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Published: October 6th 2019
Gate into old fort, accessed by special big key
Wake up to another visa "request for more information", resend all the documents again. I am confounded as to what information is required, they have every single document I had originally submitted and there is no one to ask about the specifics. Third time lucky?
Pretty slow morning, given the short time we have in Lahore, we decide on the Badshahi Mosque and Shahi Qila (Lahore Fort) in the Walled City. It's an Uber ride away (200 PKR), we leave the hotel in bright sunshine but within 10 minutes it feels like a cyclone is coming through- the sky is black, the temperature drops and a monsoonal deluge descends. The uber driver dutifully takes us to our drop off point, it is still deluging and we try to get him to drop us around near the famous Cuckoos Nest Cafe where we figure we could shelter. The negotiation takes a while but eventually we convey that we will pay him more and he drives on- it is now 12:30 and it is still absolutely bucketing down and the streets are actually a bit flooded. Out we get with a non substantial Kathmandu travel umbrella and
Emperor Jahangir ordered construction of this massive "Picture Wall'. The monumental Picture Wall is a large section of the outer wall which is exquisitely decorated with a vibrant array of glazed tile, faience mosaics, and frescoes. The embellished wall stretches over much of the fort's northern and western walls and measures approximately 440 m by 15 m. The wall contains 116 panels, which depict a myriad of subjects, including elephant fights, angels, and polo games that do not form a cohesive narrative; each can be viewed in isolation. Though begun under Jahangir, the Picture Wall was decorated throughout the 1620s, and may have been completed under the reign of his son, Shah Jahan.The Picture Wall was badly neglected, and suffered from disrepair and damage. Conservation works at the site began in 2015 by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Walled City of Lahore Authority.
make our way to the Cuckoos Nest- deserted.... not a soul in sight and it's locked up. At least there is a bit of shelter under the leaky awnings and closed shops.
What to do?
Eventually a shopkeeper takes pity on our drowned rat status and beckons us into his closed shop to wait out the storm. His family come and have a translated chat through a nephew- yes, the shops and cafes all close at this time, yes the rain will stop, yes they are happy for us to sit in the window for as long as necessary, yes the flooded streets will drain away... very nice. We watched people wading through the streets and the flood did recede enough for us to go through the local resident gate with the gatekeeper who appeared with a big key. We promised we'd go pay to get in at the correct gated entrance where there was an official ticket booth. Found said ticket booth and had our first taste of Pakistan dual pricing- Rs 500 for foreigners and Rs 30 for locals. There are many tour guides touting for business, we opted to go solo, not because of additional
We saw these at most sites throughout the tourist attractions of Pakistan
guide fee but we just really wanted to wander at leisure.
It was a very impressive site dating back to the origins of Lahore city in the 11th century, the current structure though was built in the 16th century under Mughal rule- Emperor Akbar. Additions and renovations have occured constantly while under Sikh and British rule before being UNESCO heritage listed in 1981. We wandered freely, well sort of, inbetween selfie requests... The site is very run down in parts but has that faded beauty that I really love. There were enough doorways to keep me very happily snapping through the door shots. Unfortunately the Palace of Mirrors was closed... so we missed out on the elaborately decorated and beautifully restored section.
Historical facts- I'm not big on them- see below for more info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahore_Fort
Onto the Badshahi Mosque, aka Imperial Mosque. Also Mughal era, built in 1671, restored in 1993, very stunning even under an overcast sky. We visited the shoe drop point to start with- how those guys manage thousands of shoes simultaneously is amazing (donation Rs 100 for 2, 2 foreigners, not 2 shoes). Covered up with a scarf at this point before
reaching the grand courtyard (capacity 100 000- largest mosque courtyard in the world) and we joined a queue to see the mosque's quran and listen (but not understand) to the temple guardians (foreigner donation Rs 100 for 2). Wandered through the courtyard - impressive marble domes and 53m minarets. There was a wedding happening while we were there- very beautiful wedding party, very stunning bride. Lots of marble, stunning. You can also see a good overview of the city from the external walls, it was here a young boy latched on to us and wouldn't let us go, I ultimately ditched Mary and left her with the boy- she's so much more polite than me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badshahi_Mosque
Decided to try and get to the Eat Street section from here but failed MISERABLY! Mary was getting a major heavy duty cold at this point and had flagged it big time, in sheer frustration we went to the police station and asked if we could use their wifi to call an Uber. They checked our passports and visas and were very much in favour of calling the hotel to get a driver not an Uber, but they relented. The Uber driver
Khilwat Khana was built by Shah Jahan in 1633 to the east of the Shah Burj Pavilion, and west of the Shah Jahan Quadrangle. It was the residence of the royal ladies of the court.
dutifully arrived (looking puzzled) as we were drinking our tea, finished the tea and waved goodbye to our new police friends. By the time we got back to the hotel Mary was nearly dead and got into bed fully clothed and didn't move for the next 12 hours. I ate vege samosas from that wonderful onsite bakery (they never ever seemed to run out) and watched bad TV while pondering my latest "need more information" email from the Visa people...
Tomorrow- we need to get to Islamabad.
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