pakistan: 3 posts

My Article about The Shalimar Gardens in Oh Comely

Paradise comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaēza, meaning ‘an enclosed garden,’ and in arid land, the idea of an orchard filled with the sound of water, the glow of ripening fruit and the perfume of flowers was indeed a vision from the celestial realm. Persians perfected the art of gardening and their ideas influenced the way orchards were designed around the world. To see one such garden, I traveled to Karachi, a bustling port city in the south of Pakistan, continued my journey along the Indus River, and navigated the mad traffic of Lahore. An orchard may not be worth such an effort, but the Shalimar Gardens were no ordinary place.

I have a new article in the magazine Oh Comely. It follows me on my travels through southern Pakistan to reach the fabled Shalimar Gardens. They were created in the 17th century by the emperor Shah Jahan and while many changes have befallen them, they’re still one of the reasons to visit Lahore, the city that was the jewel of the Mughal Empire. My article is in Issue 48. The spring issue has fruit as its leitmotif, and if you read my article, you’ll see what the Shalimar Gardens, the founder of the Mughal Empire, emperor Babur, and fragrant mangoes have in common. And the Shalimar perfume, of course.

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Amina Ali : The Cake Wizard of Lahore

This story is part of my Pakistan travel diaries, describing my discoveries and encounters with inspiring individuals I met during my trip.

Amina Ali is a Renaissance woman. An artist and the CEO of Lahore Children’s Center, she’s also the mastermind behind Delish, a patisserie specializing in elegant, creative cakes. When I first met her, I was so impressed by her range of talents that I had difficulty conceiving how a single person could juggle so many responsibilities. Yet, after spending more time with Amina and exploring Lahore together, I grew to realize that she is very much the denizen of her city, energetic, vibrant and multifaceted.

I first came across Delish through the stories of friends who visited Lahore. “Amina’s cakes are works of art,” said an acquaintance who often travels to this ancient city in the heart of Pakistan’s Punjab province for the Literary Festival. “What’s more, the taste is heavenly,” she added. I grew intrigued when I learned that Amina started her business at the back of her house, teaching herself the art of pastry and cake decor. Whatever I knew about Lahore suggested that such an endeavor wouldn’t be for a fainthearted person.

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Lahore and Roses

I spent the past three weeks in Pakistan. I started my trip in Karachi and traveled along the Indus before crossing into Punjab and continuing to Islamabad, and finally, Lahore. I had many reasons that drove me to undertake the journey– an interest in ancient history and my personal need to understand the modern era, a desire to see places I’ve read about and to discover a country that’s often misunderstood and talked about in geopolitical terms. Above all, I wanted to see Lahore.

Lahore Lahore hai, say the locals. Lahore is Lahore. There is no other city like it, they add. I agree. It’s the place where Mughal empresses rest in the rose gardens and the new train lines edge Shah Jahan’s palaces. It’s the place where one can get lost in the old city and find oneself in a quiet courtyard full of fluttering dove wings and silvery streamers. It’s the place where ancient shrines are drowning in the clutter of shops and hawker stalls, and where the marble steps of Badshahi Mosque are so polished that they reflect the moonlight. Lahore is Lahore.

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