The weekend was here. To escape the monotony of a nine-to-five life, I grabbed my camera and hopped onto a bus to Lahore, where my friends awaited me.
One of them, a die-hard Lahori, had decided that we would go off roaming into the old city, away from the usual hubs, M.M Alam, Gulberg and Defence.
Waking up early on a Saturday is no easy feat, but a quick stop at Lakshmi for freshly made 'hareesa' and fluffy naans was enough to charge me up for the day.
Born and raised in Islamabad, the hustle and bustle of a busy day in Lahore has always left me fascinated. Even on a Saturday morning, the roads were packed with cars and rickshaws fidgeting around in a chaos of traffic. The tongas crossing through – with the walls of The Fortress in the background – looked like something out of a history textbook, as did the Delhi Gate.
The Delhi Gate is one of nine gates leading in and out of the old, walled city of Lahore, and one of the few that have stood the test of times.
Walking through the enormous entrance, I felt overwhelmed with all the history and culture it seemed to radiate. Built by Emperor Akbar, the gate opens eastward in the direction of Delhi, hence the name.
If its bricked walls and archways could speak, they’d tell you the tales of love and glory, of war and peace, of betrayal and loyalty and a million different tales of the times when kings walked this part of the world in all their grandeur.
I walked past the gate into a narrow sunlit street, the bazaar bustling on both sides of me. On the windows and balconies, the woodwork is intricate, and has been restored to offer a glimpse into the glory of the Mughal era. Just outside is a fast-paced Lahore, but as you walk through the passageway, time slows down.
The Kashmiri bazaar gives a taste of vintage Lahore. Shops with pots and pans hanging at the entrance; people having tea outside their shops; fruit and vegetable vendors spraying the produce with water to keep it glistening – a simpler life from a simpler time.
On one turn of the Kashmiri bazaar, I saw the towering minaret of the Wazir Khan Mosque, the magnificent artwork calling out to me. Built by Wazir Khan in 1634, this mosque served as the Imperial Jamia Masjid for the imperial family's congregational prayers, during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan and until the construction of Badshahi Mosque in 1673.
As I walked up the red brick stairs and into the enormous sunlit courtyard, it was hard to take my eyes off the walls covered with intricate faience tile work, along with Arabic and Persian calligraphy.
The four extremities of the mosque are held by towering minarets covered in Shahjahani tile mosaic, and are now fitted with modern day speakers to spread the call to prayer far and wide.
The draped archways on the west side of the mosque lead to the praying chambers, the walls of which are beautifully designed and adorned with the geometrical artwork and verses of Quran. The archways and domes of the chamber were designed to ensure the imam's voice reached the far end of the courtyard.
Eager to catch an aerial view of the mosque and its surroundings, we reached the west side minaret door, which has a narrow circular staircase with steep steps leading to the balcony at the top of minaret. There are small vents on the way up, one of which gives a beautifully symmetric view of the opposite minaret – the red, whites and blues of the tile work hard to miss.
Standing on the balcony, I could see, hear and sense everything.
The vast red-bricked courtyard beneath. The minarets and walls of the mosque covered in hand-painted patterns. The interlinked dome structures taken over by pigeons that sat roosting. The hum and clatter from the surrounding bazaar. The giggle of children playing cricket below. The chatter of women from the old houses with connected rooftops.
A calm settles upon you and then overpowers you.
This is where you belong. Where the then and now meet.
Where the walls speak. Where the kings once walked.
—All photos by author
Marvi Soomro is an IT consultant, who survives corporate monotony by travelling the world and capturing it words and pictures.
She is a patriotic at heart who is passionate about travelling across Pakistan and bringing to light the rich natural and cultural heritage of the country.