Why Lahore is the best get away for a Karachiite

Published: March 14, 2015
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Karachi, for me, is perfect despite its imperfections. Yet, Lahore is not lagging far behind Karachi when I think of my choicest places in Pakistan.

I am a Karachiite to the core. I love my city’s hustle bustle. I adore the variety of culture Karachi offers, especially as it is not a unilingual city. I know its sights and sounds by heart.

Karachi, for me, is perfect despite its imperfections. Yet, Lahore is not lagging far behind Karachi when I think of my choicest places in Pakistan. In fact, in some ways, it even has an edge over Karachi.

Here are five reasons why:

Safety

The traffic at Kalma Chowk is sluggish and heavy. As we get off the Daewoo coach that got us there from Islamabad and head towards the city, Lahore is crowded as ever. I am looking around suspiciously at passers-by on motor bikes from the car’s windows as I take out my phone to text my friend that we have reached. At once Saleem, the driver, friendly in a Lahori way, sees my nervousness and says,

“O baji jee kuch naheen hota. Karo karo aap phone karo,” he reassures.

(Don’t worry, nothing will happen. You can make your call)

For someone who has suffered from attempted mugging twice in that last one month alone, this Karachiite felt relieved. I simultaneously felt a little envious seeing children riding bikes when I visited a friend in the newly populated Defence locality of Lahore. The friend, a diehard Karachiite, has recently moved to Lahore unexpectedly with his entire family. They seemed very at home in Lahore.

“You all have become total Lahoris, haan?” I said.

And they confessed that this was true. Karachiites are flocking towards Islamabad, and more towards Lahore, in search of safer pastures. It’s a better place to bring up your children who will have a less chance of growing up with safety-related phobias. Isolated incidences happen here too, but overall it is definitely a safer bet. Literally.

Trees

It’s a semi-chilly February afternoon. My friend Ayesha, who is one reason why I wish to frequent Lahore, honours my wish to take photographs, and takes me to Aitchison College.

A gurdwara in Aitchison College. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

The gurdwara, mandir (temples) and masjid, all are charming beyond words, due to both the red bricks and the feel of pluralism they lend. But perhaps the prettiest thing about Aitchison, and Lahore generally, is the trees.

A mosque in Aitchison College. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

Red bricks in Aitchison College. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

Lawrence Garden (now Bagh-e-Jinah), alone, has some 150 varieties of trees. Islamabad has more trees and plantation, and the air is crisper and purer. But Lahore’s trees are mostly aged and huggable; they have a certain character. They have seen the world. They are wise. They are the backdrop of the historic buildings that make Lahore what it is.

The tennis courts at Lawrence garden (Bagh-e-Jinah) are a hub for aspiring tennis stars. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

In the stables of Aitchison College: Beautiful horse Shehbaz being bathed by his keeper Labba. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

Food

The Lebanese food at the renovated Faletti’s Hotel at Lahore reaffirmed this: While Karachi offers everything a foodie can ask for, Lahore is in no way lesser in terms of being a food haven. From the authentic experiences of the Lahori masala fish of Daarul Maahi to the mithai (dessert) of Laal Khooh, and from the fancy eateries at M M Alam road to the various food streets (the one near Badshahi Masjid is not the only one), it is a foodie’s paradise.

Begum Shahi (Maryam Zamani) mosque. More than 400-years-old- history crumbling away. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

A mihraab at the Begum Shahi (Maryam Zamani) mosque. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

A carpet at the Begum Shahi (Maryam Zamani) mosque. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

A tile motif at the Begum Shahi (Maryam Zamani) mosque. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

Organic and healthier food alternatives are also more readily available. But I struggled with my need for a good paan after dinner. Lahore needs to import someone from Karachi to make good paans and perfect its repute of being the ultimate food hub.

It’s happening

Lahoris are zinda dil (lively), truly, as are all Pakistanis. And a safer environment makes that easier. From theatre and grabbing just the right books from “readings” to musicals at Yusuf Salli’s Haveli, it has a lot to offer for those who want to live it up.

Yusuf Salli’s Haveli courtyard. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

Yusuf Salli’s Haveli from the outside. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

For the wanderers, an added advantage is that places like Islamabad and Nathia Gali are at drivable distance. Some of the best educational institutes, with the most beautiful campuses, are here, as are places of history and culture. And Lahore doesn’t go to sleep early, just like Karachi, which makes it easier for a Karachiite to settle in.

Beautiful vines at Yusuf Salli’s Haveli. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

A pictures wall at Yusuf Salli’s Haveli. Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

The people

At what was supposed to be a nashta (breakfast), I am at the third floor of a thin house in inner Lahore, visiting a family I have not met in decades. Her children, in their teens, are taking selfies with me, while their father is frying stuff for us in the kitchen. From adjacent rooftops, people are waving. On another day, a random person, himself a photographer, agrees to pose for me as I find him an interesting subject for photography. There is a certain openness in Lahore that I love. Lahoris are not afraid of emoting openly.

Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

They laugh, cry and share readily.

While there are cons to this behaviour, there are definitely many pros. Without stereotyping, I would have to say that I end up making connections in Lahore more readily than any other city. There is a lesser bureaucratic and also a less hurried, guarded and agitated feel to Lahore’s people.

Perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons why I love Lahore.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • نائلہ

    What’s the best getaway for a multani? Recommend

  • cowlas

    well what can i say which place is better i think karachi is wonderful place comparing with lahore you forgot to mentioned anything about our SEA!!Recommend

  • Parvez

    aaah !…so you got yourself a new camera ? ………nice pictures.Recommend

  • Adpran

    I have never visited Pakistan, but I often watch videos and see photos from Pakistan. I notice, Karachi is bigger than Lahore, but seem like too big and too crowded. So I understand why you say Lahore is the best get away for a Karachiite.Recommend

  • umer

    lahoris are awesome !Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    let me just calculate that. Well factoring in the distance and direction of Karachi from Lahore if we use the same information to plot a straight line from multan we land smack dab in the middle of hotan, which is a pretty awesome place in CHINA.
    Here is the “scientific” plot made using paint.
    Do send me a postcard when u get there.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Wow the haveli’s varanda / baraamda / courtyard is very inviting. Recommend

  • Raja

    very nice writing with awesome picsRecommend

  • ex Lahori

    Karachi is a baby compared to Bombay if you’re talking about population density!Recommend

  • kahwa

    Moenjo daro isn’t too far, I suppose…Recommend

  • lyari

    I like the women of Lahore, they’re curvier and openerRecommend

  • Karachite

    Pure Karachite will never like any other city other then this Lovely city. Yes here we have some trouble but we love it. We just needed the era of Mustafa Kamal/Naimatullah Khan when both Karachi son move this city forward.Recommend

  • Izbaasht Roosi

    There are many Pashtuns in the city and they are EQUAL citizens in Lahore. The moment Hindustanis arrive to any place, they try all their dirty tricks.Recommend

  • amartya

    beautiful pics . would love to visit Pakistan.Recommend

  • M.Umair Masood

    Newly populated, DHA Lahore! The author perhaps does not know that DHA Lahore was established way before any other DHA in Pakistan. Late 1970s as LCCHS/ Defence Society.Recommend

  • Farhan Ali Hassan

    Agreed with the ‘Food’ part only.Recommend

  • aamir

    i can bet best city for karachties are Rwp/Isb ..even more safe and beautiful than lahore..Recommend

  • Meena Khan

    I recently visited Lahore with great expectations I was surprised the older parts of Lahore were filthy with over flowing sewage, and animals being used to haul very heavy merchandise animals that were dehydrated, undernourished & probably abused the newer part seems to be determined to copy Europe with its pricey foreign labels and cafes the glory of Lahore was lost by these stark distinctions.Recommend

  • pamela anderson

    So true…lohore is just famousRecommend

  • Sami

    I always argue with people that a city or a region needs a pretty uniform type of identity to progress. One reason of progress in Lahore is the ethno-homogeneous situation. There are no ethnic ghettos like in Karachi. Everyone born and bred in Lahore owns this city. It is the same for other parts of Punjab as well. On the other hand in Karachi right now there is a tug of war going on between political parties, ethnicities and so on.
    If some mechanism would be developed in Karachi where second third generations will own the Karachi then everything will be changed. Till then other cities will progress further than Karachi in the future.Recommend

  • http://www.cidpusa.org/ Imran Khan

    awesome SUPERP Fantastic article everRecommend

  • silversurfer

    Good to know you like Lahore, but Lahore is being developed at the expense of other Punjabi cities, particularly Multan, Bahawalpur and Faisalabad.Recommend

  • proud punjabi

    The horse is like: hey lady! I am taking a bath here!!!Recommend

  • Rebellious

    ahhh lahore ! when will we meet i am desperately waiting for the moment :DRecommend

  • fze

    Anyone who hasn’t seen Lahore is in fact hasn’t been born…. that’s how an adage describes my city Lahore. Love you Lahor!Recommend

  • Hashim

    I am a Karachiite living in my university in Islamabad for four years. I frequently visit Lahore nd totally agree with ur article. Except food, I think Karachi offers a much diverse menu for a foodie..
    Also, cleanliness is another factor for a Karachiite moving to Lahore, Karachi is becoming dirtier with each passing dayRecommend

  • islooboy

    too bad lahori women don,t like youRecommend

  • islooboy

    you got sea we got gullu buttRecommend

  • Chitralwala

    Thank you so much Sami. For fully unabashedly describing Punjabis.
    Well,..you gave it all a pause; and cause for people to seriously think
    Beautiful Lahore. Punjab, green, lush, land of 5 rivers and Gujranwala.
    Everything nice clean beautiful. Shahbaz checking functional traffic lights
    Feeding orphans, Cooking biryani to be distributed daily at Raiwind Palace.
    The provincialism, ethnic strifes the sectarianism the religious jihads,
    the loudspeakers, Everything arranged, in line, portraying true Punjab.
    Sons of the soil Hafiz Saeed, Asmatullah Muawiya, Shahbaz, Nawaz
    As you said there is definitely an identity there. Born and bred. there.
    Now, if they would only take down those Le Jhangvi, Le Taiba, Le Islam
    Ahrar ul Hind, Jamaat Dawa, Hafiz Saeed banners, and white wash the sectarian slogans, erase the Joseph Colony Memory and Model Town Massacre, Wagah Bombing, Christians Couple hung and burnt. Blowing
    up churches all these memories erased..then things will be peachy. And
    they will come more of them, Afghan tourists will flock in mobs, droves.
    Who knows Prince Charles might come !Recommend

  • نائلہ

    ET why are u so against roman urdu? I cant always explain myelf in English you know…

    Maxx the tickets are too expensive. Id rather spend the money travelling to pak. Atleast I will have clothes to bring back! Why spend all this money and in the end not get any sohan halwa? Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. yes one mushht eat shohan halwa or the vacation is not successful. hehehehhehehehehheRecommend

  • OP

    but Lahore doesn’t have a beach, end of story!Recommend

  • ovais

    You are definitely my favorite blogger , still cant believe you are part of ETRecommend

  • Pure Pakistani

    Lahori Girls are Awesome instead of dark complexion Karachi girls.. :PRecommend

  • http://www.imported.pk/blog/ Jonathan Miller

    I think, it is due to different food and culture. Plus, driving to Lahore from Karachi is a very pleasurable experience.Recommend