Published: September 17th 2010September 16th 2010
The Avari Lahore
Just a really nice place to stay when you are doing aid and development work. This is the life!
Well, out of the frying pan of Afghanistan and into, I suppose, the swamp of Pakistan. Pretty damp here in a lot of places. I've arrived to help a client develop a plan for the recovery and reconstruction of the worst affected areas in lower Punjab and most of Sindh down to the coast in the Indus River Delta. As you all know, I'm sure, the Indus flooded, impacting an estimated 20 million people and destroying much of the rural economy.
I arrived in Islamabad
on the 1st September, then quickly left for the main city of the Punjab, Lahore
, and then on to Karachi
before returning to Lahore and back again to I'bad. It's been a breathtaking trip of meetings and writing late into the night draft upon draft of a workable plan for intervening in agriculture. The essential problem is to get enough seed, fertilizer and tools in place so the up-coming winter wheat planting season in October can be a success. The alternative will be a food shortage of massive proportions.
All that said, dear Reader, don't for one minute suppose that aid and development workers such as myself also live iin tents in the
Like a pleasant club, and the people are very welcoming.
disaster affected areas. Far from it
. We inhabit pleasant guest houses, and in the case of Lahore, the excellent Avari Lahore Hotel
. There is a reason: much as we want (morally, God forbid physically!) to experience the sufferings of the flood victims, we can be of no use to them sopping wet. Our job is to raise money - lots of money - and plan for its use. One does that using computers and all the modern paraphernalia of business, none of which is available "in the field" as we say; well, that's my excuse anyway.
I've stayed in the Avari Lahore for many years. Situated in the famous Mall, the centre of Lahore, the 188-room hotel was one of the first luxury hotels built in Pakistan by Dinshaw Avari who was a Zoroastrian, a worshipper of Ahura Mazda
an ancient Iranian divinity, and so one of the few non-Muslims who reached success in Pakistan (the memorial plaque to Mr. Avari outside the hotel gives thanks to Ahura Mazda).
In the last few years the lobby has been re-built and is now one of the most pleasant public spaces in Pakistan. Spacious enough, but combining a genuine sub-Continent
Comfortable if a bit old-fashioned with weird air conditioning, but I like the homely feel. FREE internet in the rooms - more pretentious hotels please note!
local feeling with almost a living room feeling of comfort. Indeed the outer part of the hotel which has a huge, tree populated garden filled with flowers and birds and the lobby is really worth a visit even if one is not staying there. They serve superb cakes and coffee in the lounge area which can take on the atmosphere of a club rather than a hotel.
I can also recommend the lobby tailor's shop which is an outlet for the Lawrencepur
brand of clothes. Very reasonably priced (I have an excellent business suit from them for just $300) and such nice people to buy from. They'll make your clothes and send them anywhere. Great value.
I should also mention the service. Quite the best of any hotel that I've stayed in around the world. Of course I've been there so many times I'm remembered, which is nice. But on one occasion, the battery of my phone being depleted and no charger available, the concierge removed his own battery and gave it to me. It's that bit extra that makes the difference.
The rooms are also comfortable. Not the standard of most modern hotels (the beds in
A lovely front garden, nice lawn and trees, set well back from the main road, Lahore's famous and historical The Mall
Marriott hotels are works of pure luxury) but good enough and I like the somewhat old-fashioned and idiosyncratic ways the lights work and the fact that I remember the carpets from the mid '90s. Atmospheric. One does get internet in the room and it is NOT charged for - larger hotel chains take note!
My air conditioning was first not cold enough and then too cold, but a small price to pay for the great view over the garden.
The fitness centre has been upgraded - a bit, but I recognized the old multi-gym machine. I think there may be a business in advising hotels on how to put together a fitness centre that really augments the rest of their services. The pool is undersized but acceptable.
Oh and of course the food. I usually eat in the coffee shop, "Kim's", that provides a reasonable buffet in pleasant surroundings. It's not top class, but certainly good enough, indeed I over-eat when I'm there - especially the hummus.
Finally the unpleasant subject that obsesses us nowadays, security. The Avari has never as far as I know had a serious security incident. The security is reasonably good but not unbreachable. Nevertheless, because the hotel is quite low key and apolitical I doubt one is at great risk. Ins'Allah. The Avari Hotel Lahore
87 Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam (The Mall),
Lahore 54000, Pakistan
Tel: +92 42 636-6366 Avari Lahore
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