Travel: When Thar Desert goes green

December 23, 2017


Photos by the writer
Photos by the writer

Have you ever seen a green desert? If you haven’t, it’s okay. I will tell you how it mesmerises with its lush green patches. We, in Pakistan, are lucky to have natural resources in abundance, for instance, lakes, river, sea, beautiful mountain ranges, hills, valleys, ancient cities of great civilisations, architecture and of course, the desert!

No doubt, we are so rich in everything that we don’t have go out to other countries see natural beauty. Every province has something unique to offer, whether in culture, architecture, natural beauty, etc.

The beauty of Sindh, sadly, has not yet been explored fully as compared to other provinces. It is only recently that people have come to know about some sites that they had never heard of before. You all know about the Thar Desert in Sindh. Unlike other barren deserts of Pakistan, and the around world, Thar’s speciality is that it is a fertile desert — which means that in the monsoon season the golden sand gets covered with lush green grass, plants and mushrooms.

It difficult for most people who have seen this barren land to imagine it wearing a green carpet in this season. I was fortunate to visit Thar in monsoon and I must say that it was an experience I can’t forget.

Thar is the 17th largest desert in the world and the ninth largest sub-tropical desert. It is spread over 50,000 sq-kms, falling in Pakistan and India. Thar Desert in Pakistan is located in Tharparkar, Umerkot and Mirpurkhas districts. It is an arid area with very low rainfall. The population of Thar is more than 1.6 million people.

Our journey started from Karachi, early one beautiful morning. Our first stop was at a small town called Gharo, where we had a traditional breakfast at a local restaurant. Then we crossed the historical town of Thatta, known for its centuries old graveyard Makli. We also crossed Indus River near Sajawal town. I saw Indus River flowing high due to the monsoon rains.

Our second stop was in Badin district, where we had a cup of tea. Friends, as I told you earlier, each province is rich so is Sindh. And Badin is known for its oil production in Pakistan.

We resumed our journey to our destination Thar. On the way, I was saddened to see extreme poverty as little kids of around five or six years were begging at every stop. It shows that the country’s resources are yet not utilised properly.

I could see villages, people busy in their daily errands, some ploughing their land after a good monsoon rainfall. The huts or the houses in Tharparkar are different from that of the usual huts/houses in other villages. The huts here are called “Chounra.” These chounras are made round with a dome-like roof structure made of dry hay in layers.

Thar has seen good rainfall this year in monsoon after a very long time and this has changed the landscape from barren, arid to lush green dunes. Crossing these green pastures and dunes, we finally reached Islamkot. The small town is now making headlines around the world for its largest coal reserves in Pakistan.

Photos by the writer
Photos by the writer

My father told me that we will stay at a place located some 30 minutes away from Islamkot town, provided by his office. We reached there, late in the evening. As we were tired after a whole day’s journey that we quickly had a scrumptious dinner and retired to our bed.

The next day, when I got up, I was delighted to see the sky full of grey clouds and with that I was greeted with refreshing the desert breeze. My mum planned to visit Mithi, the beautiful town and capital of Tharparkar district where Muslims and Hindus have been living together in harmony for centuries.

There, we also visited ‘Gaddi bhit’, the highest sand dune overlooking the whole of Mithi. It was an incredible sight, especially when you are standing at the peak and it’s sunset time. We stayed there for some more time and as the night fell, the town lit up and thousands of illuminating lights gave it a fascinating view from the bhit, which means sand dune.

It was late evening when we returned to our lodge. It was the eve of 14th August and celebrations were in full swing. The sky was bright with fireworks. A sumptuous dinner was arranged to mark the evening.

The next morning, we attended a flag hoisting ceremony, where the national anthem was sung by the locals, along with their children and of course, us. After the ceremony, we drove to a community school set up by a coal mining company.

It was a nicely constructed building, where children from the local community sung the national anthem and other traditional Sindhi songs. A little boy delivered an impressive speech. I could see enormous talent hidden in these kids, who want to come forward and show their skills.

It was one of the most remarkable and memorable journeys of my life. I saw a green desert and the simple, yet elegant, Thar. In the afternoon, we left for Karachi. I have returned with great memories of a green desert.

Published in Dawn, Young World, December 23rd, 2017