Walled City of Lahore

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Androon Shehar Lahore or Old Lahore is the heart of Lahore. Its cultural property is in the form of forts, gateways, mosques, residential buildings, tombs and palaces.
Lahore was always an important city from many years. Lahore becomes more famous after the mughals arrival. Mughal built much beautiful architecture in Lahore. Shah Jehan loved Lahore and he built a beautiful fort. In the past, there use to be 13 entrances to the walled city of Lahore. These entrances were known as Derwaza.
The famous thirteen gates of Lahore include;
1. Akbari Gate: The Akbari Gate is considering as the beautiful gate of Lahore, which is built on the name of Mughal emperor Akbar.
2. Bhati Gate: The entrance to the “Bhati Gate” is located on the western wall of the old city. The inside area is popular for its food and outside the Gate is Data Darbar.
3. Delhi Gate: This Gate was built during the Mughal era. The Delhi Gate was an only road which connects Lahore to Delhi.
4. Kashmiri Gate: The gate faces the route of Kashmir, it is called Kashmiri Gate. Inside area is Bazaar and a girl’s collage which is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture.
5. Lohari Gate: The “Lohari Gate” and “Bhati Gate.” are very close to each other it was built to keep enemies out. Outside the Gate there are lots of lohari workshops. Lohari Gate still has great architectural importance.
6. Masti Gate: Masti Gate is just behind the Lahore Fort it is also known as “Gate of Merriment”. This area is popular for wholesale shoe sellers who sell both traditional- and Western-style shoes.
7. Mochi Gate: Mochi Gate” is a historical gate built during the Mughal period. The gate was named after Moti, a guard of the gate during the Mughal era. Today, the bazaar around the Mochi gate is famous for its dry fruits, kites and fireworks.
8. Mori Gate: Mori Gate is not an official gate it is small Gate which is used to remove the waste from the city. Mori Gate is located between the Lohari Gate and Bhati Gate.
9. Roshnai Gate: The Roshnai Gate is also known as the Gate of Lights. It is located between the Lahore fort and the Badshahi Mosque. Only this Gate is in a better condition and still retains its original looks.
10. Shahalmi Gate: This Gate is named after the son of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. During the partition this gate was burnt to ashes, now only the name remains.
11. Shairanwala Gate: The Shairanwala Gate also known as the Gate of the Lions which was made by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh placed two live lions in cages at the gate as symbolic gestures.
12. Taxali Gate: The Taxali gate takes its name from “Taxal” or Mint located nearby. This Gate is designed to protect the city. But with the passage of time this gate has completely misplaced.
13. Yakki Gate: The original name of Yakki Gate was ‘Zaki’ that being the name of a saint. which died fighting against the Mughals.

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The culture of Lahore is a manifestation of the lifestyle, festivals, literature, music, language, politics, cuisine and socio-economic conditions of the people. North-west of Lahore contains the heart of Lahore – its original cultural property in the form of mosques, forts, gateways, residential buildings, palaces, tombs, alleyways and open squares. These when coupled with the traditional cultural activities and social relationships, enhance the character of the Walled City with its individual buildings and bazaars. Old Lahore is the dense, tottering, bazaar-city of Kipling’s stories, and some of his titles, like The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows, could serve as name plaques every few steps. Old Lahore is anarchic, energetic, crowded, feeble, exuberant, and aromatic; however, it lost much of its grandeur when most of it was burnt down during the partition of British India.

The true “Lahori” life is visible everywhere when one walks through its narrow winding alleys. In early morning, the traditional breakfast of “Halwa and Poori” is seen being made by the corner of the street. One really enjoys the paper thin “Poori” made of flour and fried in boiling hot oil with a “Bhaaji” a dish made of grams and potatoes with pickle and onions, followed by “Halwa” a sweet made of sooji, sugar and ghee. After this rather heavy feast, Lahoris never forget to drink a glass of “Lassi” made from yogurt, sugar and water in one gulp.

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Life inside the Walled City of Lahore is lively and fascinating. The marriages are a scene to be seen. During the spring season, the festival of kite flying or Basant attracts rich and poor from all parts of Lahore to the Walled City. The life inside the Heera Mandi or the red light area being the part of the Walled City is different from the rest of the Walled City of Lahore. One can see the dancing girls standing in the jharokas of the brothels and music being played especially after late evening.

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However, today, the Androon Shehr, as a physical space, is a mass of old, beautiful, rotting buildings and dusty, twisting streets, with choked gutters, unreliable water supply and precarious housing – home to “over a quarter of a million people, the largest concentration of urban poor in the country”. The government as well as academia profess to take keen interest in “arresting the decay of the city to preserve the nation’s heritage”, but the superficiality of their claims is borne out by observing the ground reality in the Shehr itself. The prominent monuments within the Shehr, mainly the Fort, tombs and older mosques, are repeatedly made the targets of much-advertised “historical conservation” and tourism campaigns, while the inhabitants of the City themselves, their lives and grievances, are conveniently overlooked in the media and other popular discourse.

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10 Facts About Pakistan that will blow your mind

10 facts about Pakistan that will blow your mind

  1. Highest mountain ranges in the world

The world’s highest mountain ranges exist in this country. They include the Himalayas and HinduKush range in which four mountains are present in the list of 14 highest peaks in the world.

  1. Largest deep sea port in the world

Gwadar port is the largest deep sea port in the world, located on the southwestern Arabian Sea along the coast line of Balochistan, Pakistan. This port is considered a lifeline in the region’s economy. Pakistan has agreed on a collaboration with China to turn Gwadar into a full scale commercial port.

  1. Highest Paved International road

Karakoram Highway has been constructed at a height of 15,397 ft between China and Pakistan. It is one of the popular tourist attraction in the region.

  1. Second largest salt mine in the world

Khewara Salt Mines are the world’s second largest and Pakistan’s oldest salt mines.  It was discovered by Alexander’s troops in 320 B.C. These salt mines are the largest source of salt in the world producing 350,000 tons per year. However, the salt mines reserves are estimated to be about 600 million tons.

  1. One of the largest desert in Pakistan

Thar desert is located on the border of Pakistan and India. It is the world’s ninth largest sub-tropical desert. This desert is about 10,000 years old and was once a water source for Indus Valley Civilization.

  1. Highest Polo ground in the World

Shandur Top is located in Gilgit, Pakistan and called “Roof of the World” elevated at 12,200 ft. Every year a polo match is played between Gilgit and Chitral teams. People from all around the world come to watch this match.

  1. Largest irritation system of the world

The world’s largest irrigation network are present in Pakistan. It serves 14.4 million hectares of cultivated land. The irrigation system is fed by water from the Indus River.

  1. Largest ambulance network in the world

Edhi Foundation is the world’s largest non-profit social welfare organization. This organization provides 24-hour emergency services, medical & healthcare services and shelter for orphans.

  1. First Islamic country to attain nuclear power

Pakistan became the first Islamic country to become Nuclear Power on 28th May 1998.  The country ensured its solidarity in the face of threats from its long time nemesis neighboring country.

  1. More than 50% of world footballs are made in Pakistan

Sialkot is a city famous for making sports equipment.  Hand-stitched footballs are a trademark of this city. Around 60 milion hand-stitched footballs are produced in world cup year in small firms in Sialkot, Pakistan.

7 Wonders of Pakistan

Pakistan is a country blessed with astounding natural beauty and minerals. Tourists from all over the world spread tales of the amazing allure this land possesses. As I traveled and searched this land of magic, I decided to make my very own list of the top few beauties of Pakistan and share them with you guys. Some of the places I am about to share have actually been visited by me while some are still on my to-visit list. I am excited to present the 7 wonders of Pakistan.

7. Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat, the embodiment of astonishment and wonder, is the ninth highest mountain in the world. It is the western anchor of the Himalayas around which the Indus River skirts before it debouches into the plains of Pakistan. The snow covered peak with clouds surrounding is an amazing sight to look at. One can have an amazing view from the Shogran resort of the peak and that was the spot where I stood and marveled at the captivating beauty of this wonder.

6. Mohen-jo Dharo

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About 563 km from Karachi off the Indus Highway lie the world-famous ruins of Moen-jo-Daro which literally means the Mound of the Dead, now being preserved with UNESCO’s help. The museum at Moen-jo-Daro is unique and a visit takes you back centuries back when the location was a civilized city and a busy river Port. Air and train services from Karachi and an air-conditioned rest house have been built there.

5. Tharparkur

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Tharparkar is one of the five major deserts of the country and is the only fertile desert in the world. The name Tharparkar is derived from two words “Thar” meaning sand ridges and “Parkar” meaning to cross over. The desert lies in Interior Sindh with Mithi as its administration headquarters and stretches till the areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat in India.

4. Hunza Valley

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The Hunza is a mountainous valley in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan. The valley itself is a breathtaking sight The Hunza is situated north/west of the Hunza River, at an elevation of around 2,500 meters (8,200 ft). The territory of Hunza is about 7,900 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi). Aliabad is the main town while Baltit is a popular tourist destination because of the spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains like Ultar Sar,Rakaposhi, Bojahagur Duanasir II, Hunza Peak, Passu Peak, Diran Peak and Bublimotin (Ladyfinger Peak), all 6,000 metres (19,685 ft) or higher

3. The Karakoram Highway

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The infamous karakoram highway joins the friendly neighbours China and Pakistan via road. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) is the highest paved international road in the world. Connecting China’s Xinjiang region with Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan, the road is a popular tourist attraction. Due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions in which it was constructed, it is referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

There are many other beautiful places in this amazing country and now finally, it is time to disclose the last two. So here are the top 2 in my list

2. Monal Resort

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What can be said about this place, monal is a place of mesmerizing beauty. The resort sits on top of the hills of Islamabad, attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world. For me, it is among those few places where a person can always find peace and tranquility. The amazing view of the city of Islamabad is literally eye-candy. That is why it sits on the number 2 spot for me.

1. K-2 (Mount Goodwin Austin) 

K2

And finally, K-2 secures the number 1 spot in my list of the top 7 wonders of the world. It is the second largest mountain in the world. With a peak elevation of 8,611 m (28,251 feet), K2 is the highest point and the highest point  One in every four people who have attempted the summit have died trying. It is more difficult and hazardous to reach the peak of K2 from the Chinese side; thus, it is usually climbed from the Pakistani side.

So, here are the top seven attractions in Pakistan for me. I am open to your feedback and suggestions which might alter or add to my list. Hope you guys enjoyed it 😀

 –Syed Kamil Hassan

“The Paradise on Earth”

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Neelum Valley, also known as “The Paradise on Earth,” is one of the most beautiful places of the world. It has been named after the river which flows throughout the valley like a snake and has blue color. There is a contradiction as to some locals’ say it has been named after a precious stone called Neelum. Located in the Kashmir Region it runs parallel to the Kaghan Valley. The mountains here are mostly snow covered rising to 4000 meters higher than the sea level. It consists of many small villages. The stunning sight of valley attracts the locals and foreigners giving them a glimpse of Switzerland.

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Neelum Valley is famous for numerous reasons: 43 km from Muzaffarabad, Neelam valley’s fame lies for its minerals. A LOC (line of control) helps the relatives to cross over and meet their loved ones every couple times a month. A 7th century fort by Muzaffar Khan was built to protect from the Mughal armies of Akbar.
Quality fruits like apples, apricots, plums and walnuts are to be found here. Mountain SARWALI (6326 meters), highest mountain of Azad Kashmir is to be found here too. The lush green environment with the snow covered peaks and Crystal Rivers makes the tourist fantasize it being Switzerland. Trout is abundantly available which makes it even special.
Shounter Pass, Chita Khata, Ratti Gali, Baboon, Noori Top, Sharda, Kel, Surgon and Tararr are among the few popular places and culture followed here is quite similar to that of adjoining Punjab.

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Some of the important areas of the valley include:
Kutton and Jagran:
Lying in the lower part of Neelum valley, the stream Jagran Nullah contributes an important role to reflect the beauty and richness of the area. Huts and electric generation plant has been provided so as to comfort the tourists.

Authmuqam
Being the 8th station from Muzaffarabad to upper valley it was named as Authmuqam. Its significance lies in the fact that the control line with India in Neelum starts from here. Typical Kashmir pattern such as wooden logs and double story house along with hiking tracks are to be found.

Sharda
The place held immense importance for archaeologists as it contains ruins and signs indicate that a university used to be here which was the center of knowledge for Chinese and people of East and Central Asia.
Kel
Kel is famous for having a track that leads straight to Nanga Parbat and people can also see it from here.
Dressing
Men and women both wear Shalwar kameez and Western clothes are rarely seen. As the weather is pleasant men do wear waistcoats as well and in winter the norm of sweaters jumps in. Women usually cover themselves either with a veil or dupatta.

Language
Being commonly understood Urdu is the official language however, others like Kashmiri, Hindko, Pushto and Punjabi are to be heard as well due to diverse people living together.
Handicrafts
People make good handicrafts which include Carpet, Namda, Gubba, Silk Woolen Clothing and Woolen shawls. Besides all these they are also good at Wood Carving and in making Rugs.

Local dishes
One of the most famous dish is Ghustaba, liked by a lot of Kashmiri people. Rice is considered as the must element of the dish. Tabak maaz is also eaten, preparation of which is considered as a pride.

Women of Pakistan…..Jobless or not?

Pakistan is an under developed country with a lot of socioeconomic problems. Unemployment or joblessness is one of the economic problems faced by Pakistan. According to the “World Fact Book” the unemployment rate in Pakistan is 7.7% which means that out of 190,291,129 people more than 30 lacks are unemployed excluding the in actives i.e. all those people who are either not able to or who are not willing to work.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pk.html

According to some people women in Pakistan should quit their jobs to reduce joblessness in Pakistan. However the reality is a bit different. Women are 51% of Pakistan’s population therefore according to the statistics they can contribute more to the workforce. If women quit their jobs the unemployment rates would further raise because still 10.5% of the women’s population in Pakistan is unemployed which is contributing as a large proportion to the total unemployment rates.

Moreover compared to men’s unemployment rates 7%, women’s unemployment rates are already higher thus if women would further give up their jobs the joblessness in Pakistan would further increase causing the situations to be worsened.
The assumption that “women should quit jobs to reduce unemployment” exists in Pakistan due to many factors including the stereotyping of women as being “GOOD HOUSE WIVES”. It is true that women are good housewives but that does not means that they cannot be good working women. There are many examples of successful working women of Pakistan who are not just working outside their homes but are also handling their household tasks actively.

These examples include Nadia Khan who is a renowned TV anchor, actress and producer. She used to do her morning show “The Nadia Khan Show” on Geo TV a famous Pakistani channel due to which she won a Masala award for the best host of 2008 and 2009. Furthermore she had also won a best actress award for a hit PTV drama “Bandhan” in 1998 and was also dubbed the “Oprah Winfrey” of Pakistan by a famous news paper in 2007. Aside from her social life Nadia Khan is a mother of two children and is taking care of them.

Nadia Khan with her children

Nadia Khan with her children

Other than Nadia Khan, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is a good example of successful Pakistani working women. Sharmeen is a documentary filmmaker and a journalist. She won an Academy award for her documentary “Saving Face” in 2012, she also won an Emmy and Oscar award for her documentary “Pakistan: children of Taliban” in 2010 and is the first non-American to win the Livingston award for young journalists. Moreover she has also been lauded as Pakistan’s first female Oscar winner by the press and the government due to which she is also awarded Hilal-e-Imtaiz for bringing honor to Pakistan as a filmmaker by the president of Pakistan.

Sharmeen Obaid with her Award

Sharmeen Obaid with her Award

Besides these two there are many more examples of successful Pakistani women which may includes Shaista Wahidi, Nida Yasir, Jugan, Sanam Baloch, Maira Khan, Samina Pirzada, and etc. These were some of the examples from the television industry but working women are not just limited to Television industry but are also achieving in other fields as well. For instance women are also popular politicians like Benazir Bhutto who was the chair person of her party “Pakistan People’s Party” and was the president of Pakistan. Other than her Sharmeela Farooqi, Fauzia Wahab, Firdaus Ishaq Awan and etc are all examples of famous politicians.

Furthermore women of Pakistan are also attaining as good doctors, engineers, army officials and teachers and in every field possible therefore when they are achieving this much and are also contributing in the prestige of their country. They should not quit jobs and continue them to improve the reputation of Pakistan.

Pakistan Women Cricket team with their gold medals

Pakistan Women Cricket team with their gold medals

Other reason which may contribute to the thinking that women should quit jobs is the misinterpretation of Islamic approach. According to many people Islam prohibits women for doing jobs but in reality the case is different. It is true that Islam conditions women in doing jobs but it does not prohibit women at all. Islam regards women’s role in society as a mother and a wife as her most sacred and essential one. However, there is no decree in Islam that forbids women from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in positions which fit her nature best and in which society needs her most. Examples of working women like Hazrat Khatija who was the first wife of Holly Prophet (PBUH) and Hazrat Aisha who was the youngest wife of the Holly Prophet (PBUH) shows that women can work and they should not quit jobs for the sake of Islam.

Moreover working women in Pakistan are also subjected to a number of pointers; they are often accused for being bold, overwhelming and overcoming men in most spheres of life.

However the reality is very different. Most of the working women are polite and humble as these are the attributes they have to adopt in order to become successful working women.

Likewise there are certain jobs which can only be performed by women for e.g. midwives, gynecologists, nurses and etc. for these jobs it is important for women to work not only for themselves but also to provide services for other women.
The thinking that “women should give up jobs to reduce joblessness in Pakistan” acts as a myth now a days as women are gaining more and more because of which the thinking of people are changing. They are becoming more liberal in favor of women as according to a saying:

“Women with beauty and Brains can rule the world”

Hence women should not quit their jobs to increase employment because if women would not be working, they would not be able to contribute in the country’s Gross Domestic Product which will result in lower incomes and lower living standards further lowering the aggregate demand causing unemployment to rise instead of falling.

The condition of Pakistan Women police:

http://www.ntd.tv/en/news/world/middle-east-/-africa/20131022/83020-recruiting-female-police-in-northern-pakistan.html

Initiatives by Pakistan and other countries to reduce work Discrimination:

http://www.un.org.pk/?p=403

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Maryam Amer                                                     Lahore School of Economics                                      A Proud women from Pakistan

The Pretty Side Of Pakistan

This blog is all about the beauty Pakistan has. I have personally traveled almost everywhere on the Pakistan map except K2 – the largest peak in Pakistan and the 3rd highest in the world. I plan to go there soon insh Allah. So the first time ever i went to a trip to northern Pakistan was 2009. A group of friends who rented a Toyota 25 seater, left from Lahore at 12 midnight!

We first traveled to abbotabad and then took the karakoram highway which is one of the most highest and dangerous highways in the world! Our first stop was besham and then we moved on to chillas! this is a picture of the KKH (Karakoram Highway) i took myself at sunrise!

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kkh

So after reaching at chillas we moved to Nanga Parbat base camp which is a mesmerizing place. when we got there, instantly i felt at peace. what a view it was. This is a picture i took myself of nanga parbat

mountain and glacier

mountain and glacier

After seeing this beautiful mountain and glacier we moved higher towards hunza valley which is almost 30 hours drive from Lahore! Let me tell you a fact about hunza which you would be surprised to hear is that hunza has a literacy rate of 99 percent! we stayed at the eagles nest hotel which is at the top of the valley, here is a picture of my view!

hunza valley

hunza valley

The last place i stopped was in the deosai plains which is towards Afghanistan. We drove by a whole range of mountains to find a beautiful lake which is one of the highest lakes in the world. It’s name is Shoeser lake and its my favourite place personally 🙂 Here’s a picture of the beauty!

shoeser lake

shoeser lake

I bet you didn’t know that these places existed in Pakistan, well now you do and you must travel across northern Pakistan at least once in your life. And for all those who think i’m lying about going to these places here is my picture at the lake! Cheers!

shoeser lake

shoeser lake

Facts a Pakistan to be proud of…

Pakistan is the country about which the entire world thinks that it is full of terrorist, where there is any terrorist attack first blame is on Pakistan. No one in the world is familiar with that it is the country which is full of talented people, who work hard and they also martyred for their country. The facts that Pakistani’s are to be proud of Pakistan are that Pakistan is the first Islamic country to attain nuclear power. Islamic states like Iran etc. tried utmost to become a nuclear power but they fail to achieve the status of nuclear power. Edhi is running the world’s largest ambulance network in the world. They own air ambulances, providing quick access to far-flung areas. They have many other services which they are providing like hospitals providing free medical care, eye hospitals, diabetic centers, surgical units, a 4- bed cancer hospital and mobile dispensaries etc. World youngest certified Microsoft Experts Arfa Kareem (late) and Babar Iqbal are also from Pakistan. Pakistan has the sixth largest and third bravest military force in the world. Pakistan national anthem tune ranks first in the top three tunes of the world. Pakistan has the fourth largest broadband internet system in the world. Pakistan also has the world largest sea port i.e. Gawader; the route from china to whole world. The most important fact about Pakistan is that 50% of the world’s footballs are made from Pakistan. All the football’s used in the world cup was made in Pakistan. Asia’s Highest Railway Station “Kan Mehtarzai Asia’s Highest Railway Station Kan Mehtarzai that is located 2240 meters above sea level near Quetta. First PC virus was created by two Pakistani brothers. (Maybe not something to be very proud of, but it still might have required an impressive level of intellect to do so). Dr. Abdul Salam was the Nobel Prize winner for the physics for his contribution to electroweak unification. LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) attracts students from Middle East, the Far East, Central Asia, and other parts of South Asia. Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, hailed as the most important Qawwali singer of the 20th century and received many awards around the globe such as The “Legends” award at the UK Asian Music Awards (2005). The Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad can accommodate almost 100,000 worshipers. Completed in 1976, it could at that time probably hold the city’s entire population.Karakoram Highway runs through the northern areas connecting Pakistan with China’s Xingjiang province is often described as “Eighth Wonder of the Worlddue to the marvel of civil engineering as it has taken 15 years to complete by the Pakistan Army Engineers in collaboration with China. It’s been labeled as “World’s highest paved international Road” under worlds toughest terrain. Air Commodore MM ALAM (Late) has a world record of shooting down 5 planes in less than a Minute.

This country is full of talented people but only we need is a good leader whom we follow and make Pakistan a prosperous country.

Tourism in Pakistan

Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world, which accounts for 10 per cent of the global GDP. It is an important source of income generation, job creation, poverty reduction, foreign exchange earnings etc. E.g Dubai was rich with petroleum products but they used all the money collected from petrol on tourism and make their country a tourism place where thousands of tourists visits every year.

Pakistan is country which is a great mix of metropolitan cities, natural beauty and a very attractive culture that results in a lot of people visiting Pakistan every year. When it comes to travelling, everyone has different taste. Some people like to visit metropolitans which are culturally rich but offer all facilities to the tourists. Our bigger cities and cultural destinations like Lahore and Karachi attract both foreign tourists and local tourists from extreme southern part or from northern part. The people who have interest in archeology have places like Taxila or Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro to cater to their interest. Mountain trekkers have K-2 and Nanga Parbat. In a nutshell it can be stated that northern areas of Pakistan attract a lot of foreign tourists to Pakistan every year. In fact majority of foreign visitors visit northern mountain ranges of Pakistan as their primary interest. Pakistan has numerous mountain ranges located in various parts of the country. North of Pakistan is truly rich in its tourism potential. With world’s highest mountain peaks, some great lakes, biggest glaciers and the valleys of huge rivers which make Pakistan an agrarian economy, Pakistan has a lot to offer. Some important valleys or tourism places are

Swat Valley
Swat valley is one of the most beautiful valleys located in Pakistan. Some years back a military operation kept tourists from visiting Swat but now the situation is back to normal and Swat is yet again the paradise visited by many families coming from the plain areas of Pakistan to enjoy some cool summers. Most of the tourists visiting Swat get the first taste of its culture in Mingora. Mingora is located at the bank of River Swat, and is a town known for its extremely tasty Trout fish. River Swat is a beauty to watch. The following scenic places and activities make Swat one of the most popular tourist destinations in Pakistan among the local tourists.

Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK)
Azad Jammu Kashmir is also called as heaven on earth by its regular visitors. Azad Jammu Kashmir offers a lot to its visitors. While in the Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir the tourists can view snow covered peak, visit many beautiful valleys like Leepa, Neelum, Jehlum, Kuttan and Keran etc. AJK has some most beautiful rivers and streams and also it offers good but cheap accommodation to the tourists. For the local tourists, all these factors act as great reasons to visit AJK.

Muzaffarabad, Jehlum & Neelum Vellay
Muzaffarabad is administrative capital of Azad Kashmir. Muzzaffarabad is located at the point where Jhelum and Neelum rivers meet. Muzzaffarabad is a regular scattered town like any other hilly capital. What differentiates it from the others is the beauty of majestic mountains surrounding this city. Neelum Valley runs parallel to Kaghan valley and its total length is 240 km. This valley is lush green, offers a lot of scenic views, water sports opportunities and trekking opportunities for all those who are interested. There are many reasons for the tourists to visit this valley however; the following reasons make Neelum Valley matchless for the tourists.

When Pakistan was a safe place to live…

The twenty seven year old man stood in the middle of his empty house. It wasn’t strange to see that everything he owned was now neatly packed into just half a dozen cardboard boxes; he wasn’t a materialistic man. The fact that his promotion meant he was going to be earning double the previous amount didn’t mean much to him, except that he could now finally move out of the small apartment he was living in for the past ten years and buy a single room house where there would be no one nagging him to pay the rent on time. He was like a caterpillar and over the years, he transformed into a butterfly that didn’t resemble the caterpillar from miles away. The wings had grown and the muscles had toned. The shy colours had converted into daring strokes of red, orange and black. Even the habitat had changed. All that was left was the caterpillar’s soul…

As he was sealing the last box, he remembered he still hadn’t emptied his top most drawer. It was the one in which he had hidden all the memories of his beloved country when he was trying to revive from the trauma of losing his father. Seeing all those souvenirs from the once happy moments he had shared with his father brought nothing but pain and tears. Nevertheless, with a heavy heart he proceeded to finally rip the band-aid off. So there he was, standing on a chair reaching to grasp his history. He pulled the first object that his hand touched and down came a rainfall of pictures and dust. He sighed and sat on the floor looking at them all at once. It was a sea of memories. It brought with it waves of happiness, longing, misery, pain but most of all a sense of belonging; as if finally he had found something that was truly his own.

There was the picture of him and his father fishing in the summer of 1979. In another one he was standing in school with his second grade teacher holding a “Best Spelling Test” certificate. This one brought a weak smile to his face; he had always been famous for his perfect spellings. But, the one that touched him the most was a picture of him and his father at the bus station at Kabul. In the picture, he was all packed with a school backpack on his young shoulders and his father was standing next to him, only a few inches taller than him at that time, trying to fake a smile from behind those teary eyes. Turning the picture over he saw an illegibly smudged note, nevertheless he knew what it said. He had read it over and over when it had arrived in the mail, shivering with disbelief and shock. “Dear Ali Sahib, Baray Sahib has passed away from a fatal heart attack. Things are very bad here. I suggest you not come. The Taliban have already buried him in the standard graveyard. Love, Hassan” his servant had written in Persian.

Looking at the picture now after ten years he realized how much he had longed for that city of his birth, of his mother’s death at his birth and of his father’s death. The city had surely taken much from him, but it was all he truly had. It was all that he could ever relate to. Yet, at the time of that picture he was being driven away to Pakistan because of an ongoing war that had stolen the very basic need of life; security. Whether Pakistan would provide him guaranteed security or not, his father did not know. But, at that time it had seemed like the only option and Ali had reluctantly agreed at the condition that his father would follow him a week later. Little did he know that fate had something else in store.

He looked at the other pictures; his house, his school, his best friend, his servant Hassan, the streets of Kabul. Everything was calling to him. He wondered whether his father would have wanted him to go back. Then he realized that the city he was reminiscing about had long ago been turned into dust. The war had transformed it like the winds transform sand dunes in a desert. Every street, every building and even every person had changed just like he had. The city of his dreams was now actually just a dream. Neither of the people he saw in these pictures was alive except for him. He wanted to return except that he was in the middle of the desert and the desert had changed its ways.