The second largest city in Pakistan (after Karachi), Lahore is the capital of the province of Punjab. It is located on the Ravi River and incredibly close to India – only 16 miles from the border crossing at Wagah.
Nevertheless, Lahore is still known as The Heart of Pakistan. It has served as a regional capital since the 11th century, and its variety of culture represents a long and significant history. Current population estimates are around 10 million, making it one of the thirty largest cities in the world. 94% of the inhabitants are Muslims, although there are also a significant number of churches, such as the Sacred Heart Cathedral. The most widely spoken language is Punjabi, the regional dialect, followed by Urdu, with English gaining popularity in recent years and preferred for business transactions.
Lahore is the educational capital of Pakistan, with more colleges and universities than any other city in the country, including some of its oldest and best, like Government College University, established in 1864.
Climate and Geography
The climate is semi-arid: winters tend to be dry and warm, featuring fogs and hail. The weather is extreme in May, June and July, with dust storms and soaring temperatures of up to 48°C. The monsoon season lasts from late June until August, with heavy rain throughout the region.
‘The Paris of the East’: Cultural Highlights
It would be impossible to list all the cultural highlights of Lahore, so many and diverse are they. However, to name but a few…
The Badshahi Mosque, built 1671-73 is the second largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia. Built from red sandstone and marble, it has the largest mosque courtyard in the world, capable of holding 95,000 worshippers (with a further 5,000 inside the building), and its minarets tower over the city at a height of 176 feet (53.75m).
The Lahore Fort stands in the northwest of the city, and was built as a defence for the city walls as far back as 800AD, developed under the various ruling Empires since, particularly the Mughals.
The Lahore Museum, previously curated by Rudyard Kipling’s father, is set in a Mughal-Gothic building and houses a fine collection of paintings, statues, jewellery, musical instruments and pottery spanning 500 years.
The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh is the mausoleum of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh (ruled 1801-1839). A perfect example of Sikh architecture, the white marble tomb features cupolas, domes and ornate balustrades, and is gilded decoratively inside and out.
The Minar-e-Pakistan is a minaret completed in 1968 to mark the passing of the Pakistan Revolution in 1940 – the day when the Muslim League demanded the creation of Pakistan. Designed by Nasreddin Murat-Khan, the tower mixes Mughal and modern architecture.
The Shalimar Gardens are a Persian Garden laid out in the 1600s by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The gardens contain 410 fountains over three terraces and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Old Anarkali, the bazaar area where The Reluctant Fundamentalist opens. The area is famus for its narrow alleys and side streets filled with traditional wares – leather, beaten gold and silver jewellery, glass jewellery, embroidered garments, silks and artwork. Other markets and bazaars are scattered across the city.
'The Pearl of Punjab': Other Aspects of Life in Lahore
Cricket is the most popular sport in Lahore, held at the Gaddafi Stadium. The headquarters of the Pakistan Football Federation are in the city, as well as seven golf courses and the Punjab Stadium. Kabbadi, a South Asian sport, is also very popular.
The inhabitants of Lahore are something of gourmands – the city is famed for its food, and whole streets are given over to the pleasure of eating. Trendy modern restaurants have sprung up across the city, as well as Western fast food chains, but cafes serving traditional delicacies still remain popular. Amongst the most famous was the Pak Tea House – an intellectual café which closed a few years ago, but was reinstated on the internet!
Lahoris love festivals and celebrate many religious and national festivals throughout the year. Basant is a traditional Punjabi celebration to mark the arrival of spring; The Festival of Lamps is celebrated at the same time outside the Shalimar Gardens; The National Horse and Cattle Show is another popular spring festivity; Independence Day is held in August; The World Performing Arts Festival in autumn. A huge number of concerts are held year-round, and Lahore is the centre of Pakistan’s arts industry, with both the prestigious National College of Arts and the film industry (Lollywood) based here.
And a brief note on Pakistan…
Established on 14th August 1947 from a Muslim-majority wing to the West of India, Pakistan became a Republic in its own right in 1956. Bordering India, China, Afghanistan and Iran, Pakistan’s landscape varies from the southern coastal plateau beside the Arabian Sea to the Karakoram mountains in the north. The capital city is Islamabad, although the last city is the port of Karchi. An estimated 170 million people live in Pakistan today.
Pakistan is currently experiencing a high level of political violence, with regular suicide bombings and violent attacks in all the principal cities.
Latest news and updates from Pakistan - including recent attacks in Karachi and nuclear power conflicts
A selection of books about Lahore and Pakistan:
A History of Pakistan and its Origins, Christophe Jaffrelot
India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute, Robert G. Wirsing
Pakistan's Drift into Extremism, Hassan Abbas
City of Sin and Splendour: Writings on Lahore, Bapsi Sidhwa
The Wish Maker, Ali Sethi
New York is the most populated city in the United States, and one of the most densely populated areas in the world – over 8 million people live in 305 square miles. Originally founded by Dutch settlers in 1624 as a trading post named New Amsterdam, the city gained its current name when it was taken under British control in 1664, and given to the Duke of York. Until 1790 it was the capital city of America, and has since continued to have an enormous influence on all aspects of the modern world, from finance and business to art, fashion and technology.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift to America from the people of France, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated in October 1886. The statue is one of the world’s most iconic images, and has greeted millions of immigrants to New York over the years from its position on Liberty Island at the entrance to the city.
Manhattan is the oldest and most famous borough of New York. Located on Manhattan Island, it is the smallest borough in size and third-largest in population. Manhattan has one of the most expensive property markets in the world, and is considered the centre of New York City, housing many of its most important attractions as well as important centres of world finance and business – Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and the Headquarters of the United Nations.
Times Square is known as ‘The Crossroads of the World’ and has come to symbolise New York. Located in Manhattan at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, it features a huge number of illuminated neon signs, billboards and theatre posters known as ‘spectaculars’, and is the site of the famed New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. View live webcams in Times Square.
Broadway is the theatre district in New York, considered to be the greatest commercial theatre area in the English-speaking world. 40 professional theatres sell more than $1,000 billion worth of tickets every year.
The Empire State Building is the tallest building in New York City, standing at 1,454 ft (443.2m). It is used as offices, but features an observation deck where tourists can look at a panorama of the city.
Over 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. Approximately 36% of the city is foreign-born, and a huge percentage are descended from original immigrants from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. The city also boasts the world’s largest Jewish community outside Israel.
New York is home to some of the best universities in the world, including Columbia and Fordham. A lot of research into medicine is done in the city at institutions such as the Rockefeller University. The public school system is the largest in America, with 1.1 million students taught in 1,200 primary and secondary schools.
Whilst many haute cuisine restaurants can be found in New York, the city is most famous for the foods made popular by immigrants – bagels (usually with salmon and cream cheese), New York cheesecake and New York pizza. There are over 4,000 licensed food vendors, often selling Eastern foods such as kebabs and falafel.
New York is famous for its luxury shopping – particularly technological goods and clothing. Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue are famous for their designer boutiques, and shopping centres such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s on Herald Square are known throughout the world.
Festivals and Parades
Highlights of the calendar include the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Tribeca Film Festival, the Gay Pride March and ice-skating in Central Park at Christmas.
And much, much more…
New York is known as The City That Never Sleeps. One of the most vibrant, cosmopolitan cities in the world, it drew around 48 million tourists in 2010, a number which is expected to rise. Museums, boutiques, restaurants, parks, technological institutes, financial and media centres help to make New York one of the most important cities in the world.
Books about New York City
New York City: Lonely Planet City Guide, Ginger Otis
New York, Edward Rutherford
New York, Portrait of a City, Reuel Golden