Since my move to Lahore, I have been super fortunate to be able to visit and explore the abundance of history and architecture known as the “Walled City of Lahore”. A while ago the awesome team behind Discovering Beautiful Pakistan reached out to me wondering if I’d be interested in a local tour. Initially, I completely forgot about it however when my friend Anushay visited Lahore, we seized the opportunity to embark on a magical tour of the Walled City of Lahore. No picture could do justice to the beauty of historic Mughal architecture, but I promise to try my best to make this as interesting as I possibly can! Before I begin my adventure, a huge shout out to Waleed and Arzam (the team behind DBP) who made this tour an experience of a lifetime. If any of you are interested in a tour of Lahore or even northern Pakistan (think Gilgit-Baltistan/ KPP), I would highly recommend checking out their page for regular group tours or getting in touch with them for something more tailor-made.
Our tour was scheduled to begin at 11 AM but of course, we were all running late, therefore we began our walk through the endless escapades of the “Lahore Fort”/ Shahi Qilla. It was super cold and windy but we pulled our garma garam coats and winter wear out and were tayyar for a day of fun!
Lahore Fort was built in the 11th century and was earlier ruled by Mongols, the Delhi Sultanate and several rulers until it was captured in 1526 by the Mughal Emperor, Babur. These pictures were taken in the Diwan-i-Aam (built by the infamous Mughal ruler, Shah Jahan), a public hall where emperors would interact with commoners. The 40 pillar hall is inspired by Persian architecture and overlooks the never-ending grass fields of the Shalimar Bagh. Matlab, can you imagine what a spectacle this must have been with your Mughlai Badshah‘s peering over at aam log (such as you and I) from a raised balcony!
Also part of the Lahore Fort complex, the Diwan-i-Khaas (covered in huge windows as pictured above) was where emperors dealt with khaas log such as official state matters and guests were entertained. No raised balcony to be seen here!
The Lahore fort consists of several monuments within one complex. Some of the most interesting pieces of art and architectural details can be found on the walls and rooftops of the infrastructures within the Walled city.
One of my favorite buildings within the Walled City had to be the uber-romantic, Sheesh Mahal. Adorned in delicate mirrors that reflect a dancing shimmer all over, the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) is known as one of the most majestic palaces from the Mughal era. The breathtaking palace was constructed by Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, when one night she awoken from a dream where she could touch the stars! In order to make his beloved wife’s a reality, the Sheesh Mahal was created, taking you to a scene right out of a cheesy, unrealistic as f*ck Bollywood romance where the hero ALWAYS gets the girl!
Aesa pyaar aaj kal milta hai kya? Humey tou phool nai milta… yahan Mumtaz Mahal ko sheesho ka mahal milla... Wherefore art thou 21st Century Shah Jahan?
After our elaborate walk through the Lahore fort, we hopped on to a Rangeela Rickshaw and made our way to Badshahi Masjid! The wind was crazy so I stuck with my shareef aurat look, that you honestly do not get to see much at all, and kept my shawl on for the rest of the ride! Offh Lahori winters can really get to you, nai?
Another classic example of Mughal architecture, the Badshahi Masjid was built by emperor Aurangzeb in 1671. These guys really couldn’t get enough of their splendours and just went on with their dreamy and art adorned architecture. The masjid is decorated with red sandstone and detailed with white marble, majestic chandeliers and fresco art walls that left us all with our jaws wide open kyunke aese cheezain harr jaga dekhne ko nahein miltein!
After crossing Delhi Gate, we ventured into the “Shahi Hammam”, also known as the Wazir Khan Hammam. Once again inspired by Persian culture, the Hammam is completely illuminated by several openings and windows making it light up even as the sun began to set. The Hammam, consistent with Mughal architecture and their fancy, fancy ghusal khaaana also features fresco artwork within the domes and walls of the infrastructure. This form of art was very popular amongst Mughal emperors and can be seen extensively in architecture from their era. They didn’t use this separate bath of theirs as much and eventually it got used for other purposes until it was restored and named a heritage side by UNESCO.
Generally, the Walled City of Lahore is made up of several patli patli galliyan that wind between buildings. However, Surjan Singh Gali, also know as “Narrow Street” is a recognised UNESCO heritage street, infamous for how compact and thin it is. It is currently a residential complex, right off the popular Spice Bazaar and Old Havelis that are now disguised as regular buildings. The street is so thin that we couldn’t even walk side by side in pairs..
Wazir Khan Masjid
Our final stop of the tour was the stunning Wazir Khan Masjid located quite near to the Shahi Hammam. Featuring Shah Jahan’s most notorious style of artwork, kashi kari detailed tile art work, the mosque was still under restoration construction so most of it had been covered up. Aside from the architecture, our guides got us some delicious tandoori naans, one with qeema and one plain. It was the perfect end to the day as we sat huddled up inside the masjid and enjoyed the sunset with garma garam snacks.
We paid a total of Rs. 2,500 per person for the tour which included all passes, the rickshaw rent, snacks and everything else on the way!
To be honest, I haven’t been fortunate enough to see most of our truly beautiful country abundant not only in art and architecture but also food, culture and nature amongst many things. Also, this was my first solo, group tour without any family with and I truly had an amazing experience, as well as got to make some really great friends along the way too. I hope this is the first of many adventures to be had in Pakistan! Till then, peace out.