It has often being quoted that Pakistan is a beautiful country. So it is, but when it comes to travel sites and tourism spots, the North hits us most of the times. Sure the Saifulmaluk is mesmerizing and the Shangrila is exotic and we all love the snow capped mountains that have bits of green on the base, but would you not like to taste something else for a change? North is not the place to go to, for us plains’ people, if you want an escape during the winters but that certainly doesn’t mean that you have to delay your trip for the warm summer months! Why not holiday in the opposite direction; the South and specifically Bahawalpur!
Bahawalpur is perhaps one of those cities of Pakistan that have a very rich history, legacy and culture. It is also one of those cities that have been brutally overlooked. The generosity of Nawab of Bahawalpur Sadeq Mohammad Khan V, when he supplied funds of seventy million rupees to the government and the salaries of all the government departments for one month, is long forgotten. So are the services of his descendent Nawabs. But the saddest part is we often fail to own and acknowledge the priceless and beautiful gems that adorn the once princely state.
Darawar Fort is the image that pops up when we think of the relics from past in the South. The curvy walls of the fort placed in the sandy setting provide quite a romantic yet tough sight. But there is certainly more to Bahawalpur than just Darawar fort. And let’s walk through that.
Noor Mahal might have captured your fancy during a few high profile drama serials. It is a divinely beautiful palace that was completed in 1875. It has 32 rooms and 14 basements and back then, the décor was brought from Europe. The palace was bought by Pakistan Army in 1997 and is accessible to public. But limited publicity has kept it hidden from the public eye. For those who have been there, Noor Mahal is a mesmerizing sight during the night.
Darbar Mahal is again one of the well preserved palaces of Bahawalpur. It is a red brick building with elegant white finishing. Completed in 1905, it has 4 red domes of Islamic styling which are connected with corridors. The design is a blend of Islamic and Indian origin. The interior of the palace is heaven for a person who appreciates art. The walls have been adorned with paintings, some of them as old as 200 years .Some portraits of the long gone Nawabs could also be witnessed. The rugs, curtains and chandeliers exude taste and generosity.
Sadiq garh Mahal is another remarkable royal wonder. It’s an elaborate royal residence that was constructed in 1882. Unfortunately, due to family feuds, its inheritance is disputed and it is closed to public. The palace consists of 4 buildings that are state secretariat building, cinema and gym, mosque and residential area. The residential area consists of 99 rooms. Most of the décor and furniture has been moved away by the royal descendents. The palace is protected by a strong wall. If you can pull a few strings and put in a word, you might get a chance to see this palace which is otherwise closed to public.
Gulzar Mahal is another gorgeous yet overlooked private royal residence of the Nawabs of Bahawalpur. It dates back to 1890 and stretches over 34 acres of land. The building is inspired by Italian architecture and the outlook is a subtle combination of dull gold and white. It looks exquisite standing among the long green stretches of the estate.
Jamia Masjid Al Sadiq holds the privilege to be the 3rd largest mosque of Pakistan. It is made of white marble and hence oozes grandeur and class. The mosque was built by Nawab Sadiq Khan Abasi, hence it takes its name. This is one of the hotspots for tourists since it is open to public all around the year.
Bahawalpur Museum is the final logical destination of any tourist. It is the home to relics originating from Bahawalpur that fall under the categories of archaeology, art, heritage, modern history and religion. The museum has an elaborate collection that is displayed in 8 galleries. The museum often becomes the host of students and researchers from all over the country. It has a wonderful and deep insight about the life in Cholistan.
I am sure that a trip to Bahawalpur won’t disappoint you since there is so much to see and all other these places are rather different, unpublicized and hidden from the public eye.