flooring in the 16th century was of bricks. The original floor is still intact. In the 60s when the bricks were found decaying, the layers of red sand stone were put on the original flooring for renovation. Red sand stones were fixed on the original floor just to create harmony between the minarets and the prayer chamber of the mosque as they are also made of red sand stones.
The Mughals, however, preferred bricks over red stones for flooring because they were environmental friendly and did not decay by water accumulation.
Red sand stones get too hot in summer and one cannot walk barefoot on it.
Officials said red sand stones were bought in the 80s for future uses and the department is using stones from the old stock.
The ongoing renovation is a three-year project which started in 2006-07 and would be concluded in 2008-09 if the department get promised funds from the Auqaf Department. So far, of Rs36.44 million, Rs3.1 million has been spent on the project, said an official from Punjab Archeology Department.
Archeology Department officials say the department had floated many proposals to avoid red sand stone. They suggested marble for the courtyard instead of red sand stone. But the proposal could not be implemented since the marble was to be imported from Italy. The second proposal was about restoring the original pattern of the courtyard but the department had plenty of red sand stones and wanted to utilise it. Officials also proposed marbled-walkways from the main entrance to the prayer chambers to save people from the hotness of the stone but the proposal was also rejected. Now, rugs have been laid from the gate to the prayer chamber. Whenever water is sprinkled on the rugs, the stones cannot absorb it.
Once the monsoon sets in, the rehabilitation and renovation work will be lost. Now, another proposal to install makeshift wooden planks from the main gate to the prayer chamber is being considered.
A Punjab Archeology Department official told Dawn that by fixing red sand stone money could be saved but the deterioration would continue. About after two decades, red sand stones will have to be replaced because of their lack of water absorption. He demanded either the department restore original flooring or fix marbles so that one could avoid repeated renovations of red sand stone.
By Sehar Sheikh
It is not without any reason that Lahore is known as ‘the city of gardens’. Move across the city and you will actually feel greenery around you. Though some commercial areas do give a Karachi-like industrial look, other than those Lahore is a city of greenery and gardens.
It was not only the Mughals who adored Lahore with Shalimar Gardens, the British too did their bit to add to the turf of the city. So in 1862, Sir John Lawrence, the British viceroy to India established the Lawrence Gardens (now renamed as Bagh-i-Jinnah) covering a whooping area of 112 acres.
Before describing Bagh-i-Jinnah itself, let me tell you a bit about its location which is very beautiful in itself. If you walk east from Charing Cross to Bagh-i-Jinnah, you come across Governor House which is located near Bagh-i-Jinnah. Two five star hotels are at a walking distance from Bagh-i-Jinnah. And above all, to children’s interest, Lahore Zoo, which is one of the finest zoos of the country, is at a stone’s throw from this garden.
Bagh-i-Jinnah is a place that has room for people of both genders and all ages. For kids, it has an amusement park which has swings and slides. Though there are not any electrical joy rides, the feel of swinging in the serenity of green garden is exotic. For boys, there is a very famous cricket ground that was built for the entertainment of government officers and civil servants. Those who like to visit shrines of holy saints; there is a shrine of a Sufi Baba Turat Murad Shah. Qawalis are normally played here and a large number of visitors are found offering Fateha at the shrine.
Even the nerds have something for their interest here. Yes, Bagh-i-Jinnah houses two libraries; two very big libraries, in fact. The Quaid-i-Azam library and Dar-us-Salam library are very famous libraries and have thousands of books on almost every subject. The membership fee is very nominal but you have to be a graduate to become a member of the Quaid-i-Azam library. Bagh-i-Jinnah has a ladies club, a tennis club, a mosque and a restaurant in it as well. For the students of Botany, Bagh-i-Jinnah again is an interesting place because it has many botanical gardens too. Government College Univer-sity has set up a very large botanical garden here. More-over, throughout the park there are very old trees of various varieties including some very rare ones in the world.
The best time to visit Bagh-i-Jinnah is early morning. The trails provide you the best path for jogging and the fresh air cooled down by greenery all around refreshes you. But some people, who love the sunset more than the sunrise, visit the park in the evenings. It looks mesmerising in the evenings when park lights are switched on and the fountains and waterfalls splash water, the park gives a very romantic view.
For outsiders, Bagh-i-Jinnah cannot be recommended as a must visit place unless they are more than interested in spending time in lush green gardens. However, if you plan to visit the Lahore Zoo, then do pay a visit to Bagh-i-Jinnah as well. But for residents of Lahore, it is unfair if they don’t spend few hours every now and then in the serenity of this beautiful garden.
Lahore: Coffee House and Tea House
An intellectual par excellence
By Intizar Hussain
CULTURALLY speaking, the importance of the post-partition Lahore of the ‘40s and 50s cannot be understood without discussing the then famous Coffee House, and the Coffee House cannot be understood without discussing Riaz Qadir. He was primarily an intellectual who was always found at a particular table in the Coffee House. Those who chose to share a cup of coffee with him soon found themselves listening to his long talk on a certain contemporary intellectual problem.
I feel compelled to stress this dominant aspect of his personality for the reason that last week I chanced to attend a literary meeting at which participants were discussing him purely as a poet without any reference to his intellectual preoccupation and to his role as a coffee houser. In fact, the credit for discovering him as a poet goes to a young poet, Eraj Mubarik, who happens to be his ardent admirer. He has of late dug out a lost collection of Riaz Qadir’s Urdu verses from the library of his late father Mubarik Ahmad. This collection entitled Karb-i-Nishat was published in 1979 soon after Riaz Qadir’s death, who passed away at the age of 59 on March 10, 1979. Unfortunately the printed volume remained undistributed perhaps because of the inexperience of his family members who could n’t quite manage the book’s printing and distribution.
Eraj Mubarik in his excitement carefully prepared a few photocopies of the volume and distributed them among writers and serious readers of poetry. He then invited them to a meeting arranged in memory of Riaz Qadir.
This volume carries a long preface written by Hafeez Jallundri. I’m not sure if Riaz Qadir had given his approval to use the piece as the preface to his volume, though Hafeez Sahib is all praise for his poetry and goes to the extent of comparing his poetic talent to that of Ghalib. But he betrays his intention to patronise him because of his respect for Riaz’s illustrious father Sir Abdul Qadir. And that was the last thing Riaz Qadir could digest.
Riaz Qadir was quite haughty. He had an independent mind which was conscious of his individuality. He tried to make sure that his thinking should not be influenced by his father’s, and that he must not draw any benefit from his father’s high position. He felt most offended when he would be introduced to someone as the ‘son’ of Sir Abdul Qadir.
India Coffee House, later known as Zelin’s Coffee Housers, had its own charm. A few souls from the Coffee House had developed a penchant for daily long sittings with friends. But Riaz Qadir made himself prominent by always being in his corner. Of course in the early years of Pakistan he had one engagement outside the Coffee House, that of English news reading on Radio Pakistan. So for an hour or so he would be found absent from his corner. But he soon got rid of this engagement. Now he was found sitting from morning till late evening stuck to his table talking brilliantly on topics such as free verse, abstract paintings, and Freud’s psychology for the benefit of his friends who liked to join him over a cup of coffee and listen to his intellectual discourse.
Off and on he would also be seen reciting his verses but only when urged by the writers acompanying him. But he never claimed to be a poet nor did he ever give the impression of being deeply involved in poetic activity, though he wrote poetry in English and Urdu. During his years of friendship with Nasir Kazmi he also took out a literary journal Auraq-i-Nau. But this literary involvement was quite short-lived. In later years Nasir Kazmi, with his expanding circle of admirers, felt compelled to migrate from the Coffee House to the Tea House, depriving Riaz Qadir of his company.
The Tea House and the Coffee House were two separate worlds. Only a few souls such as Shakir Ali, Safdar Mir, and Enver Jalal Shemza felt equally at home at both places. But the other Coffee Housers were too deeply committed to their favourite haunt. So when the Coffee House was finally closed, they did not care to opt for the Tea House or to settle in the Cheneys Restaurant, which was adjacent to the Coffee House. They just dispersed.
The closure of the Coffee House proved catastrophic to Riaz Qadir, after which he gave the impression of being a rolling stone. He did try to settle in the Tea House. But soon he sensed that it was not hospitable enough to accommodate him.
The fact is that in spite of his acquaintance and friendly relations with a number of writers, Riaz Qadir had never wished to mingle with the literary crowd. He off and on attended the meetings of the Halqa and even presided over a few of them, but never read any of his poetic work at these meetings. Nor did he care to get his works published in journals. So it is only now that we have the chance to see his verses in the form of a collection. In fact, he lacked that passion for poetry which makes one a poet. So the verses included in the present volume are a byproduct of his intellectual preoccupation. Riaz Qadir was not born to be a poet. He was an intellectual par excellence.
Lahore:The demise of Pak Tea House
By Intizar Hussain
THINK of a gentle soul serving as a waiter and carrying in that capacity the burden of a whole tradition on his shoulders with none around him to share that burden. Such was the position of Rafi, a waiter in Tea House. He may be regarded a tail-ender of the long array of waiters, who formed part of the restaurant culture flourishing at the Mall Road in the past decades.
It is now a vanishing culture leaving behind in the end two restaurants, which were desperately fighting for their survival against the heavy odds of fast growing commercialisation. The one was Shezan, which had already lost its other wing known as Shezan Continental. The other was our renowned Pak Tea House. The former, with no fault of its own, had to pay the price for the sin of the Danish cartoonists. The angry protesters set it on fire reminding one of Ghalib’s line:
Chak tau karta hoon main apna gariban hi sahi.
Now it stands ruined with memories of innumerable literary sittings buried under its debris.
Tea House was then left alone to fight for its survival. But, to our misfortune, the last waiter carrying on this fight fell ill and breathed his last. God bless Rafi, who served us long, winning the favour of all sitting here. With his passing away came the final closure of Tea House and the end of the tradition I am talking about. The proprietor Zahid told me. “Rafi had taken upon himself the responsibility to run Tea House. he has passed away, while I have no energy left for running this failed business.”
What he politely avoided to say was that he has no more patience left with for the present literary crowd, which appeared to him so different from the writers he had been dealing with in previous decades.
So the Mall of Lahore is now a different world with no restaurants on any corner of this road. Of course, across the road, where the newly-closed Tea House and the long-closed Coffee House and Cheney’s restaurant stand, a food street has cropped up. This event may be taken as symbolic telling a lot about the changed culture not only of the Mall but of Lahore as a whole. It is a shift from food for thought to the food for the stomachs. Thoughts and ideas can well be discussed over a cup of tea. Those sitting on a dinner table have no stomach for the battle of ideas. Food streets are the new products Lahore is now known for.
I nostalgically remember the Mall during the fifties when, from Charring Cross to Bhangion ki Taup, it appeared studded with a chain of restaurants, each with something special associated with it. The little spot stretching from the turn of Purani Anarkali to YMCA building, we had a bunch of restaurants, Nagina Bakery, Deans Restaurant, Cheney’s Restaurant, India Coffee House later named as Telia’s Coffee House, Pak Tea House. And adjacent to it was YMCA restaurant.
Nagina Bakery was the favourite haunt of scholars coming mostly from the Punjab University. But perhaps its most regular visitor and punctual in his timings was Maulana Salahuddin Ahmad.
Coffee House was accommodative to a variety of groups belonging to different walks of life, artists, journalists, pleaders and intellectuals at large. Most prominent was the table occupied by journalists such as Maulana Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Sorish Kashmiri, Abdullah Butt. But I will like to associate this corner more to Riaz Qadar than to anyone else.
Daily he reached there punctually at the opening time and left it in the evening at the time of its closure. He talked brilliantly on topics ranging from abstract art to free verse, and from free verse to exist entialism. But what was disturbing for his listeners was the fact that he spoke non-stop giving no respite to his listeners. There was no bar on joining his table except one that the man will not dare to make any reference to his illustrious father Sir Abdulqadar. The rebel son hated to be acknowledged as Chashm-au-Chiragh of a distinguished father.
After the closure of the Coffee House Riaz Qadar appeared to be a lost soul. In those days of hopelessness, it was only once that he, accompanied by Ahmad Pervaiz, staged an entry in Tea House. It was a rare occasion in the sense that he kept quite, giving free rein to the imagination of Ahmad Pervaiz.
Riaz Qadar rightly sensed that Tea House cannot serve for him as an alternative to Coffee House. After this visit, he never cared to make a second one.
While walking in the direction of Charring Cross we came across a string of restaurants, Guardinia, Blue Star, Standard, Shiraz, Shezan Oriental, Shezan Continental, Lords. Let me take a pause here. While talking of Lords, I am reminded of a group of friends, Nasir Kazmi, Sajjad Baqar Rizvi and Munir Sheikh sitting round a table and discussing literature. Sajjad Baqar was never tired of explaining to us Eliot’s concept of tradition vis-a-vis individuality. Literature appeared to be a matter of life and death for him in those years. But that is true in the case of most of the writers, who were seen sitting in these restaurants. With their dedication to the cause of literature, or some such ideal, they were content to have a cup of tea before them. They hardly cared for a full meal.
This restaurant culture had a touch of idealism injected in it by the devoted souls sitting there with a cup of tea before them. How could it survive in times swayed by commercialisation. So no wonder if that culture has vanished. What is amazing is the fact that we have still souls among us stubbornly wishing for a corner away from populous food streets where they can just sit, talk and discuss ideas over a cup if tea. In their stubbornness lies the hope for this city.
Zooming in on Lahore’s bazaars
Amal Fatima Uppal takes you on a tour of all that is fancy and fabulousShopping is like eating out. Some prefer a buffet — a vast array of shops to pick and choose from. Others stick to ala carte — walk into a shop knowing exactly what they want. But however you approach it, shopping is as rewarding an experience as eating, maybe even more gratifying. And that’s even truer if you’re shopping in Lahore.
If you were taking friends around Lahore and want to take them shopping, the first place that comes to mind is definitely Anarkali — the ancient bazaar, also known as Aladdin’s cave to the shoppers of Lahore. Anything and everything can be found here and everything you find anywhere else in the city can be found at least ten rupees cheaper here. True the merchandise is a bit on the gaudy side, but if one picks and chooses carefully, one can come back with something truly amazing.
Of course, if you’re already looking for tinselly, gaudy stuff then you don’t need to look any further! Spangles, stars, sequins, chamkis, everything and anything that glitters can be found on any and every item from kitchenware to cloth! Readymade, perfect replicas of designer wedding gowns, Lollywood extravaganza — anything can be found in Anarkali.
And yes, bangles! You can find all kinds of these, mainly ones with glittery glop stuck all over them; however, by searching carefully through the sparking jungle you will find some simple plain glass ones too. But why bother; after all you’re in Lahore and true Lahorites love it bright and sparkling.
Following closely in popularity to Anarkali is Liberty. True to its name, it really makes its shoppers feel liberated from their daily grind as both men and women forget themselves in a world of wonder. You have your typical shops that have all the stuff you find in other markets but the specialties of Liberty are shoes, jewellery and knick knacks.
You want authentic henna? You go to Liberty. You want perfectly designed outfits copied from the catalogues of Armani and Gucci? You go to Liberty. You want some weird shoe with a pointed front that curls and has fur all over it covered with sequins? You go to Liberty!
Step into Dolcies and you won’t need to go to those branded stores for you’ll find the same merchandise, and much cheaper too! So unless you plan on exhibiting your shoes’ price tag at your little kitty-party-aunty lunches and teas, go to Liberty!
Oh and of course, there is the jewellery that is truly spectacular. No, I'm not talking about the typical gold and silver stuff. Yes, you do find those there as well, but I’m talking about the beautiful inlaid, and semi-precious stone-encrusted hair clasps, chunky rings and bracelets, waist chains and anklets in the most gorgeous designs. In fact, these places make a hair pin look like a piece of art!
Another thing Liberty is quite famous for is a variety of hair oils. They can be found in tiny shops hidden away in nooks and corners, and the shopkeeper actually feels your hairs’ texture and mixes up different oils to give you the perfect blend for your kind of hair! Talk about special service!
Liberty has a large variety of fabrics and clothes but one of the main attractions are the khusaas. Uff! Every colour and every kind from the simplest to the funkiest are found in a place women make a beeline for – the Dupatta Gali. You simply can’t come to Lahore and not go to Liberty! It’s practically a sin!
Cloth, cloth and more cloth! That’s all I have to say! You don’t find anything there except cloth and you can get lost among the sellers who are busy calling out to attract potential buyers. They have a large range of seductive lines to lure women into buying their wares!
Ichhra is brilliant for bed linen, drapes and all kinds of upholstery. You simply choose the type of cloth you want for upholstery and give it for sewing according to your specifications, in fact the shopkeeper will be happy to guide you regarding the latest fashion as well.
Masoom’s — which is actually a coffee shop located in a plaza known now as the ‘Masoom’s plaza’ — is the best place to go to if you’re into trendy clothes. Everything that can be hauled in from Singapore, Thailand and Bangkok is found in there. You will come across many items that carry the labels of Prada, Gucci, Dior, Armani, etc, and some of it is actually genuine, or so the shopkeepers say. You can find mini skirts and tank tops, party dresses and even elaborate burkas in the depths of Masoom’s shopping plaza.
Last but definitely not the least is the Defence Gol Market! It’s very similar to Pace, which again is similar to the mega malls found in the main cities, so I don’t think I need to describe it much. Throw in a handful of stores such as Crossroads, Stone Age, D3, Gravity, Hot Sense, etc. and you have enough places to keep shopping for years to come.
There you go people. I just gave you a whiff of what Lahore’s shopping havens have to offer. It’s like walking past a kebab joint and sniffing the air. You just can’t help but want to dive right in and get your hands on the yummy stuff. In the same way, when passing a market or visiting a new place, you just can’t help but have the urge to shop, even if it is window shopping. But in many shopping centres it really doesn’t matter how much you can afford because there’s something for everyone. So raid your husband’s, daddy’s or your own wallet, and indulge in a day devoted to Lahore’s finest shopping addas! Bon shopping!
Lahore: Cucoo’s Den
Heart Of The Old City
Located in what is arguably a shady part of the old city, Cucoo’s Den is part art gallery, part private residence of a famous artist, and part restaurant, writes Saima Shakil Hussain
They have a saying in Lahore, which (when translated) goes something like this: ‘They who have not seen Lahore, have not seen the world.’ I couldn’t agree more; but I would also append to that: ‘And those who haven’t eaten at Cucoo’s Den, have not been to Lahore.’
In fact, if you are able to eat out only once in Lahore — which is actually a crime in a city as hospitable as this one — make sure it’s at Cucoo’s Den. The concept behind this venture is truly inspired. Located in what is arguably a shady part of the old city, the building is part art gallery, part private residence of Iqbal Hussain, the artist, and part restaurant.
The interior has clearly been enhanced to make the ambience as historical-looking as possible — and also somewhat gothic. The many prominently displayed religious relics — from temple bells to a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary, serve as a strong signal that the venue is owned and managed by an all-embracing humanist.
While one can choose a table at the ground floor, for the complete Cucoo experience one must ascend to the rooftop via a narrow stairway.
Some dyed-in-the-wool Lahorites admitted to me that the only thing which has so far prevented them from visiting the eatery that out-of-towners rave about is its daunting set of stairs. Admittedly, they are a little steep and a few too many, and the confined space is bound to affect those who suffer bouts of claustrophobia. But the trick is the usual — don’t look down and keep going till you get to the rooftop.
And what a rooftop it is. There are no words to describe the view from here; indeed memories of it still give me goose bumps. On our left was the majestic Badshahi Mosque which was beautifully lit-up on a pitch-dark November night. Next to it, one could glimpse the imposing Lahore Fort. And on our right was the ‘Shahi Mauhalla’, alternately known as Heera Mandi or simply the red light district in Lahore. Unfortunately our view of this famed neighbourhood was limited to its numerous rooftops which were, as far as the eye could see, all adorned with black allums and metallic punjaas.
As engrossing and awe-inspiring as the scenery was, the menu was handed to us and we quickly got down to the business of food — the business of Pakistani food that is. From its famed tawa chicken to the brain masala and variety of kababs, there was nothing found lacking here. And it was all served piping hot despite the cool outdoor temperature. There is even a large assortment of bread; we tried the tandoori roti and tandoori paratha but voted unanimously in favour of the incredible roghni naan.
Tawa chicken. Depending on the dim lighting available to us, and our taste buds of course, we tried very hard to decipher the spices used to create this luscious meal which tastes nothing like any chicken tikka, tandoori chicken or bihari chicken that is featured on most menus. There was a strong presence of lemon, a complete lack of yogurt and a lot of what tasted like a generous, dry rub of ground cumin and coriander seeds mixed with roughly chopped hara masala. It was very flavourful but not spicy, and the same was true for the reshmi kabab we had ordered.
It is interesting to note that when this restaurant first opened over 10 years ago, all the food came from the many vendors in the vicinity known for its mouthwatering specialities. Now most of the food is prepared on location, though some items still come from there. How the food makes it all the way up to the rooftop is another interesting story. Look closely and you will notice platters of food being pulled up with the help of strong ropes and pulleys.
I am told that at first it was hard to get many to come so far into the old city for a meal but then, all of a sudden, the idea really took off about five to six years ago. Now it’s a good idea to call in advance to reserve a table on the coveted rooftop. The cost per head came to Rs500 which was very reasonable considering the delicious food, efficient service and, of course, the breathtaking view.