Recently, The New York Times ranked Lahore among the world’s top 52 destinations, calling it the “city to love in 2021”, thus putting the city’s charm in front of its global readership.
Pakistan Today reached out to people linked to the city in one way or the other to get a broader perspective on what the city has to offer.
Muhammad Javed, a guide who leads eager tourists to the most beautiful sites of the city, said that this is a real honour for citizens of the majestic city. The fact that the Walled City was mentioned in the international publication is a matter of pride for the residents, especially at a time when people are under stress due to various factors, he added. He also said that it is after a while Lahore has regained a semblance its lost glory by becoming a dream city for many.
Tania Qureshi, who is associated with the Walled City of Lahore Authority, said that Lahore is one of the most attractive cities in the world because of its rich heritage and historic infrastructure build during Mughal, Sikh and British periods. “The residents of Androon Lahore [Walled City] think that the maze-like interior, with its amusing street life, culture, cuisines and traditions is value addition and tangible reason behind the fame of Lahore,” she added.
Tania said that Lahore has always been famous, with ample literary references in its favour, and because of the popularity its food, culture, and arts enjoy.
“Lahore of the great Mughals is surely Androon Lahore,” she said referring to its culture, cuisine and events, which are seen in every nook and corner. “Lahore has a natural setting, and the Mughals and British, realising its historical significance, promoted literature and arts here.”
“The gates of the Walled City have plenty of stories inside them, which one can only know by visiting them,” Tania said. “Similarly, the bazaars and streets are full of tales and narratives of the past.”
“The city’s monuments are a living example of what happened here during different time periods,” she added.
Speaking about WCLA’s role in preserving the city’s heritage, she said that the authority played an eminent role in preserving Shahi Hammam, Chowk Wazir Khan, Wazir Khan Masjid, Royal Trail, and above all, the Lahore Fort. She added that when encroachments were removed from these cites, many monuments were revealed for the first time, and these sites are now frequented by a lot of people, leading to a revival of cultural activities. Tania added that Agha Khan Trust for Culture also played a major role in the preservation of the historical city.
“Over the past 10-12 years, efforts to preserve primeval buildings in Androon Lahore have increased the city’s appeal and now people are attracted to its historical places,” she further said.
Samuel Wilson, a tourist who recently visited Lahore, said that the provincial capital is one of the few cities in the world where the richness of monuments is preserved.
Whether one travels north or south, the city has monuments from different eras. “This is what makes it a dream city or a city to love in 2021,” he said.
Chris Crain, another foreigner, said that he visited Lahore last year in January, and explored the Walled City as well. “Residents of Old Lahore [An informal term used for the Walled City], with their immense hospitality and generosity add colour and value to the city’s life and experience. Any tourist, local of foreigner, is greeted overwhelmingly by the people of Androon Lahore, and this is not experienced anywhere else in the world,” he said.
“When Lahoris see that someone has come from outside, they will offer them food and will not charge for it. Lahoris do not discriminate with tourists on the basis of cast, colour and creed, rather they only know how to love and respect them,” he added.
An official of the provincial tourism department said that the government should promote this title of Lahore because the city lacks proper branding unlike other cities of the world. He criticsed the government, saying that they have not shown much interest over such matters lately.
He stressed the need for preservation of neglected heritage sites of Lahore. “Nothing happened when UNESCO declared Lahore the city of literature and the same should not happen now that Lahore is declared as a dream city,” he said. “The Punjab government needs to wake up now.”