Tourism in Pakistan: A French doctor takes 6,000-Mile ride


The “Foxy Shahzadi”, or Beetle Princess, is the most distinctive car from Lahore to Lyons. Its body is covered in a psychedelic array of flowers, waterfalls and the faces of famous Pakistanis. The idea by Dr. Vincent Loos behind this 6,000-mile trip is to promote the “soft side” of Pakistan. “We want to show the world it’s not just about terrorism,” says Loos. Travelling by Foxy, as Beetles are affectionately known in Pakistan, Loos is paying homage to a local motoring cult. Dozens of well-maintained Beetles ply the streets. (Mine, in a cool grey, is Betsy, a proud 1967 model.)Photograph: Tanveer Shahzad/Dawn newspaper
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FROM PAKISTAN TO PARIS, BY VW BEETLE

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by Declan Walsh

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Note for WoP readers: In spite of terrorism there are still many rays of hope for tourism in Pakistan. One of the kind now comes from a French doctor who got the novel idea of projecting a soft image of Pakistan. A foxy named Shahzadi (the princess) is the car which is on road again: Dr. Vincent Loos of the “Doctors without Frontiers” was in Pakistan for the last 3 years. He describes his VW beetle ride from Islamabad to Paris and his sojourn in Lahore in following words:-

IQBAL: THE POET OF THE EAST

I was in Lahore on 9th of November 2009, the 132nd birth anniversary of Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), the poet-philosopher who is ranked among the greatest literary and philosophical figures of the 20th century. Iqbal belongs to the illustrious line of poet-philosophers exemplified by Rumi, Hafiz, Jami and Khayyam in the Islamic tradition, and Milton, and Goethe in the European tradition. From all of these, however, he differs in one important respect. As a Western-educated Indian Muslim he was equally conversant with the philosophies of the East and the West.

Carrying a portrait of the Qaid, Allama Iqbal and the message “Maañ ki Dua, Jannat ki Hawa” proudly comes the “princess” to Lahore].

In the words of Hermann Hesse, the great German writer, he “belongs to three domains of the spirit or intellect, the sources of his tremendous work: the worlds of India, of Islam, and of Western thought.” As an eloquent writer and speaker, who was of academic distinction and equally at home with Urdu, Persian, Arabic and English, he well qualified to interpret the East to the West and vice versa. This is exemplified by one of his early books of Persian poetry, Payam-i Mashriq (Message of the East: 1923), subtitled: In reply to the German Philosopher, Goethe.

Thus it is that although Iqbal addresses his message first and foremost to the Muslims of the world, and particularly to his compatriots, he speaks to all of mankind. His distinguished Hindu fellow- poet Rabindranath Tagore, said on hearing of Iqbal’s death: “India, whose place in the world is too narrow, can ill afford to miss a poet whose poetry had such universal value.” Iqbal wrote his incomparably beautiful and moving poetry in both Urdu and Persian, and much of it is known by heart by millions of people in Pakistan, India, Iran and elsewhere.

His philosophical writings in prose are mostly in English, the foremost of which is entitled: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1930), one of the truly outstanding books on the subject ever published, Iqbal Academy UK wrote at its website. There can be no better introduction of Iqbal than his poetry. Some of the Persian poems of Iqbal are the most sublime pieces of Persian poetry. In his mathnawi, Pas chibayad kard ay Aqwam-e- Sharq, he addresses himself to the Eastern nations and it indicates that his keen eyes had an all-inclusive view of the entire Muslim world.

Iqbal greatly identified with the Iranian nation — and one of his famous poems is dedicated to the people of Iran which begins with the following verse:

I am burning like a tulip’s lamp on your path, O youth of Iran, I swear by my own life and yours.

And he says:

The man is coming who shall break the chains of the slaves, I have seen him through the cracks in the walls of your prison.

Well, Dr. Vincent should still be on his way to Paris. He has already described his foxy journey from Pakistan to Iran, Turkey and then finally when he enters Europe on way to his homeland, I am pretty sure we will have more updates from him till he reaches Lyons.

Back home in Pakistan we witness a rapid decline in our tourism activity, so is the hotel and hospitality business which bears the maximum brunt of this decline. All sorts of catering and lodging, be they the road side stalls or five star hotels, small rental rooms or elite guest houses, all segments are having a strong pull on their resources. Owners of different tourism related businesses in the country feel that it will be a long long time till the industry can get back to normal. People are scared, they say and are reluctant to come to Pakistan.

But thanks to people like John Bradley, Bernadette Speet and now Dr. Vincent Loos who love this country and its potential for tourism; they visit this war ravaged land taking all risks we Pakistanis are used to take in these testing times. (John was already here in Lahore and we put up an interview in our August 2008 issue. Another of this series from Bernadette Speet, a Dutch lady cyclist will be put up on these pages sometime during next month).

And now the news item that appeared in daily Dawn, Karachi and some other local and foreign newspapers. This one is courtesy Guardian of London, UK.

Note: You can also follow Loos’s trip on artonwheelstour.canalblog.com [Nayyar]

Low-key is good in Islamabad these days, where the threat of Taliban suicide bombings has filled Pakistan‘s capital with checkposts, blast walls and a queasy air of anxiety. But one proudly conspicuous car rolled through the streets last week – a 25-year-old Volkswagen Beetle, painted in an explosion of trippy colours. At the wheel was a defiant doctor, Vincent Loos, headed for Paris.

“My dream was to return by road,” says the 39-year-old Frenchman, who has just finished three years’ work at a local hospital. Doctors without borders indeed – or perhaps doctors without sense. Only six months ago his ride was a dust-smeared wreck, collapsed at the bottom of an Islamabad street waiting for a final trip to the scrapyard. Loos, an intensive care specialist, restored the car to full health, then hired an artist to paint in the local style known as “truck art”.

Now the “Foxy Shahzadi”, or Beetle Princess, is the most distinctive car from Lahore to Lyons. The body is covered in a psychedelic array of flowers, waterfalls and the faces of famous Pakistanis. The idea behind the 6,000-mile trip is to promote the “soft side” of Pakistan. “We want to show the world it’s not just about terrorism,” says Loos.

Travelling by Foxy, as Beetles are affectionately known in Pakistan, Loos is paying homage to a local motoring cult. Dozens of well-maintained Beetles ply the streets. (Mine, in a cool grey, is Betsy, a proud 1967 model.)

The Beetle came to Pakistan in the 1950s with army officers and bureaucrats returning from postings abroad. The appeal has endured – Mubashir Hasan, a finance minister from the 1970s, still drives his around Lahore. Romano Karim of Islamabad’s VW club estimates about 500 “Foxies” travel Pakistan’s roads. “Cute, quirky, cheap spare parts – it’s the ideal car,” he says.

The French doctor’s Foxy should reach Paris sometime this week. His team is equipped with an ample stock of spare parts and a line of Urdu poetry inscribed on the bonnet: “Every mother’s prayer is a breeze from paradise.”

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Chiniot: The Vanishing Landmark


IMAGE_6_Wood and Plaster Interior
If you watch the [Umar Hayat] Palace from the high roof of an adjoining building, even in its present state it defies all notions of corrosion and decadence. It stands tall, proud and magnificent among rapidly rising concrete structures around it. ‘Houses are built to live in, not to look on,’ wrote Francis Bacon, but Umar Hayat Palace exists beyond the perception of modern wisdom. It was built to live in, but now just a spectacle to look on in its alluring existence. [Image above: Interior of the palace done in wood and plaster].
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UMAR HAYAT PALACE [THE FROZEN MUSIC]

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by Umair Ghani

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Note for WoP readers: Chiniot also called Chaniot, has traditionally been a town of the super rich. I know certain families from Chiniot doing business in billions of dollars, in Faisalabad, in Karachi and abroad. They seldom visit this town; but one unique character in the personae of every Chinioti, the original dwellers of this town is their special love, a deep rooted attachment they have for the city.

Alas! for a mere longing of the city they have had their roots in , a city where they spent the beautiful days of their childhood, a feeling of déjà vu, there is much of a nostalgic lip service. Yet one hardly finds a semblance of some tangible evidence of contribution by sons of Chiniot to their mother town. The roads are full of dust and trash, gutters are spilling over the walkways, sanitation being centuries old, is in a pathetic condition. Last but not the least its marvel of architecture, the Umar Hayat Palace, which laments the indifference, the apathy of all Chiniot walas living in and outside of Chiniot toward their mother city and its historic landmark. [Nayyar] 

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   “Ah! To build, to build!

That is the noblest of all the arts”

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So said the English poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellowand Seth Umar Hayat of Chiniot took the noblest of all the arts [probably in 1923] by ordering construction of Gulzar Manzil in his city; a grand wooden palace of exquisite design named after his beloved son Gulzar Mehmood.

Today this marvel of architecture stands in silent oblivion. Its glorious past wrapped in mystery and speculation, but what remains, still has enough power to spellbind the visitors in awe and wonder.

Sheikh Umar Hayat, a rich merchant whose family originally migrated to Chiniot from India had an unbound appreciation for this grand architecture. ‘Once visiting a village fair at Panda Haitian, Umar Hayat fell in love with a girl named Fatima and married her’, narrates Mushtaq Ahmed, librarian of the palace, in his most fascinating style of an accomplished story teller. ‘She bore him a son and a daughter [some historians / families in Chiniot say that Umar Hayat had no daughter].

Since the birth of a son brought much pride and happiness in his life, out of sheer affection Umar Hayat named him Gulzar, a rose garden. As Gulzar grew up, his father wished to attribute something grand to his son’s name. He asked finest artisans of his time to go to India and watch great architecture, come back and construct a palace preceding finest traditions of classic architecture’. 

IMAGE_2_1st 2nd floor view from North West
1st and 2nd Floor of the Palace as viewed from the Northwest

‘I don’t want it to be built in haste,’ said Umar Hayat, “I’ll pay you in full even if you place one brick in a day, but it should captivate the eyes of the beholder.’ Such was the passion and zest of the Seth for the construction of Gulzar Manzil. Another version of the story tells that Elahi Bakhsh, the renowned artisan of Chaniot offended Umar Hayat. ‘All the gold in the world can not match my art,’ said Elahi Bakhsh. Enraged by such lofty comment, Umar Hayat lavishly spent money on the construction of this grand architecture saying, ‘I will buy all the art and all artisans of the world with my wealth.’ 

Whatever the cause of initiation, the building indeed encapsulates finest display of wood, fresco, jali, glass, plaster and brick work. Some sources say that the supervision of the construction of Gulzar Manzil was assigned to Syed Hassan Shah who invited artisans [and carried out work for ten years]. Elahi Bakhsh and Rahim Bakhsh of Pirja family [renowned for wood work] did the wood carving, for which the palace is known. This splendor of craftsmanship took eight years for completion and Umar Hayat shifted there in 1935 with his family before it was fully constructed. Four hundred thousand rupees [a huge amount in those days] were spent which comes to thirty million rupees in present day estimation.

Originally it was a five storey building with a basement, but neglect and ravages of time diminished it to three stories only.

IMAGE_8_Wood Glass Work 1st Floor
The art of blending carved wood with intricate glass patterns (1st Floor)

The German philosopher and poet Goethe terms architecture as frozen music. The rhythm and flow of exotic craft and aesthetic delicacy of Gulzar Manzil sings symphonies of splendor and glory. Artisans created ineffaceable designs everywhere. Stucco work, frescos and finest carving and patterns made in wood in form of priceless jharokas, doors and window panes.

 ‘Umar Hayat did not live long to cherish the joy of his miraculous accomplishment,’ continued Mushataq Ahmed as we stepped onto the creaky wooden stairway. ‘He died in 1935, the year he moved to the palace and an ominous fate struck Umar Hayat’s family since then. Mushtaq led me to a tiny bathroom where the tragic saga of Umar Hayat Palace actually began. In 1937, Gulzar Mehmood decided to get married. Records in the Palace library relate that wedding ceremony was carried out with unprecedented pomp and show. Elderly people of the city talked about it till many years in nostalgia and sorrow. ‘The ceremony was so grand that all the poor of Chiniot were invited along with the rich.’

 IMAGE_7_Wood Carving Enterance Ceiling
Artistic wood carving done on ceiling of the entrance (the jharoka)

Narrators reported there were announcements in the city that whoever saw the smoke rising from the cooking near tents, could join as a guest at the wedding feast. As the wedding fireworks subsided, the tragedy struck. The same night Gulzar Mehmood was found dead in his room next morning. Sources say that it happened because the gas from coals filled in the room and killed him. Suffocation was the cause of death, but mystery is not resolved till date. Young son’s death was too much to bear for a widowed mother and she also died shortly. Both mother and son were buried in the ground floor.

Gulzar’s widow left Chiniot and settled in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) where she remarried and died only a couple of years ago.

Ill omens were associated with the place and Umar Hayat’s relatives migrated from the magnificent palace considering it a mark of perpetual bad luck. Like a haunted house the Palace presented a pathetic picture of agonized splendor for many years. Gypsies moved in and ruined remaining part of the deserted residence. They began to tear down some of the finest plaques and frescos by subcontinent’s legendry artisans and sold it for petty sums. The looters stole window panes, doors, cupboards, decorative items and even marble slabs from the ground floor and most of the two upper stories. They even made attempts to alter the structure of many areas and installed a donkey-pump in the courtyard.

One time Deputy Commissioner of Jhang district, Muhammad Athar Tahir, acted in time. To save this marvel of architecture from total disaster, he declared the building as a ‘government property’ and with help from Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib, Assistant Commissioner Chiniot, involved business community of the city to raise a fund for the renovation of this precious national asset. Backing up the vision of these two great benefactors of Chiniot, the people of the city generously contributed.

On 14thAugust, 1990 the Municipal Committee Chiniot inaugurated the renovation project. The first phase of this monumental project was completed in December 1990 and involved reconstruction and renovation of the ground floor. An estimated amount of Rupees ten hundred thousand were spent for this phase of work.

The second phase of restoration work began on devastated wood work, walls and ceilings of the upper floors. The Palace of was then officially renamed as Umar Hayat Library. With the passage of time initial fervor for refurbishment began to weaken and the caretakers became more and more detached in wake of their other official engagements. In 1997 the municipality cut down expenses of Umar Hayat Palace. After a prolonged controversy for the ownership of Umar Hayat Library, the Auqaf Deptt. took over its custody in 1998 and made a feeble attempt to restore and manage the dilapidated historical structure.

I watched Umar Hayat Palace from the high roof of an adjoining building. Even in its present state it defied all notions of corrosion and decadence. It stood tall, proud and magnificent among rapidly rising concrete structures around it. ‘Houses are built to live in, not to look on,’ wrote Francis Bacon, but Umar Hayat Palace exists beyond the perception of modern wisdom. It was built to live in, but now just a spectacle to look on in its alluring existence. 

Note: All photographs have been shot on location by the writer (Umair Ghani).

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DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR COMMENT

Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults. 
We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.


RALLI – Blending One’s Soul & Self into a Piece of Textile


The fascinating fabric called Ralli or Rilli is a remarkable textile artwork converted into quilts, table runners and cushion covers. Thousands of women are involved mostly in Sindh, partly in some parts of Cholistan in Bahawalpur distt. of Punjab and in some areas of Balochistan.
A normal ralli whether a quilt, a cushion cover or a table runner, is a textile jewel finished with physical and spiritual labor done with hand and mind putting in almost 180 hours of an artisan woman doing this job.
Women start making ralli in early ages as part of their dowry. In other cases, the poor artisans offer these products as gifts to elite families of Sindh on occasion of marriages or births and in return get an animal like cow, buffalo or a goat (locally called as khir piyarina i.e. to provide a regular source of milk for the artisan’s family).
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THE FABULOUS WORLD OF RALLI TEXTILES

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by Nayyar Hashmey

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What’s the true sense of beauty? Does it lie in the eyes of the beholder; or is it manifest in the crafted object itself or is it a coming together of kindred spirits – that of the maker and the beholder, the magical moment when a common chord is struck across the barriers of time and space. Just such chemistry ripples through the articulated patchwork of traditional homemade products crafted by the rural feminina of Sindh in Pakistan.

This fascinating product called Ralli or Rilli is a remarkable textile artwork converted into quilts, table runners and cushion covers. Thousands of women are involved mostly in Sindh, partly in some parts of Cholistan in Bahawalpur distt. of Punjab and in some areas of Balochistan.

A normal ralli whether a quilt, a cushion cover or a table runner, is a textile jewel finished with physical and spiritual labor done with hand and mind putting in almost 180 hours of an artisan woman doing this job. Women start making ralli in early ages as part of their dowry. In other cases, the poor artisans offer these products as gifts to elite families of Sindh on occasion of marriages or births and in return get an animal like cow, buffalo or a goat (locally called as khir piyarina i.e. to provide a regular source of milk for the artisan’s family).

Ralli, the beautiful handicraft from Sindh in Pakistan exhibits the wide array of cultural beauty. Its intricate patterns show the creativity, the skill and dexterity of the Sindhi artisans which places the area among the culturally rich lands of the world.

Sindhi rallis are beautiful and colorful. They are cluster of patchwork and or embroidery. Used also as bed linen Sindhi ralli is made with multicolored pieces of cloth stitched together in attractive designs. The color combinations and unique patterns speak for the aesthetic sense of its creator. The designs vary from floral motifs, waves and images of animals or trees. Many handicrafts of great beauty like cushion covers, embroidered shirts; wall hangers and mirror worked handbags are also made in ralli style mainly in Umarkot and Tharparkar area of Sindh. (more…)

Ralli Quilts of Pakistan



Asia, traditionally is known as a place producing the best in textiles. The art of making fabric from cotton was first perfected here, in the ancient southern part of this subcontinent. The Romans even sent traders to this area to get fine fabrics for their togas.   
Womenfolk in the Indus Region of the subcontinent, presently the domain of an independent sovereign state of Pakistan have traditionally been the harbingers of this historical tradition. A particular type of such beautiful textiles produced in the area is the “Ralli” quilts.  
Adorned with bright colors and bold patterns, the quilts are also called rilli, rilly, rallee or rehli derived from the local word ralanna meaning to “mix or connect”.
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THE MAGNIFICENT ART OF PAKISTANI HANDMADE TEXTILES

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by Hira N. Hashmey

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Throughout history

Asia has been known as a place producing the best in textiles. The art of making fabric from cotton was first perfected here, in the ancient southern part of this subcontinent. The Romans even sent traders to this area to get fine fabrics for their togas.   Womenfolk in the Indus Region of the subcontinent, presently the domain of an independent sovereign state of Pakistan have traditionally been the harbingers of this historical tradition. A particular type of such beautiful textiles produced in the area is the “Ralli” quilts.

 Adorned with bright colors and bold patterns, the quilts are also called rilli, rilly, rallee or rehli derived from the local word ralanna meaning to “mix or connect”. For sake of simplicity and to avoid confusion in terms, used in different places of ralli production, the term “Ralli” has been used in this post; which by no means be taken as a standard term.

In Pakistan, rallis are made in the southern province of Pakistan including Sindh, in Balochistan province and Cholistan desert in Bahawalpur district of Punjab. Just across our borders, in India the art is found in the adjoining states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Huge Brides on the Move


Truck art is one of the great folk arts of Pakistan. These heavy machines affectionately called “brides” by truckers are covered mostly in vivid bright multilayered colors and fairy lights which have a talismanic function of warding off evil spirits and promote good luck – something one needs in plenty when navigating our roads.
But apart from this magical effect, truckers have another romance with these brightly colored vehicles as Salamat a typical truckwala admits that he spends more on decorating his truck than he paid for his second marriage a couple of years ago. “I spend most of my time in my truck. It’s like a second home to me” says Salamat. 
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PAKISTAN’S

BIGGEST ART SHOW ON ROADS

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by Umair Ghani

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Truck art, as any one knows, is one of the great folk arts of Pakistan. These heavy machines affectionately called “brides” by truckers are covered mostly in vivid bright multilayered colors and fairy lights which have a talismanic function of warding off evil spirits and promote good luck – something one needs in plenty when navigating our roads. But apart from this magical effect, truckers have another romance with these brightly colored vehicles.

Salamat a typical truckwalaadmits that he spends more on decorating his truck than he paid for his second marriage a couple of years ago. “I spend most of my time in my truck. It’s like a second home to me” says Salamat. (more…)

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